Saturday, April 07, 2007

Shift towards sharing of responsibilities by father

The latest version of Time Asia has an interesting covery story, something that is very relevant in the Indian context. The report is all about how the male parent (atleast the examples it is quoting) are trying to do some reform so that they are no longer only slaves to their office, but are equal partners in the home, more so in terms of giving more time to their children. The relevant article is available here:

It's embarrassing for these upstanding burghers of Singapore—so methodical and conscientious in their professional lives—to dwell upon the possibility that they might be falling short at home, but Wong lets them fidget and cough for a few more moments before resuming. "Watching your children over the Internet is one thing," he says, "but the goal of parenting is to get them to do the right thing when you're not looking." And there are plenty of hours in the day when Asian fathers are not looking.
Fathers all over Asia share that sense of guilt over their inability to balance work and parenthood. Dr. Sanjay Chugh, a New Delhi psychiatrist, says these harried, overburdened men stream through his consulting rooms: "Indian fathers have less and less time to spend with their children. When stress goes up for a father, it affects not only the quantity of time he spends with his children but the quality."
Every day, pleading overwork, millions of men cancel millions of promises made to millions of children. Dads cannot read bedtime stories or go to the park. Dads are in their offices, or on the road, or on conference calls. The effects of this physical or emotional absenteeism are actually quantifiable: numerous academic studies have shown that children with distant fathers score lower on tests of empathy, reasoning and brain development than those whose fathers are more involved. The former behave more aggressively, don't get on as well with siblings, tend to be less popular in school and are more reluctant to take responsibility for their misbehavior.

In earlier generations, things were more tranquil. The normal motto was that men would work outside, and women would work at home, bringing up the children and keeping the family together. In today's fast paced world, such a thing is mostly as dead as the dodo. Women have claimed and got their just right to build a career and work equal to men. However, given that there are an enormous amount of work pressures, the amount of time spent by parents on children has declined; after all a double income moves the family towards prosperity faster.
As this article points out, a number of fathers are starting to realize their responsibilities in the changed environment, regulating the amount of time that they are spending at office, and trying to take quality time out for their children, as well as trying to be a part of their lives. This includes taking on more responsibilities for the work needed to be done at home. In India, this trend is anyhow necessary due to the joint family system slowly breaking apart into more nuclear families. This change comes with much greater responsbility for ensuring that everyone contributes towards activities at home.
My experiences with friends who have passed through this phase is that these oh-so-proud men are changing, and becoming more sensitive. I had a friend who married with the condition that his wife would not work, and that attitude remains; however another used to be still expecting to be spoon-fed in the early days of marriage, but after a baby, he quickly realized that things were not the same and now is a great helper to his wife; and then there are the ones whom you can see as the ones who take great pride in helping thier wives, spending as much time as possible with children. However, on the basis of my circle of friends, is difficult to generalize on how much the Indian male is adjusting ! Anyone care to share their experiences ?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 2:06 PM