Men and Fatherhood

A very popular commercial of the ICICI prudential caught my attention the other day. The tag line read “Jo zimmedariya nibhate hai, wo jatate nhi” (The ones who fulfill responsibilities do not make it obvious). Yet majority of the women have grievances against their better halves. I can validate this through a casual Instagram post made by Tahira Kashyap who is better known to us as Ayushman Khurana’s wife, even though the birthday post was laden with love, it still ended with a line “you are the best husband but you can still do better with you fatherly roles”. (Sigh! Even celebrity mommies have a tough time!)

There is no denying that the addition of a baby in the life of a couple is full of challenges especially in the initial months. Personally for us, as a new mother I was struggling to match up to the demands of the baby while giving my body the needed rest to heal while the husband was juggling between official deadlines and coming back to a hormonal wife and a cranky baby. I vividly remember the first afternoon once our parents had returned back. It was probably the longest day. My husband would text me at regular intervals to keep a check on both of us. Some of these texts were really sweet and encouraging to say the least.

My relieved sighs of “Thank God It is Friday” were real because on weekends my husband was a hands full father and tried to be around for the needs of the baby. We both would give the baby a nice warm shower and head out to the park with the pram for the needed dose of vitamin D in those warm winter afternoons. Our first successful trip to Taj Mahal was also planned on a weekend when our girl turned 2 months old and it was a break much needed for all three of us.

Innovating fatherhood

A few months ago, I visited a friend for a house party and I met another couple who were a new parent just like we were. Looking for a different perspective, I asked the husband specifically how his life had changed after the baby. He told me he missed sipping the bed tea with his wife, the late night pillow talks where they both conversed about the long day did not exist anymore, there was lack of impromptu date night plans and even if they managed to step out, the wife was filled with guilt for leaving the baby. He was right, the baby becomes the highest priority and takes up most of the time the couple once had to themselves. However, he learnt to be a small helper for his partner and learnt how to swaddle the baby and rock her for naps so that the wife could get some rest. He voluntarily decided to return earlier from work and share the work load because waking up in the night was not possible for him since he had to go back to the office next morning. (Parenting done right!)

Unfortunately most men with good intentions are stuck in the patriarchal rules set by the society. Most of our dads back in our younger years were seen as henpecked if they tried doing the things meant for our mothers. Fathers were supposed to take care of the financial fulfillment and the house chores were for the ladies. Has that mindset changed much? We maybe transitioning but a women’s role till date is regarded in highest esteem only as a nurturer. This brings me to an incident one of my colleague mentioned, how when her husband tried to change her baby’s nappy, the mother in law took it in negative light. The lack of role models for men often lands them in stressful situations. The intent to be available for their own baby goes in justifying the parental duties as no different. Simple day to day activities of washing the feeding bottles to disposing the baby’s soiled diapers are looked down by family elders in case a father does them.  

Bonding

I also observed a controversial outlook of men who become new parent. An assistant teacher in my college would come and sit in his cabin on Sundays and call his research students for updates. As efficient as he might appear to the management, he was in reality trying to get away from sharing the responsibilities that revolved around the baby (as stated by him to his students, “the house is noisy, I need some me time”).This I believe is a privilege that no mother can ever have.

There is no right or wrong way to bringing up a baby. The process of child rearing and up keep has to be the responsibility of both the father and the mother. While women most of the time collapse under the pressure and develop feelings of resentment and jealously for their spouses. The grass is not green on the other side as well, fathers double their work hours to make up for being the single source of family income. They are burdened to fulfill the role of a bread winner and in the process they miss out on the time they could have spent seeing the baby reaching the milestones. The sacrifice is at both the ends. The days of uninterrupted 8 long hours of sleep take a back seat for both. With the arrival of baby even the timings of taking loo breaks has to be planned with the baby schedule in mind.

A scene from a casual and an overambitious evening

New mothers are mostly flustered by the idea of telling their husbands to do things for the baby which should have come to them on their own in the first place. The motherhood in a woman makes her evaluate simple things that the father does. Women should understand men are wired differently, the parenting they follow will also be varied. The initial days whenever I needed my husband to soothe the cranky baby, he would pick her up and rock her around. For me the rocking appeared to be a habit (bad one) that would spoil the baby in the long run and owing to my backache I would not be able to lift the baby as often as he would. We often ended up fighting over the issue. However as the days progressed, my kid associated only her dad with rocking. The kids are smart they understand the touch. Moral of the story is, let the fathers do their bit in their own way.

Photo Courtesy Instagram

One fine evening when my husband and I finally found some time to ourselves, our discussion could not be without the mention of our baby girl. I asked him casually how his life is after being a father. He replied “busy” in all his wits. However he later romanticized the answer by telling me that the best part of the day for him is driving back home from work. Even though he is updated hourly through texts and pictures yet to him the joy of holding the baby after a tiring day is the most relieving feelings, with of course a wife who he thinks is evolving into an even better mother. I believed him there and together we continued scrolling videos and pictures on my phone.

Fatherhood back in 1992

As the ICICI commercial says, “Per bande acche hai (but guys are good)” 🙂

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