I 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?