“Awww! Look, the dad is feeding the baby”.
“Awwww! Just look at the father playing with the baby”.
“What?! You’re telling me that your husband bathed your daughter, changed her diaper, and fed her too? Awwww! He’s such a darling. You’re a lucky girl ”
These lovely comments always light up my day. I feel like a superhero who has come to MommyM’s rescue. They come so often that my pile of brownie points is beginning to look a lot like Uncle Scrooge’s money bin (Duck Tales Reference)
MommyM also appreciates whatever I do whenever I do it around the house. But she does not take it well when people come praising me all the time for pitching in here and there. I know it is not just envy because, if I were her, i’d probably not be too pleased myself. This is ’cause people everywhere had something to tell her about her mommying style. (We have met gyaani-parents at malls, restaurants and where-not!). All the gyaan and judgments are reserved for her, and all the praises are for me. The gyaani-parents actually looked truly oblivious to my presence, but I always pay attention and discuss these tips with my wife (never goes well, I tell you.)
I love spending time with my lil one and I’m very conscious of the way in which I get to bond with my child. I see us as very close buddies in the future. That bond does not come naturally, we all have to work on it. I never felt that bathing my baby, feeding her or changing her diapers were some big favours that I was doing for my wife. But I loved all the appreciation I was getting just the same (with all my monkeyness intact, I’m a human being after all!!). But sometime after our 1000th squabble on whose turn it was to move their derriere and do some parenting-thing; I realised that I do those things once or twice a week, but my wife does it all the time. I didn’t see anyone complementing her.
Re-winding a little (to give you a relate-able example) When lilM was 3 months old she woke up 5-6 times at night everyday asking to be breastfed. My wife didn’t get proper sleep for the first 6 months because of this. But noone appreciated her or motivated her and she wasn’t complaining much either. When she did vent about it, it was always met with “ yeah, it is like that. I have been through worse.” The best she was getting was ‘understanding’ from others while I was just a trophy short of Winning this parenting game. Why? Because she’s a mom so what is privilege to me, is a duty for her!!
If you are in this journey, you will be told (or you will understand from your environment without being told -like we did) that parents are of two kind.
(drum roll……enter:- gender stereotypes)
First one is the Mother (primary caregiver), one who is “supposed” to do all things because she was born to do this. She’s the one who is expected to make a career out of sacrificing (seriously…moms put away everything for their lil ones at the drop of a hat) because it’s her foremost duty to take care of the human being they brought into this world. Many of my friends have been forced to leave their jobs just because they’re a mother now. (Yes it’s true even today, and you know it even in your bubble of modern day comforts and thinking)
Then comes The Father (Celebrity parent) -. The father can have a life of his own. Go to work, earn money, chase his dreams. And if that isn’t enough, he can take care of his baby for an hour or so, post a pic on Instagram, and get the award for the greatest father/husband/human.
Actually we have been given these ‘roles’ by people around us. It’s always the mother feeding, bathing and putting the baby to sleep as she is ‘supposed’ to. The father on the other hand is seen as the person responsible for the financial security of the house. To many I have spoken to, this seems like division of labour. It WAS..in simpler times maybe. Today this is really no model to go by, guys!! Then comes the question of the working mother. If your wife is working, it makes sense for you to contribute equally; if not why bother, you are bringing in the bread and butter and she is the nurturer, that sounds equal and divided!! WRONG!! I read somewhere recently ‘the term working mother is redundant’. And that is true!!
Parenting is in fact a game for two(if it was not, it would have been called just momming)!! There is a lot of emotional, psychological and physical investment that goes into being a parent. So, managing the home-front with the baby and the baby’s needs is really not a one-parent-show.
For me in particular, there is also the point that I don’t want my child to see me as the occasional-parent. (I am not Santa Claus or a fairy!) So, as a father, I think we can turn it down with the ‘aawwws’ now. I know I rock at daddying, because LilM says so. I know that is what she means when she says ‘jaba jaba bitta bitta poooaaaaa’.
What I am trying to say is, that when it comes to appreciation or a pat on the back, dads have it easy, while a mom has to do a lot many things to gain the same level of appreciation. Why do you seek outside recognition, well most people don’t that is why they are still alive. If we were to base our lives on how others value us, half of us would have renounced society and retreated into some inhabited forest.
But, man is a social animal, and if you can value the effort of the dad, you jolly well get around valuing the moms too. Also NEWS FLASH! – there no such thing as a bad parent, everyone is a trying-parent. We all want to be better at it than before. It is a journey every mother, father and child take over years and years. These early years are special, they love you unconditionally and you have to act fast if you want to be crowned as the best parent ever!! (of course, you can always kid yourself into believing that they love you both equally…kidding!)
So, I started living up to my vote for equal parenting many months ago, and you can too. Between you and your partner you can figure out how you want to divide the load (the easy, the hard and the smelly). Each couple is unique so the way you organise your parenting life will also be unique. MommyM actually wrote a kick-ass piece on dividing parenting roles, you can find it here .
Before writing this blog I thought a lot about what message I want to convey. I didn’t want to only glorify women or champion the cause of unsung mom-heroes. (they don’t really need it) But I want to put forward my view on equal parenting, in particular how others see my version of fatherhood. If mothers can learn how to hold a baby, how to clean her baby’s poop, how to change the diaper, then we fathers can also learn or at least try.
If you are wondering how it’s going for me…
The changes we made gradually have actually brought me and LilM closer. Children learn not from what we tell them, but what they see around themselves day in and day out (MommyM says so and she is usually right about these things). I know in my heart that I want to raise lilM as a strong, independent and gender-sensitive person. She is going to have to see that example around her more often to grow that way, and I am going to make sure she does.
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