Mother Superior: Why Fatherhood Will Never Be Equal to Motherhood

Modern Family

Mother Superior: Why Fatherhood Will Never Be Equal to Motherhood

Illustration: Sushant Ahire

When I had my first child, no one told me that parenthood is an objectively bad decision, where a couple turns their perfectly normal life into a literal and metaphorical shit fest. However, motherhood is even worse. It lays to waste, every long-held belief in the equality of sexes. Nature was not up to date with #MeToo when it envisaged the rules of procreation, and subsequent rearing of the spawn so generated. Its grand design can be broken down into a simple slogan, “Mothers do everything.”

Motherhood is starkly different from fatherhood. Fatherhood is like watching a movie on the couch; motherhood is like being in the movie, only the movie is 300 and you are on the wrong side of the battlefield. Even before you start hearing things like, “What?! He has only so much hair? You must have eaten a lot of eggs during pregnancy,” the unfairness kicks in the day your uterus starts throwing up blood every month, just to remind you that you haven’t yet made a baby. After about a decade or so, you become used to this monthly uterine tantrum, and life seems normal. Well, almost. Adulthood kicks in, and incessant stress over your ticking biological clock makes you enrol in a nine-month weight-gain programme.

This is where it gets real. You experience nausea, acne, heartburn, swollen limbs, insomnia, and a surprise hamper of other biological googlies in no particular order. Are you a normal human who needs the twin crutches of caffeine and alcohol to get through the week? Too bad. Turns out babies don’t enjoy alcohol just yet; that only happens after puberty. So, you experience withdrawal symptoms like any other recovering junkie, but the junkie can relieve himself by popping painkillers for the headaches that will inadvertently follow. You can’t get painkillers either. In fact, don’t fall sick at all because pharmaceuticals are out of the question entirely.

What does the father and equal partner-in-crime go through? Nothing, zilch, and nada.

Now it’s time for the most painful experience a human being goes through – childbirth. No biggie. You deserve a spa break and months of R&R. Enter Mother Nature, yet again. Apparently, once you push out a live human from your vagina, you have to get around to raising that human. Immediately. Your baby needs to be fed. Constantly. Ask any breastfeeding mother if she empathises with milch cows and she is going to reply in the affirmative, religious beliefs no bar. You are on-call 24/7, with no sleep and as much “Me Time” as Amit Shah on a campaign trail. Remember the ban on caffeine, alcohol, painkillers, and general happiness? That’s still on.

The mommy hormones seem to be firing in all directions, while the daddy hormones (if there are any) keep him as tranquil as a Buddhist monk.

The father’s role in this? Optionally, a lot. There’s burping, changing, soothing, and bathing. But mandatorily? Nothing, zilch, and nada.

After about six months in bonded servitude to the little human, things get relatively better. Like that odd day when crossing Saki Naka junction took only about an hour-and-a-half, rather than the regular two hours. You find yourself thinking that maybe a return to normalcy is possible. However, you’re underestimating the potency of the training the baby has put you through. Because as a mother, you are now forever changed. Ask any anxious mom frantically researching WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages to see if greenish poop with a hint of seaweed yellow is OK, or if mustard yellow is the only way to go. Or if the fact that her baby crawling at eight months two days, rather than the reported average of eight months, means that he has no chance of ever winning the spelling bee.

The mommy hormones seem to be firing in all directions, while the daddy hormones (if there are any) keep him as tranquil as a Buddhist monk. As mothers, we first resent and then get used to a co-dependent lifestyle, and then it’s time to start letting go before we realise what’s happening. Enter dad again, sweeping into the role of cool parent because apparently he can see the child fall down in the park and still think that life will go on. This unique power comes from not having had to literally construct the said child inside his body.

This biological distinction – nay, discrimination – is what pinches the most. Sure motherhood is rewarding, but so is fatherhood. Why does only motherhood have to be difficult? Why does motherhood involve a right of passage laced with blood, sweat, and tears (no pun intended at all), while fatherhood can be attained by simply donating sperm? It’s ironic that we call Nature a “Mother”, because she really set the ball rolling in making it a man’s world. So while we fight for right to vote, to drive, to work, and to be paid, we get nothing from biology.

An essay titled “Why Women Should be Celebrated More” points out, “Our culture is unfair to women. When it comes to raising children more is expected of women.” While women are raised to be nurturers, men are raised to be providers. “Women must always have it at the back of their minds that they would have children and nurture them. This idea drives women from pursuing careers that keep them from performing this role,” it adds.

Motherhood is the last wholly primitive, Neanderthal activity we still do. We no longer need to forage for food, live on trees, or go without clothes. We’ve taken the real physical pain points of our existence out of the way. But the Neanderthal and the millennial woman still do pretty much the same things when it comes to birthing and raising a baby.

The only difference is that Neanderthal women probably shrugged off motherhood as a mild discomfort, because she was too busy not getting eaten up by wild beasts. But for the modern, millennial woman, motherhood will simply be the hardest thing she’ll ever do. Which is why when it comes to raising kids, dads are playing the same game as moms, but on the easiest difficulty setting.

Mothers then are true superheroes and dad’s the loyal sidekicks, the wisecracking, comic-relief guys.