“Mothering and Fathering”- 10 September 2014
The issue of mothering is ancient, and has been discussed time and again. But, as the Indian society moves into newer phases of modernity, or so-called modernity, this issue needs to be revisited. This is the issue of the role the woman in the family. In other words, what a woman is supposed to do in the family, or what her fundamental task is in the family system.
Let us be clear that this is not an issue of the place of the woman in the family. This issue pertains to the basic role she is expected to play, particularly as regards upbringing of the children.
Of course, traditionally, the woman has been expected to be mainly responsible for kids’ upbringing. Men were not supposed to be the primary parent responsible for nurturing. For, it was believed that it is the woman — the mother – who bears the child and in whose contact the child remains the longest, is the best parent suited for its upbringing.
In modern times, too, the situation is not much different, despite the fact that the woman, too, gets out of the home and works for long hours to contribute to the family kitty. In many cases, the woman is the bread-winner of the family. Yet, the fact remains, the child remains tied up physically and emotionally with its mother, for quite some years, no matter if the mom goes out for work. The difference is that today job doing mothers want respite from child care and demand a significant if not equal participation of their spouse in child rearing activities. They demand ‘fathering’.
Fortunately or unfortunately, however you look at it, in the past couple of decades, the modern woman is trying to establish that she is only partly responsible for the kids’ upbringing since men too, should take part in the task. The child is an equal responsibility of both parents and the man must share in his bit in the tasks. If the woman and the man earn equally well the demand for fathering becomes louder. This seems to be a just demand for those women who are in full time professional careers and are naturally ambitious as well. So why should she be the one making all the sacrifices in her career for nurturing kids. The child brought into this world by both parents is a joy for both and hence both mothering and fathering become equally important.
This is an ideal demand but seems to be a tall one indeed in the current scene for many reasons. For one, the woman is a natural mother who undergoes the labour pains and gives birth to the child. Hence her mind as well as her body is prepared for the role. The father is not directly affected physically but can only become sensitive to the whole process of child bearing and rearing. Hence some communities insist on the father being witness to the labour pains and the process of delivery. This is important for sensitisation of the other to know what the mother goes through. Secondly, men are not trained for domestic roles in their boyhood as girls are by their mothers. He is hence deficient in so many skills that are needed in not only in nurturing but in building a home.
However, having said that, I have experienced a few rare men as wonderful fathers’ taking absolutely fabulous care of their newborns taking pride in doing whatever a mother can do except for suckling the child. It is a matter of attitude and training. Mr. X a Vice President in a multi-national company drawing a handsome salary loves taking care of his newborn baby girl. He holds the baby tightly in his arms as soon as she is born and declares to the world that nobody except him will take care of her! After the critical period when he is allowed by his mother he loves bathing the baby, changing nappies to singing lullaby and waking up whole night for her! It is indeed an unusual scene and a heart-warming one for his wife and the other women around. That is a modern man they say proudly! Besides his work he is completely devoted to his family and kids and takes care of all aspects of their growing up including studies, emotional and behavioural growth. He utilises his flexi-time to baby sit at home and yet work online, he relieves his wife whenever she wants a day out, he does not hesitate to pitch in the kitchen chores and he connects to his kids with love and patience. He does not suffer from any ‘complex’ of being a male and the main ‘bread- winner’. How many examples of such do we see?
We hope more men will emulate his example as time goes by. And fathering becomes the norm along with mothering.