You know what pisses me off? When people suggest that a woman becomes a mother from the moment the fetus is inside her, but a father becomes a father only after the birth of the child! It absolutely infuriates me!
I don’t usually comment on current affairs in my blog, but this one issue is one I cannot keep quiet on. Maneka Gandhi, Indian Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development has said that paternity leave is not required, because men will only use it as a holiday!
It makes me immensely angry. Because I have always believed and vehemently advocated for equality in parenting. Both father and mother must have equal rights, and equal responsibilities as a parent. The child deserves attention, love, and care from both dad and mom. And both parents play an active role in raising the child.
I am a self-declared poster child for equal rights in a marriage. I am educated and have a career, just like my husband. Independent, financially and even kept my own name, again, just like my husband. Our child even has two surnames – mine and my husband’s. We have our own lives, apart from our life as a couple and as parents. I am not less than my husband; nor is my husband less than me.
Fathers Don’t Babysit, they parent!
Gone are the days when daddy’s role was to be a bystander in the child’s life, while only providing financial support. Fathers don’t babysit, they parent. Fathers these days are very hands-on, and they deserve time to enjoy the arrival of a new-born, just like the mother. Every day is a new fascinating story when you have a newborn, and daddy deserves to be there!
During my pregnancy, from the moment we found out till I delivered, and every step after, my husband has been there. He has witnessed it all: from all the doctor’s appointments to the ultrasounds, and to the actual delivery, he was there. In fact, my husband saw our baby even before I did. The entire journey was a shared experience! Of course he could not carry the baby, but short of that, he has been fully and completely involved.
In the delivery room, he was my guardian, my motivation to keep pushing, and have a natural delivery – the safest way. If there is anything I remember from the 22-hour blur of contractions and pushing and doctors scurrying around me, it is that one look my husband gave me. One of immense love, respect and faith! And that’s when I knew I could keep going on.
The first few nights after delivery, I could not get up and move around too much. My baby’s father would get up and walk to the crib and hand me the baby for his night feeds. And then get up again, and put him back in the crib. So yes, night feed were definitely more of a task for my baby’s father, than for me.
And you now what? Baby blues is real, and absolutely horrifying. I speak from experience, and if my husband were not there taking care of both my son, and me, I could have easily slipped into postpartum depression. We got out of it, in time, together.
Fathers Don’t Babysit, they parent!
And from the day my little one has arrived, we have shared every parenting duty. My baby’s father changes his nappies, washes him, bathes him, changes his clothes, plays with him, puts him to sleep and is usually reaches his side when bubba cries, even before I do. The only thing that he could not do was breastfeed him. Do note that I said breastfeed; because he did feed him. When my son was being given expressed milk in a bottle, it was always his father doing the feeding. For the first month or two, I was too scared to cut my baby’s nails. You know who did it? His father. You know who uses the snot-sucker to help my baby clear his nose? His father – my husband.
And I know for a fact that my husband is not a unique breed. More and more dads these days are fully involved in their child’s lives. Just like my husband is super dad for us, every young family has a man who wants to be, and is involved in every aspect of the upbringing of a wee one. We are not the exception, we are the norm.
Yet, there are those like Ms Gandhi who believes only the mother deserves paid holidays, and facilities. Thank you for that, and getting six months off as maternity leave would be great. However, I am only one half of the parenting equation. My husband is the other. I am as much a mother to my child, as my husband is a father.
And honestly, and absolutely, I can say that my husband will take as good care of my son as I would, in fact, sometimes I think he already takes better care of my son than I do. It is a running joke with us: “If it wasn’t for milky, my boy wouldn’t need me at all.”
Here is the thing: Both mom and dad are equally important for the welfare and wellbeing of a child. More importantly, a fully participating father does wonders for a mother, and enables her to achieve her goals and dreams, post baby.
I would like to think I am a fairly good parent – but I would not be a successful parent if it wasn’t for my husband’s support. I have a successful career, one where I am thriving. Again, I would not have been able to achieve that post motherhood, if not for my husband. And yes, it is a two-way street. My husband – the father of my child – will have my unstinting support through every thing he chooses to do. We live life on our own terms, and it is only possible because we are equals – in marriage and in parenthood.
And that is why Ms Gandhi, I categorically disagree with you. Because I have seen with my own eyes – that just like a new mother is thrilled beyond measure at the arrival of her child, so is a father! That just like I am my son’s mother, my husband is his father. And together, as partners, as parents, we can give our child a wonderful life, and future.
I am sorry that the men you’ve seen or heard about did not step up to the plate and was happy to stay out of the parenting equation. But that does not give you the right to paint all husbands, all fathers with the same brush.
Please don’t ever disrespect fathers by equating something as necessary as paternity leave with a fun “holiday”.