• Dharma Nemani

Meet my mom friend: Sujanya Ganesan

I started Love, Mishka because I believe kids will learn the importance of caring for themselves if they’re taught to do so from a young age. Growing up in an Indian household, I feel like I was constantly being slathered with an oil, rubbed with some homemade paste, or scrubbed with something grainy. Having lived away from home for almost 20 years, I’m now trying to mine all those amazing age-old self-care practices to teach Mishka (and reteach myself). Which is why I’m super excited to feature my fabulous cousin, Sujanya, in today’s Meet My Mom Friend feature. Sujanya has been keeping traditional, Indian self-care practices well and alive with her adorable twins and she’s sharing all the details: from oil blends, to home-made scrubs to traditional herbal remedies.

Can you share a little more about yourself and your little ones?

I grew up in India and moved to Australia eight years ago. Growing up, my mum (and her extended family) took care of my hair and skincare routine: weekly warm oil massages, freshly ground shikakai (Acacia Concinna pods) for my hair, and besan flour face masks. I also watched my mum nonchalantly rub the skin of a very ripe papaya, banana or tomato on her face each morning while preparing the day’s meal.

I have two-year-old twins - Laya and Neel, who are amazing. They are curious, easily entertained, and fun. But, they’re also exhausting and require oodles of patience. I’m learning new things about myself each day since I’ve had them.

Being a new mom is tough enough and twins on top of that is next-level. What are some things that help you navigate your day?

We’ve had the same “structure” to their days for the last two years with regards to food, naps and bedtime. My partner and I have also learned to take a step back in the midst of a crazy episode to see what the trigger might be: possessiveness, anger, hunger, or sleep.

With regards to sleep, when they were younger, I used swaddles and sleeping bags (much to my family’s dismay). We also tried different soothing techniques before we decided on what works for us. Lastly, we’re not regimental about where they sleep. They start off in their cots, come out for cuddles and sleep in their cots again. If they’re having a rough night, they sleep in our bed.

We’ve been incredibly lucky to have them in an amazing daycare during the week, to have my mum visit us often and for our fabulous friends here in Sydney.

I used to give Mishka daily, then weekly oil baths. Then it got too messy and I got too lazy. I know you still keep up with this practice - can you share more?

We try and give them an oil bath once a week, and if it’s a particularly warm week, I’ll bump this up to twice a week. I mix coconut, almond, olive, gingelly and castor oil, and then warm it in the microwave with some Fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. I apply this oil mixture to their heads and bodies and leave them to run around in the backyard for about 20-30 minutes. We make a little game of the whole thing and they’ll usually “help” me in applying oil on each other.

We wash off the oil on their bodies with a home-made Mung bean powder (we dry roast the Mung bean, and then powder it until it’s mostly fine, but still has some texture). For their hair, I use Ecostore baby shampoo.

It’s hit or miss with their baths. Laya is particularly distraught by the thought of her hair being washed, so she’ll volunteer Neel for the task instead. We involve them in the process - they push their hair back, or we give them a washcloth to hold against their forehead. Sometimes, we distract them with washable paints in the tub and they don’t even notice when their hair is being washed.

Tips to clean the slippery tub post-bath?

The fact that they were running around in the backyard for a good 30 minutes before their actual bath allows most of the oil to be absorbed by their skin instead of my tub. I use the Koh Universal Surface Cleaner and it works wonders.

You spent a good portion of your life growing up in Kerala and I think they do self-care better than the rest of India. Any practices you learned while living there you use on yourself / kids?

The most important thing I learned was that self-care is an ongoing process. And for kids, it’s particularly important to start those lessons early.

We use Mung bean powder quite a bit on the kids, and we also give them Asafoetida or Ajwain in water for tummy upsets.

I also learned to infuse plain coconut oil with the goodness of other herbs and seeds (like Fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, aloe vera or even onion juice) for different needs. My classmate from Uni told me about using an oatmeal mask and that has done wonders for my skin. I mix rolled oats with a splash of rosewater and milk/cream. I chuck this into the fridge for a few minutes and apply the cold mask on my face until it’s completely dry before washing it off. It’s very refreshing.

I should state that we settle for convenience over tradition most of the time and on the other occasions, we question the tradition itself. If we can’t find a reasonable enough justification to do it, we stay away from it. For example, we haven’t pierced the twins’ ears and want them to make that choice for themselves.

How do you make time for yourself?

I definitely struggle with this. I bought a motorbike after the kids were born so I can get home 20 minutes earlier than usual that I use for myself. I try and go for a swim twice a week before work, and I get away for an hour or two every weekend just by myself - to do the groceries or do my nails. We also have a pact that neither of us have used yet: when everything gets too much to handle or too overwhelming, we just tell the other person we need a break - a staycation in a hotel in the city or a weekend away by ourselves to recharge.

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