My daughter was around six, may be seven when she proclaimed that her Baba was the fun parent and I, her mother, was the essential parent in her life. Now this, coming from a confirmed Daddy’s girl, was a matter of extreme pride. I basked in the glory and bragged about it to whoever would listen. But then I heard myself and I didn’t seem to like it.
Being called the essential parent effectually meant that she couldn’t do without me. And that was in violation of the preamble of equal parenthood that we had charted for ourselves. Both, my husband and I, had been very clear right from the beginning that ours would be an equal parenting home. Once the child’s biological dependence phase was over, we would try and ensure that both can individually take care of the child, not only in each other’s absence but also on a day to day basis.
There were two major reasons why we had mutually agreed on it. The first one was the logical one that we both had our jobs* to attend to and neither should be forced to compromise in the name of childcare. And second was a more far sighted one, we believed that if the child would grow up in that atmosphere, it would grow on him/ her eventually.
(*Disclaimer: since it was specific to our situation, I mentioned both being in jobs. But equal parenting shouldn’t be restricted to such parents alone. Even if one of the parents is a homemaker, it should still be practiced)
Coming back to the situation, once I realised that the ‘essential’ tag wasn’t as good as it sounded, I sat down all over again to reassess how we could achieve our goal. We reworked our strategies. Here’s what we did:
- Both of us were already trying to steal our ‘just-the-two-of-us’ moments, now we scheduled our individual ‘me time’ and religiously adhered to it. He always had his gang of friends, I just followed suit.
- This helped in building our individual equations with our child as well. That meant she saw her Baba as a caregiver and not just a fun person and she and I discovered our mutual love for movies and books.
- Both of us had been sharing housework depending upon our core competence and we continued with that. Meanwhile my husband worked on his cooking skills. I had to restrain myself from hovering around or fussing over it. It was tough but worth its while.
- My husband and I are from very different cultures and cities. Parenthood laid bare those differences for us. Both of us had to sort that out and be on the same page if we wanted it to work. We had to prioritise- stuff that was beyond negotiation and the rest that we could choose to overlook.
It hasn’t been easy but it’s been fun and extremely gratifying. I’ve been frowned upon and judged by family, neighbours and strangers but I refuse to cower. My husband has a huge role in making me ‘shameless’. I share this today, not to brag but to let you know that equal parenting is the need of the hour especially for health of your relationships. And small steps taken today will fetch you amazing results tomorrow.
I say this from a recent experience of mine. A few days ago, I had to stay back in Delhi for the World Book Fair for my book while my husband and daughter had to fly back home. We were a little nervous especially in light of my husband’s limited culinary skills, because unlike India we don’t have much of help where we now live.
Needless to say, the two had fun but here’s what my girl said to me and I quote (with her due consent), “I missed you but that’s because I missed my Mumma not because I needed you for anything. Food was ok but the house was silent and Baba transformed into you. he bugged me about food and fruit.” Needless to say, this was music to my ears.