Musings, Parenting
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Fatherhood: The changing role of the modern day father

father and son in playful embrace

Fathers have a profound influence on their children by just being there for them and teaching values through actions rather than just words. The role of a good father is immeasurable. This is of course only applicable to families where fathers are present.

When fathers are good role models, they set the behavioural standard for the child to emulate and for all other men in the child’s life. Fathers have many different roles in their children’s lives. Fathers need to make sure they do an excellent job in those many different roles. A father who is a good role model will help their children respect themselves and those around them.

The changing role of the modern day father

Many fathers limit themselves to a box when it comes to parenting. They see themselves as the hunter-gatherers but not the nurturers. Even younger parents, I find, are not able to see beyond this role. Changing diapers, feeding, teaching and learning activities, or even dealing with the child’s emotional needs are all delegated to the mother. 

This puts unwarranted pressure on the mother because more often than not, she’s already managing the rest of the house and working at a job. It also deprives the father of developing an emotional bond with their child. A father who is involved and invested in their child’s life helps them develop essential life tools.

My husband was always more keen than I was on the baby issue. He took charge of our son from the moment he was born. Changing diapers, late night feedings, spending quality time in the day, and helping me out with everything else as soon as he got back from work. 

Our son grew up watching him do all household chores; so as soon as he could stand, he was dusting our counters. He’s seen him cook, so he wanted to be a part of the process. He’s seen his dad do repair work around the house, and now he’s quite handy with a screwdriver himself. Most importantly, he’s seen his dad treat his mom with love and it’s so beautiful to see him replicate that feeling.

He had just turned three and I had taken him to a park. He walked ahead of me and climbed down a step. He turned around and offered me his hand to help me down, because he had seen his dad do the same. “Mumma, you want some help?”

“Mumma, you want some help?”

He loves me with all his heart, but he wants to be just like his dad. Every minute detail, like how his dad uses his headphones during office calls, he will observe and repeat.

Fathers as good role models

Kids notice and listen more than any of us adults can imagine –  even when you think they’re not paying attention. That puts a lot of responsibility on us adults to model behaviour we’d want to see in our kids. It also gives us an opportunity to look at our own behaviours, the reasons for them, and how to change the negative ones.

My husband would lose his temper easily with our son. It took him a while to realise he was replicating behaviours he’s grown up with, and that it didn’t work except to make everyone upset. Realising that has helped him deal with our son’s anger better, and to manage his own.

My husband used to smoke out of sight from our son, but during the lockdown he would do it in the balcony where he was visible. Our son first saw him smoke and started imitating his dad in role play. We were very aware of how he looks up to his dad and explained to him how smoking was an unhealthy habit. My husband spoke to him about how he was finding it difficult to give it up. This tactic worked too well because our 5 year old took it as his mission to remind his dad to stop whenever he would see him heading out. My husband finally gave up smoking after a month.

Update: He has started smoking again. No one is happy about it, least of all him. So our little soldier will often break and throw all the cigarettes “because I don’t want you to die,” like it says on the pack.

Changing the language around fatherhood is also as important. Fathers (or men) shouldn’t be ‘helping’ with the housework; they would just be doing the housework. Fathers shouldn’t be ‘babysitting’ their kids; they would just be spending time with them.

Working hard like his Papa

EQ: Emotional Quotient

Fathers are often looked at as the strong one in the family because they don’t show emotions that are considered weak, such as crying. But showing anger by screaming is usually accepted as a strong emotion. Or worse, to hide all signs of emotion. 

Anger, hurt, jealousy, sadness are all part of the spectrum of emotions. Why limit yourself to just a few and deny the rest? How will your child learn to manage their range of emotions if they don’t see you express them?

We also try to include our son in the conversation as much as possible, and listen to him for ideas as well. If he says he’s not hungry, he’s not forced to eat. If he’s having a breakdown, we hold him tight or give him some space till he’s over it.

We’re still on the journey to discover ourselves as individuals and as parents. The only difference is we’re more aware of the hows and whys of it now. `

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