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It is time for us to contemplate the issue of how childcare norms work in India – and how these penalise mothers as well as fathers.
This International Women’s Day, I want to pay salutations to men who have not given in to the gender biases in their actions and manners.
As a new mother, childcare is understandably an overwhelming concern for me. Then when you have a husband who wakes up before you, offers you a coffee in the morning, bathes the toddler and feeds him solids before we both leave for office is a blessing in a hard balling patriarchy from all sides.
So, what are the child care norms in India? Now, of course, we have a Noble laureate to boast of as a crusader for child rights. But the childcare narrative is so genderised in India that we must really look into whether it’s also an attempt to institutionally deprive men of caring for their children especially in the early years of the child growth.
The 7 PC (Seventh Pay Commission) allows Child Care Leave to women employees for a maximum period of 730 days during the entire service for taking care of their minor children up to the age of 18.
By contrast, the existing norms for central government employees mandate a meagre 15 days paternity leave to fathers for child care.
Doesn’t it sound as though even in the 21st century the institutional mechanisms are depriving even the more evolved men to cut their caring aspirations vis-à-vis their children and perforce ask their female spouses to carry the deal all by themselves? These are questions we must engage with exceedingly in a scenario where we have more gender-sensitive men.
The Maternity Amendment Bill also mandates a crèche for every establishment having more than 50 employees to ease the postpartum job rehabilitation of the working women. But in the absence of any clear guidelines on the same it also stays hanging on the whims and fancies of the decision makers, perhaps ruining a million new moms’ working conditions postpartum.
Let’s assume this situation. Y, a male and X, a female joined government services in 2010. Both got married incidentally in 2015. By 2015, both were on an equal professional footing but things change post-2016. While Y by virtue of experience and stability in personal life post wedlock becomes more active in the professional arena gaining lucrative assignments, X gets engaged in a larger purpose of progeny. Y conceived and by virtue of her pregnant status is viewed with bias in the organisation and is shifted to a relatively less challenging environment. While she is well capable of the assignments given to Y, she has to silently compromise. Be that as it may, she gives birth and after 6 odd months of postpartum care when she rejoins she is again not considered for worthwhile positions.
This is just a representative case and exceptions must not be quoted to counter this largely ubiquitous situation. Even after biological and social challenges, when X joins work, the stark realisation dawns that child care is not confined to breast feeding and till the time toddler joins the school he or she needs this constant monitoring and nutritional care which isn’t possible without your personal attention and intervention. While Y who also has had a child around the same time as X doesn’t feel any considerable post-partum heat, X is several miles behind Y already.
This institutional mechanism or the lack of it to facilitate the catching up or bouncing back of trailing behind women at work is making more and more women amongst millennials decide against childbirth in their timeline.
Even though Y may be this really egalitarian, gender-neutral metrosexual man, he by virtue of institutional mechanisms doesn’t participate in childcare beyond the before and after of the office. That is, and remains, the domain of women choicelessly. This situation is further accentuated by patriarchal men and women in power who want to retain power by upholding patriarchal patterns without essentially contributing anything for a gender-just organisational setup, which they may be in a position to influence in their capacity and realm.
Image via Pexels