Let’s start by stating the obvious – having a child is a big, big responsibility. In today’s day and age if you didn’t plan it then you are in for a pretty rude shock. Making serious sacrifices is just the beginning. Though most importantly you have to be mentally prepared for welcoming another human being into your home, into your bedroom, into your kitchen, into your personal space… into your lives. On that note, here is wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the new dads (including me).
Today’s father has moved beyond the glorified baby-sitter who keeps the child occupied till he gets bored before handing the baby over to the mother to continue the drudgery of feeding, cleaning, changing and putting them to bed. All my friends who are fathers are purposefully involved in their child(ren)’s upbringing, ensuring that not only do they balance their work and life but also share responsibilities.
I’d like to believe that I have been an equal partner so far in this journey (I can hear my wife scoff in the background while I read this aloud). My wife gave up her job to raise our child I had no intentions to let her do this alone. I partook in all the responsibilities right from changing soiled diapers to waking up in the middle of the night to pat my daughter back to sleep, ensuring that I try and take away as much of the load as possible.
Yet I kept hearing, consistently from my wife, that I am not doing enough, I am not proactive, I am selfish (I don’t know where that came from) and that I will never know what she is going through.
Not only did that feed to my already growing annoyance but we ended up in quite a few verbal battles, which I was trying very hard to win but in the end there was always something left wanting. I argued back that “I work so hard for this family blah blah blah” but after a point I come to realize that I sound like a quintessential asshole, yet I don’t relent…typical.
So a couple of days ago my wife sent me an interesting link, published in The Guardian to give me a perspective (click here). The comic has a central theme “you should have asked”. And that’s when I started thinking, am I always waiting for instructions from my wife to do certain things. Am I that guy who has to be told everything, perhaps not, but when I do recall, there are a number of things that my wife (and mum) has to remind me constantly. And when I do it, I feel elated almost like I came up with the idea myself. I feel I achieved something momentous, I feel as if I am my wife’s equal – what a travesty!
This article made me realize that my wife is perpetually pre-occupied with various aspects of the household and child rearing. Constantly organizing and re-organizing and getting things done. Her mind is like the navigation on google maps, if for whatever reason she takes a different road the navigation will re-route automatically, and will still reach her destination. On the flip side I’ll just end up like the deer caught between headlights, wondering “now what do I do?”
The more I think about it the more I am convinced about my lack of pro-activeness at home. All those things that I think I was doing of my own accord was already retro-fitted by my wife, giving the illusion that I came up with it… devious! It’s true, maybe I can’t be left alone with my child without pointed instructions – What time to feed her, What to feed her, Where the feed is, What onesie to make her wear before she goes to bed, wind her down, read a book, don’t just dump her in the crib, etc. Not to say that I am bad father but maybe I should be a lot more proactive than I convince myself to be.
This just goes to show that I am programmed to be proactive at something that I get a reward for, my job for example. I will do anything and everything to get a task done, why? Because I get paid for it. But at home things are slightly different, especially about what you want to do and what you are told to do.
Marriage gives you a good perspective on how it is to share your life, adapt and make compromises. But when a child comes along, you go to another level, and acceptance is the key. Women do it brilliantly, I have seen it at home and outside. Men though, are under the fallacy that they have accepted it, but they can be way off.
Are we, the new age dads really doing something meaningful to contribute or is it just one of those check boxes that we tick? There might be a lot of fathers out there who won’t agree with me on this, which is fine because there is always another story to tell. But introspect, observe your wife the next time around and think of how she quit her job, stalled her career, stopped dreaming and put her body on the line… just to fuel this family.
Happy Father’s Day