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Verve People
July 19, 2018

An Exclusive Chat With Gul Panag Who Opens Up About Being A Mother

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

The new mum dishes about how she kept her pregnancy under wraps, the thrills and challenges of motherhood and how she bounced back into shape barely three months after giving birth

When we recently met Gul Panag, it was for a fitness story where we got the actor and model to team up with award-winning shooter Heena Sidhu to participate in a gruelling workout. But even after watching her execute her moves flawlessly and being told how fitness was an integral part of her life from when she was a teenager, we were astonished to hear that Panag is new mum to an adorable five-month-old baby boy. We catch up with her to find out more about this new role and to know just how she manages to look the way she does.

Congratulations on becoming a mother. We didn’t have the faintest idea of it when we interviewed you last month. How did you manage to keep this under wraps throughout your pregnancy and what prompted the decision to do so?
“Thank you. Rishi and I both value privacy in our personal lives. Nihal’s birth has been very special to us. We conceived a couple of years after we decided to have a baby, and he was a preemie, born at seven months, so instinctively we wanted to protect him, without the distraction that follows media attention.”

The baby is almost five months now and we haven’t seen any pictures of him on social media or any media outlet. Do you intend to keep him out of the media spotlight completely? Do you think it’s important to do so?
“Just like each child is unique, the experience of being a parent is also individual. Our focus over the last few months, was ensuring Nihal was happy and healthy, that he had time to adjust to the world, and we had time to fully absorb the experience of being new parents. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer to this question. It’s just a matter of what feels right for you. Having private time felt right for us, something else might have felt right to another couple.”

You’ve become a mother at 39. Is it something you always wanted to do, but on your own terms and at a later age?
“I’ve always lived life on my own terms, and hopefully will always continue to do that. Rishi and I definitely wanted a baby and Nihal is a delightfully welcome addition to our family. Motherhood is a massive experience with an ever-expanding array of emotions and experiences, and it’s not something that can be defined flippantly in a moment, and I feel you grow as a parent, just as your child grows into an adult.”

Being an extremely fit person, how did you prepare your body for the pregnancy in terms of your diet and your fitness routine?
“I focused on ensuring that I had a nourishing balanced diet like I always have. I also made sure I kept up with basic and moderate exercise routines throughout.”

What’s the best part of your day since becoming a mom?
“Seeing Nihal wake up and smile.”

What has been the hardest period of motherhood for you and how did you deal with it?
“When the baby is so young, the physical demands can be very tiring – from sleepless nights to round the clock feeding schedules. That can take a toll. The mental stress of living up to the expectations of being a ‘good mother’ is a constant challenge. And of course, time management is another hurdle. I had great support from Rishi, the family and my baby’s nanny is a godsend.  But my backbone and fairy godmother to Nihal, is my cousin Simran who lives close by. She’s my sounding board and an ever ready babysitter for Nihal when I travel.”

Is there a parenting rule you never break?
“We try and make sure one of us puts him to sleep every night. And we avoid access to screens of all kinds.”

Have the relationship dynamics between Rishi and you changed since a baby came into the house? Are there date nights anymore or is all of your attention focused on the baby?
“Of course Nihal gets a lot of our attention, but Rishi and I do make time to be with each other. We try and catch a movie a week in the theatre. We’ve made Nihal a part of the life we’ve always lead with travel, adventure and exploration. He’s already been on a couple of flights and has done a few road trips.”

What is your advice to new mums?
“I was overwhelmed by well-meaning advice and advisors and that can be confusing. My suggestion is to listen to people, but finally follow what your heart says is right for you. It’s okay to make mistakes.” 

What was the most important thing in your home when you were little? And how does it influence your own role as a mother?
“I believe children will do as you do. They will not do as you say. So you have to lead by example. A lot of who I am today is influenced by seeing the example my parents set. Discipline, fitness, integrity, duty, my sense of adventure and curiosity grew from watching the way my parents were. So I’d love if Rishi and I were good role models for Nihal.”

If you had to choose one parenting mantra for yourself, what would it be?
“Breathe! And enjoy it.”

 Can you tell us a bit about Nihal? Are there any particular characteristics he exhibits?
“He always wakes up smiling, and is turning into a ‘mama’s boy ‘ much to the lament of his father! He’s pretty adaptive, and at ease at the airport, hotels and new places. He loves meeting new people.”

How is Rishi enjoying being a new dad? How do you divide responsibilities between the two of you?
“Rishi is a great father, probably the better and more diligent parent out of the two of us. We take turns to help each other with everything. He’s the internet researcher and the one who finds and orders innovative and unique things.”

How did you get back to being this fit barely three and a half months after having delivered a baby? Can you give us some tips?
“The key is to watch the weight gain by eating right and healthy to start with. And follow it up with a healthy and balanced diet post having the baby too. That and the enhanced activity levels that taking care of a baby involves will do the trick.”

How do you divide your time between work and being a mother? What do you have to say about a society that scoffs at women who do not feel compelled to spend every waking moment with their baby?
“Raising Nihal well is a priority for Rishi and me. I believe that as a society, we should focus on raising children and help them grow into responsible, respectful and happy adults. I grew up in a household that naturally respected gender equality, and am married to someone who does as well. I would want my son to be the same way. My ideal household would encourage every individual in a family to reach for the stars, with love and support for each other and the world we live in.”

Do you think motherhood has changed you drastically in any way?
“I’m still figuring that out. Right now I’m taking each day as it comes.”

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