Most women in India face a time when they are married into families that own them, and they then leave their parents, siblings, relatives and friends to begin a new life. It is the saddest moment for a young bride, a moment that tells her that her world has changed. That she no longer remains a girl; she has become a wife, a daughter-in-law, and will soon be a mother.
I experienced this heart-wrenching moment too. As I turned around to seek my parents’ blessings, I saw my father sad and broken for the first time in my life. I had never seen him emotionally bereft ever. It was that moment—an emotionally charged one—that conveyed a new meaning of fatherhood to me. I come from an era that saw a father earning for the family, and that was that! A father left for work in the morning and returned home in the evening. Mothers took care of parent-teacher meetings, social lives, studies and values. A child’s interaction with her father was minimal. Most families lived like this, as bonding was limited and men played the role of fathers as per societal prejudices and assumptions.
This did change a little when my husband and I became parents of two beautiful daughters. I sensed a change in the way my husband was, in the responsibilities he shouldered. Though it was me who interacted more on an emotional or mental level, my husband spent time engaging with our children by talking to them. He made an attempt to know them more, but I still was in charge of daily routine along with household chores. He enjoyed spending time with them, and even though there were limitations, I could tell that my husband knew it was important for him to bond well with the kids. Someone had lit a spark somewhere, and fathers from his generation had caught it.
Today, fatherhood reflects a 180 degree change. The involvement of a father equals that of a mother, and though it is a mother who carries the child, fathers attempt to bond with their babies right from the womb. They interact with their babies on a mental, emotional, and social level right from the beginning. This enhances children’s growth as they blossom in the knowledge that they are doubly secure. A father’s involvement in the growing years creates a stable environment, which allowes parents to become mentors to their children so they grow strong, balanced, sensitive and mature. When a child sees both parents sharing responsibilities, they learn to be responsible too, regardless of the gender they belong to.
Fathers have also learnt ways to care, be patient and help their children so that mothers can lean on them for help. Caring fathers create a home where a couple helps each other in becoming better parents. Responsible fatherhood changes men and their perspective of women. It enables wives to focus on other responsiblities and work, and this allows everyone in the family to grow as individuals. It creates a cohesive and positive environment, which helps in creating a happy home!
Photo: Vaishali Damle Shah