It happens in quite a few households, especially in South Asia. Some of us unknowingly fall prey to it. Some have grown up in households that perpetuate it. And some see all that’s wrong with it but can’t change it. It’s gender roles.
Recently, an acquaintance told my husband to stop stressing about his wife at home, because ‘women are just better at this kid stuff.’ In those few words, he took my challenges, the effort I was making with my kids, the nights I stay up with my newborn only to stay up all day entertaining a toddler, and trivialized them into a role I play. I’m the mother, so this is just something I’m meant to do. But it wasn’t just the fact that he pigeonholed me, it was that he did the same to my husband. I will say it now, but I generally hate saying my husband is ‘hands-on.’ He is ‘hands-on’ but that’s because he believes that the parental role is as much him as mine. He isn’t hands-on, he’s all in. So then when he meets people like this, it’s safe to say both of us get taken aback but not completely shocked.
In our society, no matter how ‘liberal’ we try to be, some roles are relegated to each gender. Because, as unfair as it may be, men do get better jobs and better pays which means that women usually end up taking the role of stay at home parent. For some, like myself, it’s a conscious choice, and one we were very lucky to be able to make. I wanted to be at home for my kids’ formative years, even though I knew it would set me back significantly when it came to getting my career back on track. But we chose this way, because it was the most feasible way for US. Not because it was what is done. I had the choice and I believe every woman should as well. She shouldn’t be made to do anything, work or otherwise. Because at the end of the day, both genders can be fantastic parents, working or not.
But then you come across above mentioned people and you get upset. People that feel it’s ok to make snarky comments on how devoted a father is to his kids because that’s not really what fathers do. Fathers, in the archaic viewpoints of such people, are meant to just be the supporting cast in their kid’s lives, the ones who flit in and out whenever they’re needed. And what makes this more frustrating is that a lot of women actually perpetuate this belief. They genuinely believe that men are incapable of parenting. Maybe it stems from the lack of initiative that dad’s generally show, or maybe it’s a way for women to feel better about themselves. But I just do not get it.
It angers me. And it frustrates me. I understand that fathers do not have the liberty of time. That there’s only so much they can do on weekends and when they come home. But I believe that parenting can be mindful and wholesome even within time restrictions.
However by falling into these set roles, we as women are holding ourselves back, we are accepting that men and women are not equal, that fathers cannot manage kids as well as we can. And it’s wrong. Because when put to the test, most dads do a pretty good job. And, we are taking away from what is meant to be a beautiful, joint journey. Parents raising kids. Not mothers raising kids with the father coming in for a quick chit chat every now and then.
We need to break this status quo. Women, by accepting the fact that a father’s role is an all-in role, and men by realizing that spending time with family isn’t ‘uncool’ or ‘unmanly’, it’s damn awesome.