After announcing to family and friends about sharing parental leave post the birth of the daughter, the decision was met with responses of support, confusion and disbelief. Some came up with a comment that it is wonderful as it will give own bonding time together. Some were surprised and confused refusing to understand what will the father do staying at home while mother going to job. Some even said that the husband is being allowed to steal mother’s time. Some ended up saying that is there an end to enjoyment of being a mother. Some folks were totally mute, while others acted as if something major had happened. Nevertheless, after seven months of maternity leave the mother headed to office while the husband stayed back at the home. Having access to a few months of parental leave was something that the husband was vocal about even prior to the wife getting pregnant.
It was an important time for him to bond with the baby, and though the mother would have loved taking the whole year off, this was in the best interest of the family of three. The rarity of seeing men in a caregiving role leads to a lot of unwanted talk and comments from well-intentioned people. Comments can bring forward the close-minded nature of our society. Directly or indirectly, stereotypical gender image of masculinity, womanhood and motherhood is usually questioned, with unfair and more expectations placed on the mother compared to the father. The couple did face a fair share of this, with people being surprised that the father could actually cajole the baby and change a diaper, and with some others assuming that mother didn’t like the baby enough. One lady ended up saying that she was sure what the couple is doing may not work for everyone. However, watching how the family of three moved as a unit showed to her that her thought process didn’t make sense. She always wished her partner helped out more with kids. And here is a husband, stepping up in the way he is, and she thought it to be odd simply because it was different.
In addition to dealing with questions and assumptions of others, the mother also had to deal with the working mom transition of going back to work and figuring out how to thrive with the new routine. It took a while before it became better with time. The guilt of leaving in the morning was soothed by huge, gummy grin from the baby on return from the office in the evening. Soon, the “Don’t text me any cute pictures while I am at work” rule was broken, and eventually it was possible to display the most beautiful snap in the office without tearing up. Overall, the new role as a mother added another dimension to ideas around happiness, success and balance, ideas that are being given shape and redefined constantly. Things will surely shift once the husband rejoins office and the one known as “little magician” heads off to a daycare. Till that time, it is comforting to learn that while working, the two most special people in the family are learning from each other, laughing with each other, challenging each other, and loving each other. Prior to becoming a mom, the parenting dreams centered around a vision of teamwork, without any suffering, getting overworked, no buffoonish or absent father. It’s a pleasure knowing that parenting is happening the way the couple wanted it to, and in doing so, dreams of the mother have come true.