With Father’s Day around the corner, some Indian dads speak about parenting and how they achieved closeness with their children.
By Nayantara Mallya
Fathers’ roles and relationships with their children are certainly changing in the current generation. Father’s Day, for instance, was not something we even knew about, let alone celebrated, a couple of decades ago! Increasingly, new-age dads are trying their best to stay connected with their children. By creating their own unique rituals and spending quality time together, Indian Dads are aiming to be right alongside Indian Moms as partners in parenting.
How feasible is this, though, when the pressures of work get in the way? What about overtime, erratic working hours, travel, deputations outside the country or even on-ship?
Vinod S.*, a Captain in the Merchant Navy is away from his family for 3 months at a time, with a subsequent 3 month break. Vinod makes full use of this break and more than makes up for his long absences. He says, “I take over most childcare from my wife, including their school tasks, ferrying them to and from hobby classes and other activities. One of the ‘perks’ of my job is that when I’m on leave, I’m fully off the job. There’s no keeping in touch with the office, no working from home or worries about piled-up work waiting for me when I return to work.”
So Vinod is fully available to his children who are now 14 and 21. It’s been that way since they were babies. Another bonus with Vinod’s job is that the long leave periods enable extra-long vacations with his family. “In two decades, we’ve had countless memorable holidays in almost every corner of India, and in every continent around the world!”
“I come home quite late around the kids’ bedtime. I really miss out on being with them, although I am very much around during weekends,” explains Saurabh*, a Manager in a Software company. His children are 9 and 5.
Saurabh takes advantage of the fact that he leaves for work relatively late in the mornings. He prepares a healthy breakfast everyday. “My kids sometimes help me after they get ready; I’ve taught them how to wash and cut vegetables, fetch things and stir a pan on the stove”, he says. Saurabh also involves the kids at work in folding and putting away clothes, while he does the laundry.
“I feel cooking together is a wonderful way to be with them. They eat more too! I make full use of the ten minutes when I drop them to the school bus, to talk and have fun with them.” Saurabh also hopes that seeing him contributing to housework and parenting will teach the children that both parents are capable of managing work, home and family.
Anjan Coimbatore, a General Manager in an embedded systems company travels frequently. He says, “It requires quite a conscious effort to ensure my daughter figures on my calendar!” When he’s not traveling, Anjan gets home by 5pm, helps his 8 year old daughter with Maths and Science homework and takes her out for a game of basketball or to cycle.
A daily ritual he has followed since her toddler days is a good half-hour of rough-housing. “I feel it helps her take out her frustration about my absences. It’s a great exercise in bonding too!”
Anjan volunteers with an adoption and foster care agency a couple of Saturdays a month, and has involved his daughter right from the start. “We have fun discussions during the long drive. She usually plays with the children at the agency, holds the babies, or comes along with me during my videography work.”
He feels that the exposure to volunteer work has definitely made his daughter more aware and mature. “It has made her accepting of the difficult truths that some children live without their parents, and struggle with physical and mental challenges.” He hopes that it will inspire his daughter to continue contributing to the community when she grows up.
Umesh Rao, a business owner, found it difficult to bond with his children when they were very young , but finds it easier now that they respond to reason. His long business hours leave him little time for parenting. He has found reading to his 3 year old daughter and 5 year old son to be the best way to connect with them. He says “I try to read them a story most nights, with plenty of action, expression and voice modulation.”
Vinod remembers putting his 5 month old daughter on his lap and reading to her – a habit he has maintained over the years. “I remember this special moment during a phone call across the world – when my daughter was 4, she told me proudly that she had learned to read and would now read to me the next time I returned home from the ship!”
Saurabh helps his daughter read some of her Hindi and Kannada storybooks at bedtime, trying to brush up her language skills. “Bedtime typically is a very prolonged ritual with songs and rhymes, nightly affirmations and the goodnight kiss for both kids.” Saurabh also helps his daughter with school language homework.
Anjan reads his daughter a chapter every night from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Reading to their children at bedtime certainly is a ritual fathers depend on, that goes a long way towards creating precious childhood memories.
Quality over quantity seems to be the mantra these dads have embraced, to stay present during their kids’ childhood and teen years. Although dads are still typically less around than moms, they do endeavor to contribute in their own unique manner to raising their children right.
*Names changed on request
I'm currently a communications specialist in the corporate world, and mom to a teen
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