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Involved Fathers


IMG00063-20110918-1755I am working on a story on how fathers can be more involved in their child’s upbringing, and while doing my interviews, I was quite surprised to see that dads are still not very involved in their children’s lives. My upper-middle-class-urban-view of the world had led me to believe that fathers nowadays were more concerned about what’s happening in their children’s lives – apparently I was wrong! Even the involved dads I spoke to explained that they were a rare breed. I started off all righteous and feminist, till someone pointed out something basic, but important, to me.

Warning – this may raise a lot of hackles, as it can be construed as chauvinistic. One father I spoke to frankly pointed out that mothers, especially Stay-At-Home-Mothers (SAHM) should not complain too much about lack of involvement from fathers. “I am working the whole day to support the family, and she is at home – that is a choice that she has made. Now if she expects me to share the responsibilities of parenting with her on an equal footing, that’s hardly fair! After all, we have divided our labour in this way. And I also think it’s very unfair when SAHMs complain all the time about the amount of child-rearing they have to do. I don’t think this is something that we need to be ‘grateful’ to them for, again it’s how the couple has decided to allocate responsibilities. And even when the mother is working, unless she is in a job that is as high-paying or as demanding as the father’s, it is natural that more of the responsibility once again falls to her! The parent who gets more out of his career needs to give more, whether mother or father.”

I must admit that on carefully thinking over what this father said, I had to accept that a lot of what he said was true! Admittedly, it could have been couched in politer terms, but then since this is someone dear to me, he was just being frank. I have noticed that its mostly SAHMs who tend to get frustrated about the father’s lack of involvement in his children’s lives – this could be for multiple reasons: these moms are spending enormous amounts of time with their children and feel they need a break; fathers also do unconsciously expect them to take on more since they are not working outside the house. Having said that, it stands to reason that a parent who is at home most of the day will be expected to do more for the children – note I said ‘parent’, so this holds true for the homemaker father as well! So should mothers – or fathers – who stay at home complain about bearing the bulk of child-rearing responsibilities?

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Kritika Srinivasan is an Editor at ParentEdge. She has her hands full with an active young child and her writing. She is keenly interested in ways to engage and stimulate children to keep their lively and intelligent minds busy.

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4 thoughts on “Involved Fathers

  1. Ujwala

    A few thoughts
    1.)If the mother has not made the choice to stay at home, but has been compelled to do so, i have seen that she may resent the father his freedom.
    2.)If at some stage, a parenting decision has been taken by the mother, and for some reason something goes wrong, fathers should not step in with “I told you so-s”,which is unfair
    3.)Fathers should take part in the parenting, simply to know the child better, as childhood is the best bonding time. But this is a personal choice.
    4.) I have observed that some mothers who have worked before having a baby long for the zing of the workplace and feel a little lonely esp. after the child has grown up and is schooling full-time. A few compliments and a little appreciation can make them feel good!!!

  2. Kritika Srinivasan

    Hello Ujwala

    Thank you for your thoughts on this. I agree with what you say. Many times, the mother does not want to stay at home but is forced to because of family circumstances, or work permit issues (!). In this case, she may resent her role as SAHM. Of course, it always helps and is even necessary that a father be involved in his children’s lives no matter whether his wife is working or not. But I have seen many mothers who are constantly at their husbands for not spending more time with their kids, when many times the fathers don’t really have that much of a choice either. They are trying to balance work and family as well, especially in a country like India, where the corporate set-up is not really supportive of fathers.

    I guess there is no solution to this except better understanding and communication between the parents who must also ensure that their resentment and frustration does not boil over and affect their children!

  3. Natasha

    My husband is v involved with our 20 month old son – and i think like you mentioned the fact that i work makes him feel like he needs to help out with the kid too.

    Also i dont have a “Baby maid” so there was no one else who i have to even pass on even the smallest mundane job. So, between the 2 of us we do everything for our kid, bathing, diaper change, feeding etc and this makes us both involved.

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