Here come the cool dads

DADDY DEAREST

Here come the cool dads

Remember Amrish Puri in the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge as the strict authoritarian father who expects his daughters to conform to his norms, just or unjust! In this blockbuster of the 90s, the veteran actor played the father’s character to the hilt, fitting in perfectly to the stereotype set exclusively for fathers. Cut to the present generation and Baldev Singh with his bulging eyes and his permanently angry Papaji stance would seem very strange.

Fast forward to modern day fathers, both on and off screen. It is not uncommon to see fathers who are just as involved in raising their children as the mothers. That tight-lipped, rarely smiling man who commanded respect out of fear, has transformed into someone who is approachable, friendly, caring, and with whom one can discuss everything; well almost everything.

Proactive papas
Indian fathers have come a long way indeed. Gone are the days when the father was seen pacing up and down outside the labour room. Now he is right inside the labour room holding his wife’s hand, lending support to her both physically and emotionally. In fact, the role of the father doesn’t begin at the time of child’s birth; it starts much before the baby is born and continues thereafter. The concept of prenatal classes for both the parents-to-be is gradually gaining popularity even in India. The introduction of paternity leave for new fathers is a testimony to the role that a father plays in the life of his child. If a mother needs leave to recoup from child birth and to tend to the new born, the father too needs to be around, not only to help the mother, but also to bond with their baby. Parenting is no longer the mother’s responsibility alone.

When I was in school, my father proudly claimed that he didn’t even know in which class his daughters were studying. It was no big deal as it was not expected of him. Three decades later, my husband keeps himself abreast of our teenage sons’ performance in school, both academic and extracurricular. He even knows their friends, girlfriends, teachers and everything else.
The stereotypical roles where the father fends for the family and the mother raises the kids are fast merging. New age fathers are equal partners in the upbringing of the children. Changing diapers, attending PTA meetings, cooking and even talking about menstruation with young daughters is no longer the domain of mothers alone. The fathers are up for anything for the sake of their children.

“I am a hands-on father. When Tanisha, my eight-year-old daughter wakes up, she expects me to carry her from the bed, and right from brushing her teeth to helping her bathe, I am her most preferred attender. I cherish doing all these chores for her. Last month, when my wife was away at a rejuvenation therapy centre for a week, I took time off from work to be with my daughter. Thanks to my flexible job timings, I am able to achieve a good work-life balance,” says Haris A W, a management consultant.

Quality time
This evolution in the role of fathers was expected sooner or later, as more and more women entered the work force. The fathers have no choice but to get involved in home affairs. “I like to do things for my son out of choice,” says Sooraj, a young father. “My wife is a homemaker and my elderly parents live with us, so there is no compulsion for me to help my six-year-old son eat or change his clothes. I don’t need to play with him or drop him off at the bus stop. There is always someone or the other who can take charge of my little one, but I make use of my time at home to bond with him, and the best way to bond is to do things together. This way, I know he will always stay close to me. I usually come home late, so I make it a point to spend an hour with him in the mornings.”

Raising kids is a high pressure job, and the father’s role in the family doesn’t begin and end with procreation and providing for the family. He may be a provider, but he is also a friend, mentor and playmate, all rolled into one. A mother is equally capable of earning enough to send her kids to good schools, provide material comforts and even discipline them, but she can’t be a father. Bollywood can take the lead by celebrating fathers the way it has been celebrating mothers, to drive home the point that for the holistic development of a child, the father needs to play a proactive role. The popular dialogue from Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Deewar, “mere paas maa hai”, needs to be tweaked to “mere paas baap hai”.

Changing priorities
The bond between a father and a child is special, and the mother needn’t function as a bridge between them. In today’s competitive and high-pressure world, there is an even greater need to have the father equally involved in the development of kids. Studies prove that the children of involved fathers tend to do better in life socially and emotionally, and they also have higher chances of experiencing success in their careers.

For men, priorities do change when their children are born, but it is always possible for fathers to spend quality time with their kids. Don’t we always find time for things we consider important? “My dad and I share a close bond even if we don’t see each other for a month or so because of his travels. We share common interests like movies, business affairs and good food. I can go to him for advice because of his experiences. We try to chat as often as we can. There is always that flow, which can over-ride any hurdle or any challenge, and it keeps us both interested in each other’s lives,” says Sanchit Khera, a 28-year-old digital marketing professional from Mumbai. “But it can’t be generalised. I have so many friends who find their dads unapproachable. The image of fathers is still the same as we see in DDLJ, but the scenario is definitely changing.”

New-age fathers can do everything — from changing diapers to supervising homework, attending PTA meetings, taking the children to play dates, playing with them, bonding over a glass of beer, discussing their friends, girlfriends and everything else. Surrogacy has made it possible for them to become biological fathers without the need of a mother.

New-age fathers can do anything except giving birth to the babies. But going by the way science is advancing, in future, that too might be a reality. After all, who can tell the future? Happy Father’s Day!

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