This happened a few months ago that I was at home talking to a Delhi government official for a radio interview when my kid came shouting ‘Mama I have done potty’. He was happy and ecstatic and wanted me to reciprocate his joy. I had a minute of confusion before I abruptly finished the conversation and disconnected the call.
The ‘BBC dad’ interview which is breaking the internet gave me a strong déjà vu. It cracked me up because it’s our story. The new age urban parents who are always juggling between office and kids.
When work has seeped into our homes through team whatsapp groups and emails flowing way past the work hours we are constantly firefighting while the kids are dancing in the background. But because internet is a ruthless and cruel world with people sitting to react at even slightest provocations, this video opened a whole lot of discussion on the dad’s reaction and the role of fathers in general. People questioned Why did he not attend to the child. Why was he sitting throughout and how a mother would have reacted differently in a similar situation. But how is his reaction related to his gender? He was on live TV sitting as an expert and not as a dad. It takes all of us some time to switch roles and he didn’t have his pants on!
There is also a spoof of this video which is going viral where a mother is being interviewed and she is seen lifting the babies up instead of shooing them away.
Shout out to all the working women out there defusing bombs on a regular basis!
Posted by Jono and Ben on Thursday, March 16, 2017
It’s outrightly hilarious and is done in good taste but in some sense it’s also a commentary on the ‘BBC dad’ and his reaction of ignoring the kid.
Mothers are always made to look like the epitome of sacrifice and selflessness , I feel the new age fathers are catching up fast and it’s not a bad idea to talk about them. I know many dads who put a knot on their tie and clean baby poop with equal precision but there is not enough poetry written on their sacrifices. There are not enough tear jerking ads on how they wake up early to pack our tiffins. There are not enough beautiful Bollywood songs ‘tujhe sab hai pata hai na Pa’ but yes these dads do exist.
Parenting roles over all these years are defined by gender with very strict demarcations where fathers earned and mothers nurtured. Not much has changed over the years. The debate on paternity leave is a sparkling example of rampant patriarchy in India. 26 weeks of maternity leave is reinforcing the idea that women are primary caretakers. A few companies have started handing out equal paternal leaves irrespective of gender but co-parenting is not about number of leaves. There is not a single mall in Delhi or anywhere in the world for that matter where I see a nappy changing station in men’s loo. You will always find one in the women’s loo where a poor mother will be doing it all by herself. I know many fathers who change nappies all the time and that doesn’t make them great. They are just about doing their jobs but public space refuse to accept or adapt to the idea of a father at a nappy station. There is no doubt about the fact that a mother has traditionally more responsibilities burdened upon her and most fathers get away easily by singing occasional lullabies and posing for some cuddly pictures on Facebook. The woman’s career takes a hit, her body takes a hit, her social life takes a hit but a very heartening number of men are changing the dynamics of this relationship.
Though sit-at-home dads are still a rare phenomenon, I see a lot of young urban dads participating equally in raising their children. A couple of years ago when my cousin was taking a 20 hour long flight from the US with his baby boy a lot of my relatives had a mini heart attack. How will a father manage the child alone and who will change his diapers! We are not accustomed with the idea of fathers doing it on their own. I see memes on the internet titled ‘what really happens when dads baby sit’ where you can see a man doing silly antics with the kid. I don’t find it funny. The pop culture has to stop propagating the idea of conventional dads. The ‘as seen on TV’ kinda dads. The ones who came back from work and switched on Tv to watch some cricket. Young dads around us are experimenting with new definitions. I see fathers and mothers who are convincingly interchanging conventional roles. Women who go out to drink with their friends on Saturdays and dads who tie neat ponytails. I don’t want to label these men as heroes but I do want to acknowledge this change for others to pick up and adapt. I know many woman who are doing phenomenally well at their careers because they have great partners who understand what co-parenting is all about. Some of my female friends, very few in number though go out on holidays while the father takes care of the children because it is no big deal. I know some real ninja dads who switch on cartoons on TV and start feeding paratha to their kid, dads who put their children to sleep, dads who carry the baby bottles and quickly make one when the baby needs. Dads who iron uniforms in the morning and pack sandwiches for lunch. Dads who are as good as mothers.
These dads are breaking taboos and taking the role of primary care givers but I still hope to see a day where TV ads will have dads sprinkling powder on the babies, giving them bubble bath, massaging their arms and we won’t make it a big deal or write about it here.