What Does It Take To Be a “Super-Dad”? The Barest Minimum

Parenting

What Does It Take To Be a “Super-Dad”? The Barest Minimum

Illustration: Hitesh Sonar

O n a windy January evening at the park, I was waiting to pick up my five-year-old from his roller skating class at the park. The gathered parents were mostly moms, but there were a few dads in the bunch. It was hard to miss them. Their chests were puffed out like roosters, as if they were bursting with pride watching their kids – and for having made it on time to pick them up. It was a little absurd to me, but I was the exception. A little stealthy eavesdropping, and I discovered that many of the women gathered were also amazed at these “super dads”.

“I am still waiting for his father to arrive. All kiddo duties go to him at 7 pm, like how employees swipe cards in the office,” said one. The woman next to her was not amused. “For me, it’s only Sunday. That is daddy’s day; I get to bathe and rest in peace. But then, I cook more than usual because ‘Sunday ko kuch special banana is a must!’”

I itched to add to the conversation, to tell them their husbands had to pull up their socks, do more, do better somehow. I was stunned at how they were impressed with so little. I also wondered what they’d say if I told them the tiffin we gave our child was also made by the dad on alternate days.

The ugly truth is, fathering a child is easier than making a bowl of cornflakes and milk. Unless science plays truant, one can become a father-to-be in mere minutes, as many know from watching Vicky Donor.

The ugly truth is, fathering a child is easier than making a bowl of cornflakes and milk.

For the mother, things are very different. First, biology decided to go rogue on us. From getting pregnant to staying that way for the next nine months, to the hundred constraints on a constantly expanding body, to the trauma of childbirth (no matter what method one chooses), to the sleepless nights and breastfeeding for the child’s utmost nutrition. One would think that was enough. But no.

The reality is that the road after becoming a parent is also easier for the man than his partner. From quitting her job — and most often her aspirations — to making sure her child doesn’t turn into a serial killer one day, the onus is almost entirely on the mom. This world asks of the barest minimum from dads. Smile a little, read the newspaper next to the kids every morning, have dinner together, take them out a little, pay for some of the things the kid wants. And suddenly, you are doing SO well. Take the kids for a few classes, teach them cycling, make their tiffin and bam, you are a certified super dad.

A quick look at any mother’s day will show the jarring discrepancies — from readying the kid for school, making food twice to thrice a day, taking care of the laundry and homework, running around town getting the kid into various extracurricular activities, and finally ensuring they get adequate hours of sleep, basically, running the kid’s life. In the case that some of these things aren’t done by the mother, it is the cook, the nanny, or the grandparent who replaces her, rarely the father.

Dads know absolutely zilch about their child’s progress in school or how well they play the keyboard.

Forget society, it’s not like science is on our side and wants us to rest. If a kid catches a cold, it will be the mom who gets to know from the first sneeze. Studies have found that women’s brains appear to be hard-wired to respond to the cries of a hungry infant. In most cases, whether it’s a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, the anxiety and dread of something going wrong for the kid is completely ours to suffer.

The dads, however, are praised for remembering what grade the kid studies in. They know absolutely zilch about their child’s progress in school or how well they play the keyboard. This breed is mostly on tours or in government jobs and their entire family is raised on the shoulders of quiet, resilient women. The dark bit is that these men, sitting snugly on the base formed by their fathers and grandfathers, of generations that did nothing, are put on a pedestal. They are treated like family royalty mostly for being the breadwinners. Their physical absence or failure at emotional bonding, which does wonders for any kid, never comes under the scanner.

If that seems unequal, it’s because it is. Studies have found that there is a significant “happiness gap” among many parents, with fathers often being happier than mothers. An article published on this phenomenon in Psychology Today states, “In our first two studies, we found that fathers reported greater happiness, fewer depressive symptoms, and more positive emotions than mothers and men without children, whereas mothers reported relatively more daily hassles.”

Movies like Chhapaak and Panga, where doting, hands-on fathers get special mentions, overlook the mothers who are balancing parenting and kickass careers.

Men have had it easy literally everywhere, from jobs to a simple task like walking down a street. It comes as no surprise that even parenting is easier for them. And what’s worse is that the little that they do in raising the child is seen as a great feat by society. Take for instance movies like Chhapaak and Panga, where doting, hands-on fathers get special mentions, overlooking the mothers who are balancing parenting and kickass careers, on whom the movies are made, ironically enough.

I wait for a time when men can also grow life inside them. But until then, I will gladly accept a father who takes up an equal parenting load as the mother. A father who doesn’t see fulfilling his obligation as worthy of a pat on the back, but the basic necessity of being the leading male protagonist in the story of parenting. Not the special appearance, not the supporting guy. The hero. The actual super dad.

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