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.
Thank you for taking time to read the blog and provide your valuable feedback and observations.I do agree with you that the double standard is not just from a specific gender, that is why I have mentioned society as whole. The differentiation comes from all corners and is not limited to family, male, female, caste etc. Women and mothers have always had to sacrifice and tolerate more than the men/fathers – in fact I have specifically pointed this out that 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. There is no denying the fact.
I know this topic is on the borderline of being controversial and difference in ideology & mindset of different generations. We cannot simply put it as RIGHT or WRONG of one mindset. And I am glad people have taken this positively and let’s hope we and our next generations will be able to change this mindset in future.
Thanks once again for sharing your thoughts.
Hi Abhijeet. First of all thanks a lot for writing such a insightful article which normally people scared to discuss in India. I would like to draw one more point into your attention is that you may miss contributions of women in this double standard behaviour. Normally when we become father and start taking responsibility for our little one; our mother is also behaving strangely and keep wishing that my daughter-in-law will take all the responsibilities of child. She also irritates when her son contributes in raising his own child. Because in deep down she doesn’t wish that to happen. In fact she feels jealous of her own daughter-in-law. This is the bitter truth. I believe 90% of women agree with my comment. I can go on and on. However I would love to know your thoughts.
Absolutely brilliant perspective. Glad to see men thinking so much about this responsibility and not scared of what people will say (even for your blog)
Thank you Shikha. Though this topic is bit tricky and stands on the fine line of being either positive or negative (depending on reader’s perspective), I have only tried to relate it to our generation’s viewpoint and my own efforts. Thankfully, response so far has been encouraging and positive (from all age-group readers).
Thank you for your positive feedback and support. 🙂
Very nice article Abhijeet. I read somewhere that there is a big generation gap that has entered in between todays kids. Like we used to hear in our childhood that there is generation gap between grandparents and us, then came that the generation gap between our parents and us. Now the generation gap is very big between today kids with their siblings. Like a 5 year old kid and a 10 year old kid has a big gap.
True Sushith. The times have changed so much and so fast that even the children with a narrow age difference have totally different upbringing and mindset. There is a lot of influence of technology, standard of living and comparison with others kids these days.
Let’s just hope, we are able to keep up with our next generation’s pace and development. 🙂
Yes I totally agree, there is a lot of difference in how every generation thinks and I think it’s a bit unfair on our generation to be forced to put up and still maintain a good balance between many layers… well written blog Abhijith, being your neighbor I have always admired the way you took care of your daughter, God bless… In my opinion you are a perfect Dad…
Thank you Shyam for your support and feedback. It helps and motivates to keep trying to improvise – as a father and also as a blogger.
About the scenario you mentioned — What others will say? — this one statement has ruined many lives in India. But I have never thought of this from father / parents’ perspectives. And just giving a thought gives me mixed feelings.. that typical Indian father has to think of others’ opinion of how He should show love to his own kid. Such a dogma in typical Indian household!
Mixed – because I am GLAD that I was able to break that barrier before I became father 4.5 years ago. And SAD for my father because he must be holding back from his feelings when I was kid.
Thank you Jalpesh. Yes, couldn’t agree more that the one statement has ruined many lives in India. And, although we cannot change the mindset of society or a generation as it is an ideology which is in the roots of our people & culture, however, it is good that there are fathers who are rising above that stereotype. Kudos to you as well for breaking that barrier.