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Health: Are Indian dads ready to be a full-time parent?

British tennis star Andy Murray says he is ready to skip playing the Australian Open for the birth of his first child. The urban father is increasingly enjoying being around momy and baby. Mumbai dads say, aye

Thirty-year-old Deesha Vora Doshi is mother to a four-month-old baby, and is most grateful for the tremendous support from her husband during a complex pregnancy. "I had severe mood swings that caused depression. It was important that my husband was around at the time. He becomes the only person with whom I can share all the troubles of pregnancy," she feels. Her husband Anish, an engineer, tells us that he couldn't manage much leave but having an office near home helped. When we ask if it is stressful to manage the baby and work, he says it is his stress buster. "When my daughter smiles, I forget the stress of work. My wife's pregnancy was my top priority. It has to be two people together, during and post the pregnancy. I would take longer breaks to be home when she needed me," he says.

Andy Murray poses with local children in the centre of Dunblane, Scotland, on September 16, 2012, following his victory in the US Open and his gold medal in the London Olympics 2012. Pic/AFP
Andy Murray poses with local children in the centre of Dunblane, Scotland, on September 16, 2012, following his victory in the US Open and his gold medal in the London Olympics 2012. Pic/AFP

Tuhin Sinha, author of the book Daddy: A Guide to Fatherhood, enjoyed being a new father, and the need to share that experience with readers made him write the book. "It makes a psychological difference to the wife when the husband is around," he shares. I was involved with the research and details of the ultra sound. In many couples, it is the man who is more cued into these details. It is a Catch 22 situation because as soon as you plan a baby and have one, your monetary responsibilities increase," he adds.

Imran Khan with daughter Imara
Imran Khan with daughter Imara

Role reversal
According to relationship counsellor, Ameeta Shah, it is only in very gender-biased cultures that gender segregation is intensely practiced. "Here, men probably would not be able to fully enjoy their parental role. With gender politics men have been limited in showing the gentler side to their spouses. They were conditioned to demand or act one up, with activities such as cooking and caring barred for them; not being able to express the more vulnerable emotions and to cry either. Corporate cultures too have reinforced men's priority to work above family. Due to job insecurities men may still not be able to prioritise their wish to be with their child always. Left to themselves without the brainwashing, men want this gentler side and want to be able to express empathy and caring."

Abhishek Bachchan with Aaradhya. File pics
Abhishek Bachchan with Aaradhya. File pics

Life Coach Khyati Birla feels that men today are more open about the idea of being there for their family, instead of fulfilling the traditional role of provider. "Sociologically, men look at financial security before making a decision about being a full-time parent. As long as families are financially stable or get paid paternity leave, men don't mind being available to help their wives and newborns. Still, it is implicitly understood that raising a newborn is traditionally a mother's job, men init are few, often due to unfavourable professional circumstances," she says.

Mark Zuckerberg  with his new born. PIC courtesy/ Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook.com
Mark Zuckerberg  with his new born. Pic courtesy/ Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook.com

Paternal instincts
Paternity leaves vary across the world. Sweden offers up to seven weeks off, the UK and USA give two weeks off to male employees as paternity leave, but the concept is relatively new in India. "For Central and State Government employees, a provision was made in 1999 for paternity leave, and Paternity Leave is available for Central University employees, but there is no law which gives instruction to private employers to make it mandatory. For State and Private universities, as well as in schools, this is not very common. As this is optional for private companies, most do not have this provision," explains, Dr Nidhi Maheswari Asst. Professor, HR-OB), Asia Pacific Institute of Management, New Delhi.

"However, there is a genuine concern where dads need to be given an equal legitimate right like maternity leave," asserts Dr Maheswari Sinha believes that most Indian companies do not acknowledge the need for paternity leave. "Corporates don't take it seriously. You may get seven days at the most, which is a lot less than a would-be father or a new father needs," he informs.

The breaking down of gender stereotypes is helping change things," he adds. While change is taking place, experts believe that the pace is gradual. "Fathers approach me to provide life skills to their college-going children to help them get an edge in their lives. The father of a 10-year-old child wanted his child to learn about critical thinking skills. Dads today are heavily invested in ensuring they don't make psychologically scarring mistakes with their kids, and want them to be emotionally healthy," reveals Birla.

Celebrity dads
Ameeta Shah believes, "Liberal cultures easily facilitate balanced behaviour. Urban cultures are more liberal. It is great when societal role models demonstrate this and it can be seen in public view with many famous film stars and sports personalities who enjoy being great dads being photographed while caring for their babies.

Advertisements have also followed this path, and created this positive influence. This, enables more men to follow their heart and be nurturers. Most men today are involved fathers who are ready to handle small babies, carry them, change their nappies and help in feeding them once they are weaned off. They wish to be there for the birth of their babies."

Sinha, however, thinks that each case is different. "While what Murray is doing is great, Dhoni was playing the World Cup while his baby was born. So, as and when it's possible, men should share the pregnancy experience." Talking about himself he adds, "I had been anticipating a few changes in my career front when my son was born but I put them on hold during my wife's pregnancy and the first few years of my son's life as that required my attention the most at that time."

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