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Dads too have a right to being a parent – can we have baby care rooms in public spaces that are accessible to Indian fathers too, please?
Voices are heard only if they are raised…and here I want to raise mine. Maybe, many would consider this to be a trivial issue and write it off, but when it is about a child, (my baby in this case), I just cannot afford to ‘zip my lips’ and ‘somehow adjust’ to the so-called parameters that has already been set, and things shabbily worked around them.
Hence, I refuse to stay silent. I choose to speak. I choose to raise my voice!
I have a very simple question to ask. Can there be a changing table for babies in both female and male toilets please? Or a separate baby room in all the public places which can be used by any parent irrespective of their gender? Is it possible in India too? Or am I asking for too much?
So, this happened last year when we visited India. One day, my husband came home infuriated, and he was on a non-stop ranting mode.
He had gone out with my 2 year old daughter to do some shopping in the mall. After my baby passed a motion, he could not find any proper/separate baby changing room.
I’m talking about one of the biggest metropolitan city of India i.e. Kolkata. And the only one which he could locate was inside the ladies toilet. He searched the length and breadth of the mall, and brought this matter to the authority (“Abhi kya kar sakte hai sir, aisa hi hai!! Aap website par complain daal do.” What can we do, sir, you can register a complaint on their website!) which we did eventually…but alas! The poor chap was really stressed out.
Anyhow, he managed. There were a few people who got uncomfortable watching my husband cleaning the baby; some even asked where is the baby’s mom??? Sigh!!! There were of course a few sweet ones who asked if he needed any help.
So as I said, somehow he managed. Because this is what we are supposed to do when things are beyond our control, right? ADJUST – that’s the most convenient word, isn’t it?
This thought provoking incident made us realise how staying in Singapore with our baby had our minds conditioned. We believed that changing tables for babies are a basic thing, and it’s accessibility is obvious in every prominent place.
But No! Here, home in India, it is still a ‘thing’, or possibly a changing table in the Men’s toilet is unthinkable for many.
Isn’t it the duty of both the parents to give their children the much-needed safety and care at this critical juncture of their life? Just imagine the restlessness of parents like us who have to fight for this basic amenity, which each and every child of this or any other country of the world deserves.
So, there’s a predominant thought prevailing or rather deeply sowed in the society, that catering to a baby’s essential needs, be it hunger, bathing, cleaning poop is only the mom’s duty, and it is very conveniently presumed that a baby can never be accompanied by Daddy alone. And that dads have no business in cleaning the baby, hence no changing table in Men’s toilet is justified!
Here the very concept of equal parenting dies a slow death…why do we forget that men also have the right to play an equal parenting role? This should not be taken away from them just because the eco-system of the society thinks otherwise. An overall paradigm shift is needed. More men are standing up to their parenting role, and they should be equipped with the basic facilities at least.
Well it all begins from our mindsets.
When a father takes care of the baby or change diapers, or babysits, he is lauded with unmatched appreciation. And when a mom does the same, it is “expected” out of her. She is always under the public gaze, with everyone ready to judge her, criticize her, and subject her to regressive social standards.
The whole thought process needs a complete change. We as a society can flourish much better, if we do away with these gender stereotypes. High time we let the winds of change blow, let the voices be heard, let us all stand tall and equal!!
A version of this was first published here.
Image source: shutterstock
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