This Father’s Day, Raymond, a brand that prides itself as the choice of a “complete man” has done the unthinkable. The menswear brand has floated an ad where a child calls her single mother “world’s best dad”! This brings me to evaluate the modern urban fatherhood-motherhood equations, which are increasingly losing significance. Yes, the patriarchy still remains. Yet, some welcome role reversals and sharing of responsibilities are happening.
The other day I met a man, who gets up early in the morning to cook breakfast for his daughter. A friend tells stories to his son and puts him to sleep every night when the mother indulges in her daily dose of television. My husband prefers to bathe my child every day because that is one session they both enjoy. I know of quite some fathers who became work-from-home dads after childbirth, offering the mother to get along with her career. A friend of mine juggles with her high-profile job and child all by herself, handling her baby’s tantrums and illness along with the demands of her office, as her husband tours around for eight months in a year. In such a scenario, would the terms “father” and “mother” continue to hold in isolation in the days to come?
Let’s understand the traditional definitions of these terms first. A “ather” was the tough person of the family who earned more money and laid down the rules. On complaint books and report cards of schools, father’s signature was preferred. Kids were advised to pursue the father’s profession. Basically, father was the provider. “Mother”, on the other hand, was the softer guardian who nurtured, cared, cooked, fed, reared and bred. Kids went to the mother to be pampered. Mothers followed the vision of the father in bringing up the family. Thus, their role was that of a keeper. The term “father” hence was more about power; “mother” related to tenderness not only because of their physical characteristics but also because of their social significance. The child’s exposure to his mother made her seem more approachable; with fathers there was a distance that was born of their attitude and non-availability.
The power equation changed when women increasingly started earning bread, reducing their financial dependence on men. Also, with the joint-family system breaking down, men were forced to share responsibilities with women in bringing up their nuclear setup. The privilege of leaving the matters of the house to women did not last any longer. As men started getting involved in domestic chores, the natural progression was obviously to split responsibilities when it came to babies.
A “father” was the tough person of the family who earned more money and laid down the rules. Basically, the father was considered the provider. “Mother”, on the other hand, was the softer guardian who nurtured, cared, cooked, fed, reared and bred.
It is interesting hence to see fatherhood, a term used less frequently compared to motherhood, becoming increasingly relevant in books of parenting. In this world we find Suzanne Khan comfortably saying, I don’t care what professions my kids choose as long as they are architects. Simultaneously we find Hrithik Roshan sneaking into all-boys holidays with his kids.
Perhaps this is exactly the time when the words “fatherhood” and “motherhood” should become obsolete and a more generic, genderless term called “parents” should apply. Parenting is a fantastic way to combine the two roles. Other than avoiding the fuss with power and gender, it endorses the feeling of a team where father and mother simultaneously pursue a
However, other than the difference in physical involvement of both father and mother in bringing up a child, there are some significant cognitive differences between the parenting habits of men and women. Mothers often prefer toys or props while playing with the child, and they spend more time talking. Fathers usually participate in more physical activities, trying to pass on their robustness or strength. The motherly parenting helps enhance a child’s communication and social skills, fatherly parenting works upon fitness, coordination and sportsmanship. Psychologists claim that mothers tend to ask questions repetitively to be sure that her child is passing the right information; fathers however are more demanding and less patient. Mothers run to help the moment their child cries; fathers are more complacent and chilled out. Mothers are often more consistent and predictable in the way they do things, compared to fathers. Following a strict routine and disciplining a child hence comes more appropriately to a mother, than a father who prefers comfort of the moment over the command of a routine.
Would these differences too merge in the days to come, to make parenting a levelled, all-inclusive whole? That only time will tell!