In these ”revolutionary” times when all of us champion the cause of gender equality, differences still remain, even in the field of parenting! It takes so little for a dad to be crowned as a great dad or a mom to be branded as a shitty mom on the other hand. I am unapologetic as I say this but it is unfortunately the closest friends and family who judge and pass these verdicts. I am absolutely not against dads and agree that fatherhood is tough too but if you say, equally tough as motherhood, I would NEVER EVER agree. Nor would any other mom, for that matter!
Read on and if you are shaking your head from left to right now, I can bet you will start moving it at a perpendicular angle before the end of it.
The child needs his mother
This is the cliched statement the woman starts hearing even before her kid is born. I somehow think it has got something to do with the fact that women carry their babies for nine months and then breastfeed them too. So it probably becomes just natural for everyone to keep saying- A child needs his mother FOREVER! I agree that a child needs his mother but then he needs his father just as much. Why not? Does a child only need breast milk? The mother gets to hear it everytime she wants some ”me” time, if she wants to rejoin work, if she wants to take up that promotion, if she wants to go out and hang with her friends, if she just wants to do just anything that does not revolve around the child. Any mother who does any of the aforementioned is a perfect example of a shitty mom. After all, which mom leaves her child out of her sight, right?
Consider a scene where the new mother after 3 months of house-arrest finally goes out for a girls’night out with her friends while her husband baby-sits the child. Your heart will melt for the ‘considerate’ husband and ‘ great dad ‘ while those who meet the mother at the club might label her irresponsible or even selfish! Sexist, you feel?
The working parent
If you are a working father, then…well, what then? Nothing! That is just normal. A man’s got to earn! If you are a working mother, it is a different ball game all together. Your capabilities as a mother are judged from the moment your baby is born, as the elders in your extended family disapprovingly look at you trying to lift your baby and balance his tiny head. If you are planning to continue with your job on top of that, good luck!
If the new father takes paternity leave(thank his company for that), everyone will say- ”What a responsible father! He cares so much about his baby! A great dad indeed!” The mother might want to shout despite her post-delivery sore stitches, ”Hello! I am the one who underwent labour and I am on maternity leave too!!” But then, she can’t because motherhood is a selfless job and you can’t boast about it! When she rejoins work (if she ever does!), she suffers from pangs of guilt while the dear father will go back to work a couple of days after baby’s birth and proudly flaunt his new status. When she comes back from work, instead of being asked about her well-being, she will be told how much her child missed her, adding to the guilt.
Acquaintances will comment, ”How do you leave your baby and work? I could never do that!”
Some celebrity will add fuel to the fire by comparing the babies of working mothers to puppies.
Every interviewer will ask her a question she never faced before, one which no male candidate ever faces, father or not, ” You have a young child; will you be able to give the company long hours and serious commitment?”
If she comes home tired one day and doesn’t want to indulge in baby talk, ”tch, tch, she is a shitty mom” while if the father comes home and lifts up his baby, ”Awww…he is just a great dad. He wants to play with his baby even when he is so tired!”
God forbid if she wants to take up that promotion which involves travel. The child needs his mother, remember? If it is the father, it is fine. Gosh! What was SHE even thinking?
The school duty
Thanks to the private school culture and their culture of organising stage shows and PTMs and inviting parents for the same, the duty of attending them falls naturally on the shoulders of the mothers, even if they are working just as much as their husbands. The husband may grace the occasion if he wills and trust me if he does attend the stage show or the PTM without his wife, he is bound to go home with the ”great dad” crown on his head. What about the moms who are there and only God knows how they have managed to be there? What of them? It is their duty!
A fellow mother once asked me what homework my daughter had gotten in the class that day. When I said that I did not know, I might as well have said ‘I hate my daughter’ as I got an almost similar reaction from her! Speaking of female solidarity! As I added, ‘Her dad is taking care of it nowadays’, do I need to tell you how many complements my husband got?
The single parent
In today’s world, many parents, mothers and fathers alike, are single parenting their kids due to various reasons. Despite this, while the single dads earn the title of ”great” dads, it is quite difficult for single mums to match up. I say this out of experience. I am an army wife and thanks to my husband’s profession, I often have to take on the role of a single parent for long periods of time. I have no hassles doing that but while everyone comments on how hard it is for him and complement him when he (rarely) arrives for special occasions in the family, I would appreciate a little pat on my back for juggling frequent relocations, my career and bringing up my daughter.
I met an old friend a couple of days back who has recently separated from his wife and has the custody of both his kids and is bringing them up with his parents’ help. I was telling someone about it and she instantly went, ”Oh, poor soul! It must be so tough! He is a great dad!” No doubt he is but so are so many moms who bring up their children alone.
It made me think why we label dads as great and moms as shitty so soon? It is because the society expects child rearing to be the prime responsibility of mothers. There are so many expectations from a woman once she becomes a mother but hardly any from the father besides providing for the family. While so much has changed, the perceptions regarding the role of a father and mother hardly have. While our expectations from mothers are overwhelming and extensive, those from fathers are very basic and minimal. Everything that the woman fails to do earns her the title of a ”shitty mom” while every little thing a man does places him on a pedestal.
We talk of buying gender neutral toys and sharing the household work to bring up a generation free of gender biases, what about placing mothers and fathers on the same pedestal and let them contribute equally towards childcare. Wouldn’t that be a good place to start??