The real dads

Debarati Palit
Saturday, 17 June 2017

As we celebrate International Father’s Day today, Debarati Palit Singh talks to fathers who have a strong connect with their kids and are breaking the stereotypes of fatherhood

For centuries, fathers have been stereotyped. We assume them to be harsh, low on emotions, strict and detached. That’s the notion previous generations of fathers have created with their attitude but modern-day fathers are successfully breaking those myths. 

Dads now are equally participating in the emotional growth of the child and sharing parenting responsibilities which aren’t restricted to just studies and extra-curricular activities. They are open to discussing sensitive issues with the child as well. Counsellor Dr Meenal Bhide, who is also a homeopath, says that changing roles of fathers has more to do with the economic status. “It always depends on the strata the families belongs to. Fathers from higher middle class have always been more concerned about the well-being of the child and contributing towards child rearing.”

Bhide further says that the equal participation of the father in the upbringing of the child and behavioural change is very important. “It helps in the emotional growth of the child. That said, there should be proper harmony between the parents. They have to remember that the child is listening to or observing their every discussion and act.”

On International Father’s Day, we chat up dads who have a strong emotional bond with their children and do not shy away from supporting and encouraging them. 

MYTH 1: DADS DON’T CRY
Vaibhav Navare with his daughter
While moms often break down when they see their child in pain/ trouble or if s/he has achieved something, dads are expected to be strong and handle situations in a tough manner. But not anymore.  

Mumbai-based Sumit Kakkar, who has an eight-month-old daughter, went through an emotional phase soon after her birth. His daughter Amaira was shifted to ICU soon after birth due to complications. Kakkar says that he spent those 10 days with her in the ICU and it was heartbreaking to see his daughter lying in the hospital bed with multiple medical equipment. 

“Unlike our previous generations, we plan for a single child, so our emotional connect with our child is much more. It’s a wrong notion that fathers do not get emotional,” he says adding further, “In fact, the emotions I underwent are hard to explain. Imagine, watching your only child going straight to the ICU even before you hold her. I just wanted to see and kiss her but I couldn’t. All this had a great impact on me and I have developed a special bond with her.”

Odisha-based Devanand Sahu’s son Deepak lives away from home. Devanand cried the first time his son left home. “I have never cried before in my life but when I went to drop him off, I couldn’t stop myself,” says Devanand. Deepak is currently going through tough times in his personal life. “I couldn’t stop my tears while discussing the issues with legal experts. It’s completely untrue that fathers don’t cry, they shed a tear or two when they see their child in difficulty,” Devanand adds.

Kakkar adds that times have changed and with education, men too have undergone transformation. “We are no more like the older generations. Along with my wife, I take equal responsibility of feeding our daughter and take care of her other needs as well. It helps in better connect and understanding with my child.”

MYTH 2: DADS DON’T NEED A BREAK
Author Nishant Kaushik with son 
We can’t stop talking about how badly moms need a break. Handling family responsibilities, household duties, managing a career... becomes all too stressful. But how many of us think that our fathers too need a break from their daily office work, financial responsibilities, EMIs and so on? 

Mumbai-based Vaibhav Navare says that he has never thought of taking a break. “It has never crossed my mind. I think it’s my responsibility to take care of my family and attend to their emotional and financial needs.”

But dads too need their me-time. Mumbai-based Animesh Dass says, “Living in Mumbai, I spend half of my day travelling. For the past few months, I have been commuting less but all these years, I have been travelling four hours a day for work. When I am back home, I play with my kids or take up their studies but there are days, when I spend time with friends to have some ‘me-time’. It helps me to destress.”

Singer Shilpa Rao believes that everyone needs a break. “But thankfully, my dad always managed it all and could do it naturally. He is a singer and with his kind of talent, he could switch from one task to another easily.”

Bhide is of the opinion that just like women, men too need to spend some exclusive time with their parents/ family and friends. “Living in a nuclear family, I try to spend some quality time with my parents. But at the same time, I make sure that my husband goes to his parents’ home and spends quality time with them. This not only gives them some space to talk but it betters the bonding. It’s such an essential part of a relationship,” she says. 

MYTH 3: DADS ONLY CARE ABOUT ACADEMIC SCORES
Shilpa Rao with her father
Those in their 20s and 30s will remember that the only conversations they had with their fathers were how much they would score in their exams, what career plans they had made, how much they would earn in their first job, etc. But today’s dads are not only bothered about mark sheets and jobs, their interest goes beyond that. They are equally bothered about their child’s emotional growth, problems at school and college, relationships and so on.  

Faridoon Shahryar, content head, Broadband, Bollywood Hungama, says that his 13-year-old daughter Insha shares everything under the sun with him. “My wife and I have created such an atmosphere that she shares everything with us. We have also taught her the difference between a bad and a good touch. The number of child abuse cases is so alarming that we have to talk to her about these issues,” he says, adding, “She shares things that happen in school on a daily basis. That said, we aren’t overprotective about her because that again can be harmful.”

Actress Shenaz Treasuryvala says that in her hardest times, she was able to share everything with her father. “My mother gets too worried, so I can’t really tell her everything,” she says.

Navare adds that more than his daughter’s academic scores he wants her to be a good human being. “I have always believed that more than anything, my daughter should be a good individual. I try to make her emotionally more confident and stable,” he says adding, “In case she is disturbed, I ask her the reason. We always talk about things that matter to her.”

MYTH 4: CHILDREN DON’T SHARE EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS WITH DADS
Shenaz Treasuryvala with her father
Going through a bad phase in life, having problems with spouse, facing harassment at college or work — you do not discuss such important issues with dads. Why? Will they not understand or are dads always expected to think rationally? Maybe they do. But have you ever tried sharing your issues with them? What if they care to listen and understand your state of mind? 

Mumbai-based Madhu Pal says that during the most difficult times of her life, it was her dad who supported her the most. “I was going through a bad phase a couple of years ago and he explained to me that the decision I had taken was not right. When I realised that I had made a mistake, I was feeling ashamed but not once did he make me feel guilty and he supported me wholeheartedly,” she says.    

Like moms, fathers too know what is happening in their child’s life, believes Rao. 

Author Nishant Kaushik, who has a three-year-old son, says, “This myth stems from the perception (ratified by studies) of men being emotionally less expressive and receptive than women. I ensure I spend as much time with my son as my wife does or more, so that he sees in me a trustworthy friend. At three, he may not have many secrets to share but he knows that when he needs a good laugh, I am around. And that helps.”

Follow the writer on Twitter @purplesaga

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