Topic: Equal Parenting
Confessions of a Work-from-home-dad
The concept of ‘Work From Home Fathers’ while slowly gaining popularity in the west, has yet to pick up and be accepted as a norm in India. Enter Sid Balachandran, also known as Rishi’s dad, is working hard at changing the stereotypes associated with parenting, by doing it in the most obvious way possible – leading by example!
Sid is one of India’s most prolific, award-winning bloggers and you can find his work at www.iwrotethose.com. An aspiring author, an excellent photographer and an overall super cool personality, Sid shares with us his thoughts on breaking barriers (quite literally, with his son helping him ably) and creating new models of parenting in the country.
Please introduce yourself, Sid and what you think is your USP (we all know it, I’d like to know your take on it)!
Hello, I’m Sid. I’m a former telecommunication professional who is now a Stay-At-Home Dad (SADH) to an almost-five-year old boy, and writes on parenting, humour, social satire and so on. I think the fact that there is a dearth of dad-bloggers-who-are-also-SAHDs, is perhaps my USP. I seemed to have settled nicely into that niche of writing, and I’ve been told that my writing is a good mix of humour and creativity. So, I guess that’s it.
Which is the one biggest assumed stereotype of parenting that you feel is just not true (especially in the case of modern families with both partners working or like in your case, as a work from home dad)?
I’d have to say that there are three:
- That daily parenting is largely a mother’s job.
- That working moms are selfish and unable to balance their work and parenting.
- That dads are not as a good as mothers as full-time carers – although, for this to change, more fathers do need to take on that role.
Do you feel parenting strengths and weaknesses are assumed by gender?
No. Actually, let me reiterate that – Absolutely NOT! I’ve always maintained that parenting has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with attitude. I do agree that perhaps men and women do things slightly differently, but most (and any) parenting differences are due to their upbringing, circumstances, behaviour so on.
In your opinion, are parents these days a scramble of expected and unexpected traits?
I don’t think it’s specific to these days or to parents. I suppose we all are cumulatively made of number of different traits; It’s mostly that when we become parents, we usually find out traits that we perhaps did not know existed previously. And it varies from person to person.
How far do you think we’ve come as a society in accepting non-stereotypical parenting roles?
Compared to a few years back, we’ve certainly moved forward a bit. But then again, we’re talking about changing years (and generations) of perceptions, beliefs and social customs – so it’s bound to take time. Of course, it helps to get there faster if our society was a little less condescending about everyone’s choices and less intrusive about what we do/don’t do.
Do you feel that working women like your wife make more or any use of parent friendly policies in their workplace? (Not compared to the West, just in an Indian scenario)
Wait! There are parent-friendly policies at work? Okay, I kid; a little bit perhaps. I am aware of quite a few organisations that offer flexible work times, a creche nearby and so on. And compared to how things used to be previously, we’re certainly moving ahead. It’s also great that working women are utilising any (and all) available resources and are effectively trying to maintain a work-life balance. Having said that, I do think that it also comes down to some support from family /partner too.
We’d love to know your thoughts on Equally Shared Parenting
Equally shared parenting is a concept that we’re all trying to work towards, much like equality for all genders. The truth though is that no matter how hard you try, there will always be a slight imbalance in terms of who does what as a parent. I think this is more the case if one of the parents is either a stay-at-home or work-from-home parent. But the closer we can get it to an ideal 50-50 world, the better it is not just for the kids, but also for the parents too.
While all parents, mothers and fathers, need support, non-stereotypical fathers are the least supported of all. Your thoughts?
Haha! I knew you’d throw me a curve ball somewhere. See, parenting as a whole comes with its challenges. Not just from the kids, but it’s a very inclusive process in India – everyone from immediate family to your neighbours believe they have a say in it. And by a say, I mean, they feel the necessity to pass judgement in some way.
In my personal experience, non-stereotypical parents do have a lack of support – be it a mom or a dad. However, to answer your question – to take my own example, for instance – I think it’s due to the mentality of it all. Our society is very much still patriarchal in thought-process, and anytime we see anyone – be it a man or woman – do something out of the preconceived stereotypes, we have trouble accepting it. And the lack of support stems from that.
Fathers as primary caregivers are a small minority in our culture – how does that make you feel?
Before I answer that, here’s something. Why is that? I am not advocating that all men/fathers should give up their jobs and be primary caregivers. But every time I come across this topic, there is still a lot of stigma associated with it. And a lot of people do look at you funny, when you say that. Yes, like I mentioned in my previous answer, a lot of it is to do with our mindset and what we’ve believed are set gender roles for fathers and mothers.
As for how it makes me feel – well, if you’d asked me this question 4 years ago when I became a SAHD, I’d have said I felt wary, weary, confused, a bit socially ostracised and so on. Today though, I feel different. And that’s because of a lot of support that has poured in from unexpected sources – fellow bloggers, mothers, fathers, family and so on. And fortunately for me, the fact that I have been writing about it and often talking about it has spread some awareness. Or at least, I hope so.
Fun quiz: Who does what in your house?
- Who does the grocery shopping at your house?– We’ve started doing them online, so really don’t keep track of it.
- Takes out the trash?Me, usually – because they come to collect it midday and only I’m home
- Deals with the house help?She hires, I fire [If any of my domestic help people are reading it – I’m kidding. Also please come to work tomorrow]
- Puts the kids to bed?Usually my wife; although some days my son does tend to insist that I put him to sleep. Mostly because he gets away with a few more minutes of playtime!
- Plans the birthday parties?My wife. I’m horrible at those
- Notices when the child needs a haircut?My wife again. Damn, it’s starting to sound like I don’t do much
- Pays the bills?She earns the money, I pay most of them. So, how does that work out?
- Wrestles with the kid before bedtime?We play good cop bad cop. OF course I’m the good cop.
- Is the fun parent?Can I say me?
- Is the disciplinarian?Definitely not me.
- Is the better cook? She. And she.
- Is more of a neatnik?ooh…this one’s tricky. I think we both have our peeves, and our sense of ’neatness’ is quite different.
Thanks for all the honest answers, Sid! We truly appreciate you sharing your thoughts, especially in the wake of International Women’s Day coming up on 8th March 2017. Wish you more success in the coming years and may your tribe increase!