My dad has been very much involved in our daily lives since I can remember. He was and still is an amazing father. He played games with us, he helped us with our homework, he ruffled our hair and kissed our foreheads twice every day…in short, I used to think he was the best and mom, the nitpicker (Sorry Etete). But years later I came to realize that he never did the other important things parents do. He never gave us a bath (except that only time she was in hospital after giving birth to our younger brother) while mom continued to come to the ‘bathroom’ for years to check if we have washed ourselves well. While mom checked our lunchboxes to see if we have eaten the food she had packed for us, dad checked our books for home works. And now that I am a mother, I also remembered how he would run around the house playing with my brother but the moment he wanted to feed, he would hand him over to mom.
‘To know that a man is a father is generally less of an indication of how he lives his life, than it is for a mother.’ When I came across this quote a few weeks ago, all that observation from my childhood and from my personal experience came back to me. I understand times have changed and fathers are more involved in child upbringing but it is not a secret that responsibilities are not split evenly. Even with ‘stay at home dads’ and paternity leave, it is obvious that mothers have much of the burden especially in the first few years.
It is a simple math – the more you spend time with the baby, the more you bond. It is natural for the mother to understand the different cries or needs and react accordingly better than a father who sometimes changes diapers or does bottle feeding – after all they have been together for 9 months.
The traditional gender roles we have been living through also have an effect on how we lead our lives today. Despite both parents working a full time job, the mother by default takes the role of managing the house and taking care of the baby which usually draws resentment when she is burnt out. These gender roles are more pronounced when the mother is a stay at home mother, in which case she takes on the full roles.
However, we are more conscious about sharing baby-care responsibilities today. Most fathers understand the burden of baby-care and dedicate time to contribute their share of parenting. But the amount of workload they have or our high expectations might interfere with their interest to help in. Often times, we expect them to do things the way we do it and our critical remarks can most likely make them refrain from offering any help.
As much as my husband might not have woken up every night to feed our daughter, he was there for almost all medical checkups or to take her to another room when I wanted to rest but above all the fact that he recognizes and appreciates the demands of being a mother means so much to me.
This first appeared on The Standard on 25 June 2017