Monday, June 22, 2015

A 'stay at home' dad's story

Fathers and daughters share a special bond. And sometimes, they say that daughters who make independent decisions fearlessly without the idea of being social puppets, have intelligent and sensitive fathers.
This was in the mid late nineteen eighties when systemic gender violence was wiping out the daughters of this country, but was on the decline. This mass genocide led to the distorted sex ratio in india. I took birth during this time when on one hand, times had slowly started favouring the second sex while sexist violence was also being practiced.
Belonging to the southern tip of india gave me an added advantage, and that may have been the reason, that a daughter was welcomed into our household. Everyone including my parents and relatives were on cloud nine, after they heard my babble.
Mom had returned from abroad where she had been serving the Government of Iraq, while dad was employed with the Indian Air Force.
The big question was who would take care of the child since my mother's parents were taking care of my maternal uncle's kids and my paternal grandma didn't volunteer to be my caregiver as she was looking after my aunt's son.
Dad does admit that my paternal grandma would have done the honours, but taking care of me would have been an added burden.
The other fact that weighed on to this confusion was that mom had got employment with the Government of India, and she was supposed to join after three months of my birth.
Who would have been the caregiver in this case?
One fine day, after a lot of permutations and combinations dad decided that he would take voluntary retirement until I did not start going to school.
Initially this decision was not accepted by dad's family and mom's too. No one could come to terms with the fact, that a man was about to give up on his career. Dad was asked to think over his decision again, but I guess he was in no mood to budge, since he didn't want to dump his little daughter into a maid's lap, which was the other way out.
Finally one day, mom and dad decided upon their priorities and dad decided to call it quits.
Dad was ecstatic at my birth and I still remember him saying that the hospital authorities were surprised to see a father distributing sweets at the birth of a girl child.
He truly lived up to his word and made sure that I was rendered motherly care, in the absence of my mother. I know mothers are irreplaceable, but what my dad did for me is a gesture I would never forget, and as beautiful as a mother's love. Especially in a country where daughters are killed or given a second place only to sons. My brother sometimes does complaint about why he was brought up by a responsible distant relative who became his caregiver, in the absence of dad who started working again, and mom who were away at work.

Sometimes when 'stay at home' mothers in india, call their decision as a choice, many times these choices being born out of coercive compulsion and the expectation that the mother is the 'primary care giver' of the child, I wonder how many fathers would out of love and concern decide to put their career on the backburner and call it quits.
I am encouraged by the increasing number of 'stay at home' dads in today's times, but dad almost three decades ago did make a sacrifice that was beautiful and worth a million applause. Without the sure certainty of ever returning to the workforce and in a patriarchal society like ours that always expects the mother to give up on her career dreams, this was indeed a decision unmitigated by the fears and stereotypes that men are imposed with, where giving up on being the bread winner is a stigma.


Ira PT said...

Such a lovely post Rinzu. Hats off to your dad.
I could relate to that brother part as my little brother too felt that my parents needed to learn from doordarshan serials how girls stay... though it was on a lighter note but we knew world outside was different.
Smiles forever!

A Delhi Dame said...

Thank you so much Ira. Yea he's really cute :)