No one quite like him!


No one quite like him!

Something was amiss about the poster. It took a couple of seconds to spot that. The kid was as cute as any on the poster for a maternity hospital. But the accompanying adult - smiling alright – wasn’t a woman! Who puts a man on the ad for a mother and child care facility?

He is the third wheel. Once the sperm has been contributed, there’s little a man has to do, really. Perhaps, he needs to get the finances in order. That’s all. And yes, put up with the to-be mom’s mood swings. That’s not too much to ask. Of course, he is also expected to accompany her to the doctor’s for the check-ups and tests. What kind of man would want to miss out on that! If the wife is keen on joining a childbirth class, it’s only natural to suppose that the to-be dad would work around his professional commitments to make time for the all-important exercise.  

It’s easy being a dad. Nothing like the mom’s job. He doesn’t have to live with a growing belly – the pot belly doesn’t count – for nine months, or go through the harrowing experience of child-birth – caesarean sections included. He gets the baby on a platter. And then, he gets to give the baby his name, while the new mom struggles with breastfeeding and sleepless nights. 

That begs the question: Why celebrate Father’s Day? For those not in the know, the third Sunday of June is celebrated as Father’s Day in many countries across the globe, including the US and UK. The idea is to honour fatherhood and its many contributions to society.

Dad’s the word
If you have an infant at home, you would know of the immense pressure on the little one (and the parents) to achieve all the important milestones – grasping objects, rolling over, saying the first words. Legend has it that most babies are likely to say ma, amma, mummy, ammi or whatever the term used at home for the mother. The bond of the umbilical cord is stronger than all the blood ties put together!

So you can imagine Uma’s horror when her first-born uttered accha before amma. In a couple of years, she had a second baby and that one too chose to call out to dad first. Utterly dismayed, the mother wondered what she did wrong. She got the answer several months later as she watched a new mom coach her baby to say his first word.

“So, that’s the secret! We teach them to say what we want to hear,” says Uma, recounting the experience. Earlier, as most women were at home, she infers, they had all the time to train the baby to make all the appropriate sounds. “Now, with fathers more actively involved in the parenting process, they are stealing our thunder,” she reasons.

It’s true that fathers in urban India today are more likely to be in the labour room holding the expectant mom’s hand, coaching her through the breathing, cutting the umbilical cord - just like they show in the movies. And after the baby is born, dads of today are less reluctant to manage diaper changes, baby burping and rocking the newborn to sleep.

“I didn’t want to miss out on a single thing,” says Manoj, father of a four-year-old. Whether it was the ultrasound scanning, routine doctor’s visit or the Lamaze classes, he was there with his wife, always. “Sadly, the paternity leave at work was only for 14 days. So, I did miss out on a few things – like the first time she rolled over. But my wife took a video on the phone for me,” he adds. 

Over the last decade or so, Indian fathers seem to be making that extra effort to be more involved in their children’s lives. This is not to say that the fathers of yore did nothing for their wards. Within the traditional demands of being the provider and disciplinarian in the family, dads, most likely, did make an effort to be engaged and available to their kids. But there was little dialogue then in the public space about father-child bonding. Unlike the supposed “instant connect” that happened between the mom and infant, the father had to make it happen. And for most men, there was little by way of social support. In fact, most research on the subject has been happening only in the last two decades. And it shows that children who share a healthy relationship with their fathers fare better in terms of cognitive, emotional and behavioural functions, right from infancy through adolescence and adulthood.
Everything he does

In the movie Piku, there’s this scene where Deepika Padukone is really frustrated with her father, and Irrfan Khan tries to cheer her up. But the moment he says something critical about the old man, Deepika jumps to her father’s defence saying the daughter is ten times worse than the father. End of discussion.

He’s your first hero. The man who can fix anything. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to bring a smile to your face. Even when he’s playing the bad cop at home, you know that he loves you; he wants the best for you. To truly understand the importance of fathers, ask those who never had one, or lost them at an early age, or had to make do with the ‘absent dad’. “My mom did her best to raise me and my sister well, but the void was always there. Though I had very loving father figures – uncles, friends’ dads – I yearned for approval constantly…There are so many conversations I have had with him in my head,” confides Aditya.

Dads shape you in so many ways. If you have a tyrant for a dad, chances are that you may have learned either to resort to rebelliousness or timidity. “I’ve lost count of the number of times he has told me that as long as I live in his house, I must follow his rules,” says Nandita. In other words, no late nights, no sleeveless clothes, no sleepovers. “It’s of little consequence that I’m a 27-years-old working professional,” she adds, with a smile. Well, that’s part of his job description. At least, that’s how most dads see it.

If you get a chance do catch an episode of the popular Chinese television programme Tiger Mom Cat Dad; apparently the fierce mom has got some tough competition from the gentle dad. More power to daddy, I say! Here’s wishing the very special man a happy Father’s Day!

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