After my last holiday, I had shared a few pictures on social media when a male friend (read ex-crush) commented, “You’ve become more gorgeous”. Under normal circumstances, it would have made me blush/happy but I read that sentence without attaching any emotion to it. I questioned myself for the total detachment I had towards a compliment. Is it normal, have I become too insensitive, am I thinking too much, mid-thirties crisis? Would I have behaved the same way if someone else had said it? And this recall of friends made me contemplate that in the last few years, I had not even made a single male friend (don’t get me wrong here, I am happily married to a very good looking & a nice man and my loyalties are totally intact). But why was it so? Had motherhood made me unsociable?
I went back in time and analysed the time when I was working in a corporate, all was well back then. I made some good friends there, we all had a great team and I loved being part of that group. But then, what happened after I quit and became a stay at home mother!?! Why did the men disappear from my life?
I remember taking my daughter to the park every evening, I saw stay at home mothers like me, nannies, and later in the evening, even the working mothers with their lunch boxes and laptop bags joined us. I tried to recall the weekends, extracurricular classes, doctor’s visits, grocery stores, PTMs but the majority were mothers and nannies. There were hardly any men!
I tried to recall the house parties (that’s all the party time we can manage after the kids), there were men but I never had the time to sit & chat with them because I was busy running behind the kid. And one very common phenomenon at such parties is the gradual partition (there’s something magical about it!), the men shift to one corner with their drinks & their men talk and we women huddle together to make a safety ring for the children. In between changing nappies, feeding dinner, cleaning up spilt water sippers, we manage to talk a bit; often leaving the conversation in the middle. So you see, no men here too!
What about the weddings and the birthday parties? We see a lot of men there, don’t we!?! But oh, that magical partition (I must say, it is so efficiently done!). The mother, dressed in the heaviest outfit she owns, is running behind the kid who has. by now, spilt two glasses of juice, one plate of salad and is now tugging at the bride’s lehenga. After apologizing to almost half of the Baraat, the mother fishes out some toy from the enormous diaper bag and hands it over to the kid. In those two minutes of salvation, she makes some hurried phone calls. The husband emerges from some corner of the venue, and before he even reaches the table, he is pulled back again by some relative and taken back to the same corner which now serves like the black hole. Result – No men here too!
Interesting! Now I see what is happening here, my life as a stay at home mother is mostly about taking care of the child and the presence of men in today’s parenting is minimal so I have had no quality interaction with a man of my generation. There is nothing wrong with my sociable skills. Hurray, what a relief!
But wait, something doesn’t sound right here. What is wrong with the men? Where are they, where is their involvement, what happened to their fatherly duties? If I ask a father this question, they would genuinely assure me that they’re very much part of this phase called Parenting. They would tell me all about their child, how he/she is performing at the school. I might also get to see a recent picture where they’re all having an ice cream together. So as per them, All izz well (remember that song?); but I refuse to believe this. So to get some clarity, I would like to ask all the fathers reading this to answer the following questions :
- Can you by YOURSELF identify and pack the stuff required to go in the diaper bag, with ninety per cent accuracy?
- Before you plan to step out for haircut/gym/shopping/drinks with a friend who is visiting or any other extracurricular activity, have you EVER felt responsible for your kid’s routine? Maybe he/she needs to be fed/ the baby looks cranky, can I do something/ it’s Friday and I definitely deserve the beer but oh, today is also the last day to return the library books/ let me go through the school diary and see what is required the next day. Ever experienced these kinds of thoughts?
- Do you feel the chill in the air? Winter must be approaching. You’ve made a mental note to take out the fancy jacket you bought last year but hey, do you have any idea how many jackets from last year would still fit your kid? Do you need to do something about it?
I am talking about THIS kind of involvement. Are you still basking in the glory? If yes, then give yourself a pat on your back If you’re still contemplating, then let’s just confess that you don’t belong to the ‘hands-on’ fathers category. To be more precise, taking the child out to a toy store once in a month, dropping the kid to the school bus, making Maggi for your child’s meal, giving a kiss to your kid before bed, sitting in front of the TV with the kid slumped up in your lap doesn’t not make you an involved parent. Should you care? Before the thought ‘someone has to earn in this increasingly expensive world’ engulfs you and you want to puff up your 56-inch chest to justify your non-involvement in the parenting world, let me clarify that you do not require to leave your job to be an involved parent.
All you have to do is to give the same level of commitment, concentration and adherence that you show at your workplace but completely forget the moment you enter the house. It’s like a Superman cape you adorn so proudly at the workplace but you decide to hang it there and leave for the day (Superman, see ya tomorrow, dude. We rock!). And when you enter the house and finish the Hellos and the hugs, don’t just go to pick up the TV remote and plant your arse on the sofa. Come and be a part of your family, it is as much as YOUR family as much as your partner’s. Being partly responsible for their bedtime routine, helping to clean the kitchen, picking up the toys, planning for next day’s snack box will not make you less of a man. If in your busy work schedule, you can take out the time to surf the news, and some social media platforms, you can definitely take out time to “update” yourself about your own blood! You’re aware that PC is hanging out with Nick these days, right? Do you know what colour of socks your child is supposed to wear on a Thursday? (There are two different colours of socks. You knew that, right?)
After all this, you might get less time for yourself but you’ve shown your kids how the right balance is maintained at home. When we teach our kids the concept of sharing, it doesn’t only mean the sharing of food and toys, but it should also mean the sharing of the workload/ responsibilities. They deserve to grow up in an environment where both mom and dad are equally responsible for running a family. If you don’t realize it now, then you’re going to realize it when it is your daughter’s turn to run a family or when your future daughter-in-law would be on the verge of a breakdown. I would like to see your face when you would grumble about your daughter not taking out the time to call you because guess what, she would be running around like a chicken handling work, kids and the house mostly by herself. And it’s going to be too late then to realize and do something about it.
The decision of having a child was a joint and a mutual one, my dear. Respect that decision, BE A PART. It might mean few years of hectic life but trust me, it will go a long way for your married life.
We are in the so-called twenty-first century, the girls have time and again shown that they’re no less than a man. They’ve gone to the moon, they’re a part of a motor racing team, some are boxers, mechanics, weightlifters and what not, but where is the modern man?? Where is the man who can pacify the kid and handle the tantrums without losing his cool, where is the man who would go buy the vegetables & put in the refrigerator without boasting about it, where is the man who would be fine with cooking in the kitchen while the rest of the family enjoys a hot meal on the table.
Is it getting too heavy for you? Too much gyaan? Don’t you click the close button and escape to your world where everything is fine because IT IS NOT! The decision of having a child was a joint and a mutual one, my dear. Respect that decision, BE A PART. It might mean a few years of hectic life but trust me, it will go a long way for your married life. You might not care to win her heart but it’s not only about her anymore. It’s about being fair to your relationship, maintaining a healthy atmosphere at home and showing your kids the right balance.
Babies don’t come with a manual, there was no training given to the mothers and NO, it does not come to us genetically. It came to us because we put our heart and mind to it because we were left with no option but to become like this. We gave it our ALL. Likewise, no one taught you how to handle a multi-crore business at work but you still excelled, why? Because you put your heart into it, because you got involved, because your boss didn’t give you an option, you just had to do it. So similarly, whether you like it or not, you just have to get involved at home. And I promise you, with few hits and trials, you’ll excel at this too!
So the next time, you take out your phone to check the cricket score/stock market returns/the latest phone in the market/Amazon, try and “program” your brain to automatically go to your partner’s phone number/chat and ask her if the kids are back from school/how did their day go/ did the new medicine for gas work for the baby/ is there anything that needs to be picked on your way back home. Maintain a weekend calendar, understand your kid’s routine and plan your individual outings accordingly rather than just barging out of the door as per your whims and fancies. Plan activities with the whole family, play board games on rainy days, take responsibility for few school subjects that you’re good at. These are just some pointers but you can come up with more suitable ones yourself if you really want to do something about it.
Some things can wait, take it easy for few years. The Indian cricket team will not stop playing if you’re not able to cheer for them, the football match can be recorded, the gym equipment will not rust away. It’s alright to look a little less cool if you haven’t been able to see the latest Netflix series or if the other guy knows more political news than you. Keep that phone down when you’re at home; the kids have so much to tell you. In that window of a few minutes when you come back home and before they go to bed, be with them not only physically but also, mentally. Let them see how their role models work in tandem to keep their family running with all the love and care. So the next time when you ask your kid to learn how to share, puff up that 56-inch chest and say it with pride!
Archana Arora is a stay at home mother who left her corporate career in Finance to raise her daughter. She lives with her husband and their four-year-old daughter in Bangalore. She started writing in order to capture the little things her daughter does. She believes that motherhood has given her wings and she is just beginning to test her flying skills!