Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Discrimination of the Third Order

Of all the discriminations meted-out to various sections in the society, this one counts for the least publicized. It is so less talked-about that many refuse to believe it actually exists. "New Dads" often live with the stigma (at least in India) that a Dad is just the sperm-provider in the conceiving stage and latter as a food-shelter-and-clothing provider for the rest of his life. The father-child relation is not held same regard (or even close) as a Mother and child relation. Granted that a mother and child are one entity for roughly 35 weeks but in the process of glorifying the mother and child relationship the father is often ignored.

For starters, in most Hindu customs the daughter-in-law is packed off to her "maike", some 7 months into her pregnancy only to return after the baby is around 3 or 4 months old. So the discrimination starts even before the child is brought into this world. In my custom the would-be-father's contribution is restricted to sperm-donation and settling the bills for the delivery. But the MCPs that (previous generation of Fathers of) the Mallu Clan were, it serves everyone right that they stay from all things good in life. But times are the changing. And with micro families and working women being the order of the day, most deliveries happen with the husbands by their side. I was lucky enough to be next to my wife (though not in the OT) when she delivered our bundle of joy. But again for reasons known only to the Hospital staff, the expecting father is not allowed inside the OT unlike what is practiced in other countries.

Whether by their own will or bending over for the sake of customs and traditions, it is almost criminal to miss the first-look of your own flesh and blood. It is not a sight you see every day or every year. For all you know, you may see it only once or twice in your lifetime. But more than the frequency it's the emotional gravity that's worth cherishing for a life time. The anxious 9 months suddenly gives way to overwhelming joy and complete nothingness. If ever there was a moment when I felt my legs wobbling with excitement, it was this! I could sense my brain sending signals to the eyes to well-up but this was not the time, because if I blink, I know the baby would be whisked back into the OT to dress-up. I only had enough time to enquire about the sex of the baby and that too after an after-thought. A girl it is - just as we both secretly wanted, but never revealed, should it be a boy. Not that we would be disappointed but we just were preparing for it to be either.

As I get busy calling people who matter to spread the news the mother and daughter are wheeled-into our room. I quickly wash my hands and pick-up the baby before I face the next stigma - new Dads don't know how to pick a just-born. There is surprise, shock, awe and instructions pouring-in. I’m too pre-occupied to heed to any of that talk. Looking at those sleepy eyes, I could hear myself repeating in my head - You are My Baby. I was reveling in the fact that I am now a life-creator, care-giver and protector - synonyms usually only reserved to the mother. So, with all the emotions that I was feeling at that time I would like to ask would any New Dad feel comfortable missing out on such joy? If they do miss it voluntarily - God save them and if they miss it by way of customs and traditions, I’m bound to ask if we really need such customs and traditions?

The last trimester of the expecting mother and first quarter of child's growth is the most crucial period in my opinion. It's the ideal time to bond with his child and his wife. The mother would also prefer nobody but her doting life partner to be by her side during all the nights the baby keeps you awake. It is difficult on a lot of levels for the husband to deal with a pregnant wife in the house. Yet nobody enquires about you. The society is only bothered about the health of the expecting mother and her womb-occupier. While Maternity Leave is a must whether you work in a Government or Private organization, the government of this country does not feel the need to have a legislation that provides mandatory paternity leave to expecting fathers. The result of such a disparate law is that the New Dad end up exhausting his Personal Leaves for the year at the time of the birth and end up missing important events like the Naming Ceremony of the baby - as has happened to a close friend of mine. As for me, I cannot imagine missing even a small thing like my baby sucking her thumb for the first time, let alone missing her Naming Ceremony.

My grouse here is that New Dads are often relegated to the task of being a financier or sperm-giver and never credited with the role of a life-giver and protector that they rightfully can be. It’s about time these traditions and stigma are thrown out of the window and usher the New Age Dads who not only take care of their little ones but also be the emotional handle of their better halves.

Picture Curtesy: Essential baby, Comedy Film Nerds


  1. My Dear Pk,
    Its a lovely blog in my life time. I have never this type of blogs, but brought the reality pictures in to black & white.
    I hope keeping your feelings in your mind you have wrote this.
    Lovely man from my side 1 sweet hug for you.

  2. Thanks Soma. Thank you for the kind words :)

    Well, currently my life totally revovles around my daughter, my lovely wife and of course our travels :)
    So its only obvious I write blogs about them....

  3. Mother gives birth
    Father gives life

    The would be father or to be father..most precious and famous act is leaving the beard for months together..that is the freedom he gets for his noble act :-)

    A wonderful write up buddy...i know your thoughts and writing will go on a winding path just like on a ghats section with the Crazy driver of ooty trip..

    Keep coming in..would get enough inspiration to dive on and drive on from your thoughts..

  4. Thanks Sri. As you said on a different media, it was like an opening of the flood gates after a year! :)

  5. Kishan, that's a great subject. Something I've thought about a lot. I really think modern day dads deserve a lot more than they are given credit for (But MY dad was pretty hands on too :), unlike many from his generation). That made me write this

    And now coming to dads being present to in the delivery room. I think that's a great idea. Of course, it's not all pleasant, but it definitely is better than having to stay outside and let anxiety get the better of you. This way atleast you don't worry just as much. My hubby was dreading the idea of having to cut the umbilical cord but by the time the moment came, it was so ok. And you're right -- a bonding on an altogether different level happens. Yes! :)

    Congrats on the little girl. Happy Parenting.

  6. Thanks D.
    We definitely need more "hands-on" dad as you put it. About to time to rectify the horrors of the past :)

    IMO the unpleasantness and the gory-ness of the umbilical-cord-cutting will pale in comparision to getting the first-look of the child. The bonding is established right from that moment to eternity.
    It SHOULDN'T be missed.