Gender stereotypes are the bane of society and we don’t have enough conversations about the ones surrounding men. Being a stay-at-home dad is a socially Herculean task even in the 21st century. You either become the butt of jokes, or the center of admiration. There can be no normalcy about a father staying behind to take care of his child.
Here’s a riveting story for all the stay-at-home dads out there. How do you develop a thick skin to the questions and snide remarks? How do you keep your focus on the responsibilities of a husband and father? What are a few other stay-at-home dad problems? Keep reading to find out!
The Stigma Of The Stay-At-Home Dad
Mumbai is home to so many fantastic stories. This one comes to you straight from the suburbs as a couple struggle with the notions that surround being a stay-at-home father. Hear the story in the man’s own words; equal parts amusing, and equal parts thought-provoking.
There’ll be many relatable moments, bursts of laughter and awe-filled pauses. Let’s get started with the words of Barack Obama, “Any fool can have a child. That doesn’t make you a father. It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.”
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Stay-at-home dad problems: curiosity fueled the maid
My cook had a very unlikely voice. While most maids speak loudly enough to be irritating, my cook’s voice could hardly be heard from the other side of the room. She loved to gossip and her hushed tone suited this hobby the most. It was my maid who asked my wife the questions she was dreading. The conversation started like this.
Saab aajkal ghar pehich rehte hain kya? Kaam se nikaal diya kya?
It was very apparent that she literally couldn’t contain it — the questions were bubbling inside her. She was asking if I had been thrown out of work. This was the ‘scandalous’ explanation behind being a stay-at-home dad.
Who works in the evening? (Stay-at-home dads, that’s who)
From the other end, I could hear a few words as she conversed with my wife who had just given birth to a baby boy. My wife later told me about the whole conversation.
My wife told her that I, her husband, work.
Kaise madam? Woh toh ghar pe baithe rehte hai. Kaisa kaam? (How madam? He sits at home. What work!)
My wife asked her if she had seen me working on the computer. The maid smirked, then asked where I went in the evening…my wife responded that I went to work.
Shaam ko kaam pe? Yeh kaisa kaam hai madam? (Off to work in the evening? What kind of work is that?)
As my wife struggled to answer her questions, the maid stopped asking, probably out of sympathy. The tone of her voice clearly spelt out what she was thinking — she disbelieved every word my wife had said. The maid was convinced that I had lost my job, and being a stay-at-home dad was the cover-up I had chosen.
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The responsibilities of a husband and father!
My maid was also convinced that I was suffering from some mental ailment because I used to cook the breakfast, run a bath for my wife, go out in the afternoon and for the rest of the time was stuck to the laptop.
I had never been in such an unusual situation before. My wife had had a complicated C-section delivery. She was advised complete bed rest for almost a month post the delivery. We had practically no family in Mumbai. Her sister, the only relative in Mumbai, used to drop in sometimes.
My wife used to struggle with the newborn (who used to be sick frequently) and, given her own health, she had no energy for household work. So it all came on me. With my wife in such a fragile condition and with no permanent maid at hand (we couldn’t afford it actually), I took the drastic decision of quitting my regular job.
I decided to be a stay-at-home father and husband. And work part-time.
I used to work for a newspaper in Calcutta and freelance for another one (in the same group). The best part of the job was that I didn’t have to report to an office everyday. I used to do my interviews and keep my meetings in the evenings (since I worked the entertainment beat, the timings actually worked for me), and for the rest of the day and night, I used to write on my laptop. It suited me because I could help my wife with our newborn.
Love thy neighbor, even the stay-at-home dads
But for my neighbors and the maid, it was a strange situation; they never saw me leave home (since I used to leave anytime between 4 pm to 6 pm, and used to be back home around 10 pm).
My wife was subjected to crude questions from them about what I did, what exactly was my job profile, and how we managed every day (financially). The word that went around was that I was without a job and lived off the mercy of my father who stayed in Calcutta.
My neighbors rarely smiled at me, and instead, smirked when I’d ask them anything. This happened in upscale Bandra where I used to stay on Shirley Rajan Road (just behind Carter Road).
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It was around this time when I realized that everybody has to feel the prejudice of gender stereotyping in India. It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or a woman or whether you stay at an upscale locality. If you are a stay-at-home dad, you will be treated differently.
If you don’t do certain activities that are expected out of you (like leaving for work at 10 am), you are socially ostracized. Nobody is really keen to listen to your story because everybody thinks you are lying.
When I got my job where I could be a part-time, stay-at-home parent, I considered myself lucky. Maybe for them I am not, but between my wife’s appreciative smile and our adorable little’s one’s ever-new antics, and the money (which is not bad at all), I think I am! Being a stay-at-home dad has enriched my life significantly!
As told to Soumyadipta Banerjee
A stay-at-home dad looks after the baby, feeds, bathes, clothes, and entertains him/her. Basically all the duties that a stay-at-home mom would undertake. He is the primary caregiver of the baby! This is a role that is becoming more and more common globally, despite the negative connotations attached to it in Asian societies.
‘Survive’ implies facing very challenging hardships. But a stay-at-home dad fulfills his responsibilities of a husband and father voluntarily. He enjoys taking care of the baby and the emotional fulfillment it brings. A stay-at-home dad maintains a healthy balance between child-rearing and other activities of his routine. If the monotony creeps in, he can always take a little break.
A study by the Pew Research Center claims that 17% of dads were stay-at-home parents in 2016, while another piece by CNBC seconded the finding by explaining how stay-at-home dads were on the rise. Pinpointing a global statistic is not possible due to the scattered findings of different researches, but the trend is definitely going upward!
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