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Even As A Feminist, I Was Startled To Realise That Her Primary Caregiver Was Her Dad!

The Indian approach to parenting has always centred around mothers! Even if the father is part of the household during a nation-wide lockdown.

This festive season, I was very glad to meet K & R after almost 2 years. Over the period, their daughter Pattu has grown into a delightful, independent young kid who is lively and exquisitely expressive. The major part of her 3.5 year life has been spent in the quaint little 2 BHK apartment her parents have artistically designed.

Beyond the festive season and the spirit of the child bouncing around with a whole- hearted smile, there was a blossoming father- daughter relationship that I sensed. It reminded me of my childhood days and time spent with my dad when I was Pattu’s age.

When I entered the house, her father K was getting Pattu ready and brought her to meet the guest (me), holding her hands. For the next half-hour, Pattu clung to him like a mini koala while she gathered her toys and returned to Papa Koala. R was busy between calls and repeatedly asked to be excused. Please make a mental note that I reached their place around 7PM in the evening during the festive week.

Parenting during the pandemic

K later explained how raising Pattu was very difficult inside a Mumbai apartment during the pandemic, so he had travelled with her for long breaks spanning up to 1-2 months, just to stay with extended family, so that she gets the care and attention she was deprived of in the 3 member household. Beyond that, he really needed a break!

I didn’t get it the first few times. But slowly it dawned on me that he and Pattu have been making trips alone, without her mom R! I verified nonetheless. The thought of a 2 year old staying away from her mother for a month or two was a bit unimaginable for me. But hell yeah, why not? It’s 2021.

K was quite honest in saying he needed a break. But frankly, do mothers have the option of spelling it out? The choice of saying they need a break when they are expected to do double duty of managing work and home? A mother in that place would probably earn considerable ire just for asking timeout from parenting!

Now comes the predicament. Do I feel happy for Pattu and her Papa’s growing bond, or do I feel sad when I hear from R that Pattu does not miss her during her sojourns?

Beyond these two, there is a 3rd hidden clause that I love as a woman. The fact that the father stepped up to fill the plausible void that the child was facing in her formative years. Suddenly I start noticing several craft projects across the house which K explains that he made with Pattu during the pandemic. Amateur cardboard box cars to classy paint plates which I can imagine them doing together sitting on the drawing room floor. Just the father and daughter!

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It reminded me of the days when I was taken out for a drive early in the morning in my father’s lambretta cento. All that I could do at that stage was stand in the front, holding the scooter head – that was enough for my dad! He would pack some water and a set of clothes for me (knowing what I was capable of!) and drive around the charming small town.

A deep sigh surfaces again. Can somebody just construct a time machine urgently?

Our concept of the primary care giver

When R finally sat down to talk, I was tempted to put my hands around her shoulder and try to take away some of that exasperation.

Her job keeps her busy from 11AM till 4AM. Oh no, that was not a typo, both the time zones were AM only!! So technically she starts in the Indian time zone and works till the Americans get back home. Her tone was dark, her plight from  hairfall to health issues were darker. But her prime concern was very evident, she missed being there for Pattu! Suddenly it was time for R’s 9PM call and she started asking to be excused, which now discomfited me further.

Finally I walked back home in a pensive mood, mulling on pandemic parenting.

Every couple stuck in an apartment with a child (or 2!) filled with abundant energy and has managed to keep their jobs for more than a year has not had it easy. When I searched the topic, every article featured a photograph of a terribly exhausted mother alongside a kid hugging, crying or throwing a tantrum.

Well, that sums it up: the Indian approach to parenting has always centred around mothers! Even if the father is part of the household during a nation-wide lockdown.

Furthermore, it gets complicated when mothers are let to drown in guilt just because she is chasing her career. If the father was overcome with professional commitments, would he feel an equal level of guilt in being less involved? There is a subconscious level of conditioning in women when it comes to being the primary caregiver. Not being there when the little one needs her plays hard in her mind and she doesn’t deserve that.

Both the parents are equally responsible for raising a child. So it’s high time as a society we relook that framework of a primary parent and stop letting the mothers drown in guilt.

Image source: Anand238 on Pixabay

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About the Author

Aarthee Suriyakumar

Electrical engineer turned into Marketer. From heartland of Tamilnadu but almost Mumbaikaar. read more...

21 Posts | 25,830 Views

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