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If only they knew what the life of a stay at home parent entails! But we take it with a pinch of salt. It isn’t for them to decide how we live, is it?
I tried to quickly skim through the newspaper before I woke up Neha. Just then I heard that familiar sound that made me jump up with a start. The milk bubbles were foaming at the brim of the vessel, threatening to tip over, but I switched off the gas in the nick of time.
‘Wow, that was close,’ I muttered under my breath.
I then swiftly got down to prepare the tiffin for my seven year old daughter Neha. Palak puri was the dish of the day. As I kneaded the dark green palak puree with the atta, I was fascinated with how everything came together within seconds to form a supple dewy dough.
Not as tough as I thought it would be, plus Riya had given me clear instructions on how to make it. Of course I couldn’t roll out perfectly round ones like her.
But hey, all I had to do is press that steel bowl against the rolled out map shaped dough and voila! I would have the perfect round beauties.
Then, I dunk in my first puri into the oil. And guess what, it didn’t even puff up. How sorely disappointing!
They look like spinach mathris instead. Anyway I quickly stuff them into her tiffin box, toss in a couple of orange slices and shut the lid tightly
I then make my way to Neha’s bedroom. I try waking her up, imitating Riya’s singasong voice. But it doesn’t seem to work.
I look at the clock and decide I need to do what I do best.
I start tickling her and within seconds I have her up, giggling, her eyes still swollen with sleep.
She looks at me in surprise. “How come you are waking me up again? I thought it was just for one day,” asked Neha, looking genuinely puzzled.
“Neha, it’s going to be this way for some time sweetheart,” I tell her as I tousled her dark brown curls.
“But who will help me with my homework? Who will design my princess costume for the fancy dress competition? Oh yeah, who is going to braid my hair every morning?” Neha asked with her eyebrows furrowed.
“Baby, I will do it all. You don’t have to worry about a thing,” I tell her with conviction. But her last question had me stumped.
As I steer her into the bathroom, I quickly whip out my phone and check out some videos on how to braid hair.
Thankfully when it was time to do just that, Riya came to my rescue.
But hey it’s just my second day.
Second day? Second day as what you must be wondering?
Well, ahem, let me clear my throat before I make it official.
Ahem ahem, my second day as a househusband (sheepishly).
There I said it. Woah, feels like a load off my back. I just couldn’t get myself to say it, you know?
Was I embarrassed?
Well yes, maybe, actually quite a bit, and I really don’t why.
It was actually a consensual decision. I was the one who wanted to take a break from work. Working as a relationship manager in a bank was taking a toll on me. The long hours, unreasonable targets and the pressure built up by the end of the month had me feeling like a pressure cooker ready to explode.
Initially when I told Riya that I wanted to resign and take a break for a year, she looked at me like I had gone crazy.
“But Ashish, how the hell are we going to manage?” she had yelled. “We have a certain standard of living to maintain. What will people say? We can’t just live without any income coming in for a year. How will we pay Neha’s school fees?”
“Arrey Riya, calm down. You were the one who told me a few days back that you want to start working. So now is your chance. I will not resign until you find a job”.
Riya didn’t know whether to laugh or cry on hearing this.
“But will my income be enough? Especially when I get back after such a long break,” Riya’s voice trailed off.
6 months later
Guess what, I make the most amazing puris now. They puff up so beautifully, makes me beam with pride.
And have you heard of fish tail braid? Well, you guessed it. That is the latest hairstyle I tried on Neha.
Things are getting easier now. I am also able to say I am a househusband without any hesitation.
The other house wives don’t treat me like an outsider anymore.
Of course there are the occasional taunts at weddings and other social gatherings. From statements like “Oh, so it’s your wife who wears the pants at home.” to “How does it feel to sit at home and do nothing?”
If only they knew what the life of a stay at home parent entails. Sigh! But then we take it with a pinch of salt. Because after all it’s not for them to decide how we should live our lives.
Of course there is the flip side too. Especially for Riya. While she is definitely making her mark in the advertising sector, there are times when she misses spending time with Neha.
Just the other day Neha was in tears because of a fight with her best friend, and who did she want to hug and comfort her? Yup, she wanted me. Well that made me literally jump with joy, but I also didn’t miss the tears that had made its way to Riya’s eyes.
Riya is slowly coming to terms with this change just the way I had to get used to the fact that Neha’s special love was now reserved for mama and not papa anymore.
Neha’s excitement to see mama every evening when she is back from work makes me jealous at times. And you know what, all in all I am quite liking this stay at home dad bit. After all since when did a stay at home parent be all about gender?
Patriarchy is so deeply engrained within us that it not only affects women but also men. The fact still remains that if a man does not adhere to the stereotypical role, he becomes an object of ridicule.
Traditionally it’s the alpha male that has been the preferred personality trait for a man to be attractive. Traits like restriction of emotions and being socially dominant are often seen in alpha males. And saying things like “Boys don’t cry” and “mard ko dard nahi hota” we further endorse these traits.
But considering the given times, there is a new class of men who don’t care what you think. They are called the Zeta male. A zeta male basically refers to a man who rejects stereotypes and refuses to conform to traditional beliefs.
They are not afraid to speak out for what they believe is right and just. Neither are they afraid to express their emotions. They have nothing to prove to anyone and least of all their manhood. Zeta males are like a breath of fresh air. They are self-taught and defiant to traditional social structures.
There is a movement that is there to empower women but it often ends up making the man the enemy. But there needs to be a movement to help men break out of the system they are stuck in. A movement empowering men to embrace modern masculinity. And this is the need of the hour. The Zeta male.
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: Still from web-series Four More Shots, Please
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I am a mom who works from home and dabbles with writing when time permits.
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