There is no black & white definition of right or wrong parenting. Every parent is the best version of their own self and give their best to raise their kids. In majority households in India, parenting is directly associated with mother’s responsibility. That is how it has been followed culturally and traditionally from decades and centuries. Times are changing now, and parenting is no longer just a mother’s job, fathers are also taking equal responsibility and interest. However, what is saddening is the double standards and hypocrisy of the society when husbands take a lead or involve themselves in parenting duties.
In last 3.5 years of my parenting journey, I have faced many instances where there is a conflict of viewpoints and mindset with my own family or society. Its a long list of restrictions, DO’s and DON’Ts of parenting. Some of them were extremely hard to digest and follow for our generation. One of the biggest shock after I became a father was the illogical restrictions I was forced to follow from my own family elders while taking care of my daughter in front of other family members or social circles.
Take this scenario for example – within the 4 walls of home, nobody cares about how a father takes equal interest and responsibility to take care of the newborn/infant. But, the moment someone comes home or we meet other family members or relatives – a strict instruction follows saying – Fathers should not handle or take care of the child in front of others. Why? Because it’s wife/mother’s responsibility. Why? Because what will others say? On the contrary – the same society/family applauds and glorifies when the son-in-laws take care of their children, saying the daughter is so lucky to have such caring & helping husband.
This was beyond my understanding and logic – how can an educated and so called forward society/family have this kind of double standard and hypocrite mindset? This is not a story about only one family or one caste or one culture, I have seen similar mindset and hypocrisy among many families in my own circles across different regions/states. It is hard to believe for our generation that the society still considers raising a child only mother’s responsibility and below male standards.
This was one of the instances I was forced to look deeper to understand the reasons behind such mindset. So I looked at my own family – there are members from 3 generations in my family and 4 generations, if I consider my daughter as well. Everyone has lived their lives in different era/decades, completely different generations, so it is obvious that their ideology and viewpoints will differ from that of ours. During earlier times in Indian culture, it was men’s responsibility to earn and feed the family, whereas women were confined to household work and raising children. The men would not interfere in home and children affairs, and vice a versa, women would not interfere with earnings or financial matters.
However, with changing times, the dynamics of a family has also changed. Now, new generation parents are becoming more liberal, women have started becoming financially independent and they take equal responsibility and contribute in managing finances. At the same time, men have also started taking interest and responsibilities in managing home or raising children. There are number of examples of women with highly successful career and husbands taking a lead on home front. Even the concepts like house husband and working wives are getting accepted now. We are rising above the stereotypes or gender specific roles. Our 21st century generation believes in equality and have broader mindset. We don’t hesitate to break the shackles, to be unconventional or to show our feelings and affections – whether it is for our children or our parents or anything.
Now, when I look back to my own childhood, I hardly remember my dad spending as much time with me or my brother as I do with my daughter. We were always mom’s responsibility. Not that our dad did not love us or wasn’t there for us, but there was always a gap, a disconnect. I do respect and love my dad, it’s only because of him and his upbringing I am who I am today. But if there is one thing I could ever change in my childhood is the fact that my dad could have not surrendered to peer pressure or the orthodox mentality to not be involved in our growing years.
For me, I always wanted a girl child, and when Vritima was born, my joys knew no bounds. That first night, I held her in my arms, and silently told myself to be part of her every precious moments, willingly take the responsibility to raise her the best way I can; and somewhere in a corner of my heart, I wished to give her the love and involvement I don’t remember getting from my dad.
Of course, it is not so easy for our previous generations to break free from their beliefs they have lived their whole life with. For them, their ideology runs in their blood, it is their way of life and they will not be able to accept the change so easily. However, It still baffles me, how raising our own children is not a father’s equal responsibility? I disagree, I detest and I refuse to bow down to this double standard and hypocrisy. I am a 21st century father, who will go against the whole world to exercise my right to be a father, to raise my daughter with equal will, interest and involvement as a woman, a mother would do.
Experiences like this is one of the major force which triggered me to write a blog from a father’s perspective. Of course, mothers will always be the life givers and nobody can take their place. But, we, fathers, can at least contribute in our own little ways in raising the children without worrying about – log kya kahenge? (what will people tell?).
And with changing times, it feels great to see that there is a new breed of fathers, who takes equal interest and responsibilities to raise the new-born and they do it with all their heart and soul. I am one such father, and I hope, with this Imperfect Daddy blog, somewhere down the line, if I could be a part of the process to break the orthodox mindset, even with a tiny bit of impact – my purpose to write from a father’s point of view will seem accomplished.