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In a country where mothers are supposed to be the primary caregivers and nurturers, we talk to popular blogger and Stay At Home Dad (SAHD), Sidharth Balachandran.
A Stay At Home Dad is a new concept in India. Since women are usually the primary caregivers, it is rare to find a man taking on this role. It seems rather unimaginable to expect a man to ‘choose’ to give up his career to be a stay-at-home Dad’.
Meet Sidharth Balachandran, a.k.a Sid, an SAHD who loves to spend time with his family. He worked as a product manager for an IT conglomerate, and as a business manager for Vodafone in the UK, before relocating to India. He enjoys reading, watching sitcoms, photography, playing sports, and designing.
He writes about his experiences as a stay-at-home in his blog i wrote those.
In an interview with me through email, he shared his journey as a Stay At Home Dad and how this experience has changed his perceptions of life. Here are some excerpts.
Were there any special circumstances that made you decide to become a Stay-at-home Dad?
Sid: It wasn’t a pre-planned decision. We’d relocated to India from London due to personal reasons. Since my wife had been offered a promotional transfer, we mutually took the decision that for a while, I would stay at home to help look after our then one-year-old son, until we settled in.
I also took the time to pursue something I love – writing – and one thing led to another, and 24 months later, here we are. And, I’m enjoying every moment of it.
Do you think there is the difference between a homemaker (usually female) and an SAHD?
Sid: Are you trying to get me in trouble?
I think it’s all about perception. There is always a difference between how men and women do certain things. Despite what most people say, being a homemaker is one of the toughest roles anyone can play. And having been a Stay-at-home Dad, I appreciate the efforts that go into maintaining a household a lot more.
In spite of having a full-time job, my wife still does a lot of things around the house and from our years in London, we have always worked together, sharing chores and roles – be it household or parenting. If you ask a general section of the society, I’m sure they’ll cite differences between a Stay – at –home Mum and a Stay-at-home Dad.
Because we still have a patriarchal mindset, even a Stay At Home Dad is not expected to do what a Stay-at-home-Mum might. But, personally, I think that’s a very redundant and antique (way of thinking).
Both partners, whether working at home or in an office, should want to contribute together. And as a parting point, I’d say, homemakers deserve a lot of respect. They rock.
What was/is the biggest challenge of being at Stay At Home Dad?
Sid: I’m not sure if I’d phrase them as challenges. It’s a learning process, much like marriage, relationships and parenting. You come across an obstacle, try and find a way to overcome it, and just do it. I would also like to mention that I’m really a work-from-home Dad.
Yes, I stay at home to be with my son, but I also write for a living. So keeping that in mind, perhaps the only challenge that I’ve really had on a personal level is trying to juggle my time effectively.
Little kids can be quite a handful, and since they really have no appreciation for ‘schedules’, I have a tough time balancing everything. Regardless of what people say, neither is a dad a replacement for a mom nor vice-versa.
So, I’ve had my share of ‘not knowing what to do’ experiences when my little one throws a tantrum or cries for his mother consistently. But as I said, it’s a learning process. (There are bound to be some obstacles)
The other biggest challenge has been the society, but I’ll talk more about it on the next point.
In a country like India, where the SAHD concept is relatively unknown, how did the people around you respond and react when they found out about you being a Stay At Home Dad?
Sid: The initial reaction was one of shock, disbelief and some amount of social ostracization.
I recently viewed a talk show where a few stay-at/work-from home Dads said that society accepted their choices happily. That wasn’t true in my case. As a largely patriarchal society, it is often perceived that men go to work and it is ‘okay’ if women don’t. That is the norm.
The society stereotypes women (especially married women and mothers) as largely homemakers. They stamp the same seal on all of them.
And when a man does it, well, if I’m honest, all hell breaks loose. During the initial period, I almost refrained from going out because of the type of questions that people asked. Some rolled their eyes at my answers while others just avoided me.
But I’ve had a lot of support from my family, friends from the blogging world and, of course, my wife. Eventually, all that matters is that we’re happy with our decision. And I’m proud and happy to do what I do. And hopefully, if I can inspire more men to ‘choose’ to take on a more ‘hands-on-role’ to parenting, then I’ll be ecstatic.
Your blog ‘I Wrote Those’ is very popular. Do you think that gender has something to do with why readers relate to your work?
Sid: I think popularity is a relative term. My blog is very much an extension of who I am. I believe readers come to my blog because it offers them something fresh and different, often delivered with a rather quirky sense of humour.
But yes, I’d be lying if I said that ‘gender’ did not have anything to do with why readers come to my blog; particularly my parenting ones. A majority of the parenting blogs are done by mothers, and fathers who blog about parenting are somewhat a rarity.
I’m also fortunate enough to spend considerable time with my son, who helps me view things differently. So yes, in some ways, my blog occupies a very niche spot in the blog-o-sphere and I’m lucky to have loyal readers.
What do you consider is the greatest joy of being a Stay At Home Dad?
Sid: Ah, where do I even begin? The greatest joy has to be the fact that I get to spend plenty of time with my growing son.
Yes, I won’t deny that there are times when I just want to have some ‘alone’ time, but it’s been a journey that I’ve been delighted to embark on. I come from the school of thought that says, both mothers and fathers bring different things to the parenting table, and both are equally important.
I’d also like to believe that being a stay-at/work-from-home Dad has helped me appreciate what women do for our society and households.
Overall, I think I’ve learnt to appreciate that every parent is different and it’s not whether you’re a stay-at-home parent or working parent that makes the difference, but the amount of time you get to spend with your kid(s) and partner, that makes the journey worthwhile.
You can also follow Sid’s blog via Facebook.
Father and child fishing image via Shutterstock