Friday, September 16, 2011

The changing face of the desi Dad

The desi dad has undergone some changes in recent years . No, I'm not talking about them getting pot bellied, or bald, or getting cosmetic surgery to change the way they look . Nor am I saying that the desi moms are changing partners often, LOL.
I am referring to the role the desi father played in his home . His role has undergone a paradigm shift in the recent past.

For generations the dad in the Indian homes had a role to play, and that was of the provider, (the karta) the protector, the head of the household, the man in charge, and that meant that he was the authority figure in the home. So, the concept of the father being a loving, involved dad was not very common. Ofcourse, this doesn't mean there weren't loving dads in Indian homes before now, my own grandfather was a very loving dad and granddad, he never as much as even raised his voice at his children, and the one time he reprimanded them, he had tears in his eyes, as told to me by my mother. So yes there were those kinds of dads too, but that wasn't the norm, that wasn't the image that society had of desi dads. 
The image was of a stern, disciplinarian father, who kept a distance from his kids, and mainly communicated to them through the lady of the house (i.e the mother of the children) . The father was supposed to be aloof, busy in work and his world. Many a men may not have even known what grade their children were in school.

In the last couple of decades though things have started radically changing in the desi dad's world. It could have happened even sooner, if not for some silly movies in the 70's and 80's scaring men off of claiming their maternal side, and making them think that it is emasculating to them,  for an example this song...LOL..

Nevertheless, slowly but surely in the last couple of decades, the desi dad's role has changed. Part of the reason is the new found economic independence by Indian women, which was, until the past couple of decades unavailable to them, and as a result women too were putting long hours of work outside the home, plus the fact that the joint family system is getting less and less common, especially in the urban areas, caused the two people in the household (mother and father) to be responsible for everything, and when a child entered such a setting, rightfully the women expected the men to pitch in with the childcare, and thus men started getting more hands on as far as raising their kids went. 

In participating in the child rearing process, many of the desi dads realized, that what they had been conditioned to believe thus far by society, that women are natural nurturers, and better at child rearing, and providing, love and support to the children, isn't necessarily always true.  Yes, most women, have a natural maternal side, but that is also true for most men, it's just that women, openly, and freely accept, and embrace their maternal side, whereas men are conditioned to hide or ignore it. However, as men started contributing more in the child rearing process, they realized that they too can own, and embrace their own maternal side, and be just as loving and nurturing towards their children, as the mothers, and it doesn't have to mean that it's emasculating to them.

So, today in many urban, educated homes, the dads (especially those in the mid 20's to late 40's age group) will take an active participation in their child's life. Most are very hands on, partaking in every activity from bathing to feeding, to putting the child to bed.

In my desi social circles in the US, I saw almost all the dads of desi origin, being very hands on with their children, and the child too was quite comfortable being looked after by the father, signalling, that the dad routinely does those activities. I think in the NRI household setup, it is even more important that the husband pitch in with childcare, since the couple may not have easy access to family, who can help out, yes, some may invite parents over from India, for the post delivery care of the new mom and the baby, but that isn't a long-term situation, or a permanent one, moreover,  in some circumstances, even this (post-delivery visit of family) may not be possible (personal situation of the parents making it difficult for them to come over for long periods, visa rejection issues, etc) , and also coupled with the fact that hired help, or full time nannies are expensive in the US, and most couples may not be able to afford them, putting the entire burden of the newborn on the couple. So, the desi men, did feel a sense of responsibility towards pitching in with the childcare, and them bonding more with their child as a result.

So, the dad who was the authority figure in the desi home, the one to be feared, the one who you had to keep a respectful distance with, is now transforming into a more relate-able, approachable, lovable, doting dad, who is just as important and a central figure in his child's life as the mother. A welcome change indeed !


  1. Thanks Anjali for visiting my blog :-) appreciate it!!!! and btw, your blog is fantastic!!!! makes me realise there is soooooo much to explore!!!!

  2. True...very well analyzed.With one or two kids the attention is focused.dads are more global modern and hands on.

  3. yes anjali very well explored...the medium of expression used by dads have changed certainly...

  4. I love this post!

    Even though I stay home full-time with our children, my desi husband is definitely a co-parent. He works a crapton of hours, but all of his free time is spent with our kids. He has always been hands-on with feeding (once they were weaned), diapers, baths, doctor's visits, everything. He is such an amazing father, that I get a little gushy when I talk about it. :-)

  5. Very well pointed out and so well written Anjali! I find it so great that such a change is coming in our generation :) And we are setting a great example to our children of how the parental roles should be too ;).

  6. Nice post!
    Dh is of that new generation of desi dads :) Interesting though that I can draw paralles to Swiss culture, my parents generation was the first one to accept the father as nuturer too, my grand parents still pretty much went by the good old system of dad's bring home money mom cleans the diapers and do the homeworks.

    Another thing about desi dads, when I was preggo DH wondered if he could be there with me during labour and delivery like in US movies, because in many part of India and even goernement hospital, childbirth is a women only affair. My OB told him "You better be there, or I'll drag you in" on a joking tone but added as a most serious line "It takes a man and a woman to create life, and it needs to be a man and a woman working as a team to get this new life out and into the world.
    Dh went through it with flying colours of course and added a few hours later that he had no idea how painful it looked, and how amazing I did.

  7. in my case, dad has always been hands on! mum worked in a different city for some time and my dad took great care :)

    but yeah not all are same, my father in law wouldn't have survived such a case :D

    i am not fan of chetan bhagat, but he is a full time home maker! so things are surely changing for good.

  8. nice post...well researched..:)

    it's the mom's who are becoming the authority figure in desi homes now a days...:p


  9. Would definitely be one of the 'positive' changes of the modern world! :D

    ♡ from ©

  10. @ Meghna : Welcome the my blog, thanks for dropping by..glad you liked it.. :-)

    @ Alka : Thankyou for the kind words.

    @ Sunita : Thanks a lot

    @ Kelli : Well you've just articulated my EXACT situation, I'm currently a SAHM...and even though my dh is the sole bread winner right now and does put in long hours often, that does not take away from his parenting at all, for him it's not a duty, it's a joy, watching him I really wonder, who the real 'mom' is ??? Anyway, so your hubby sounds great...yayy for hands on dad's ... :D

    @ Aparna : Welcome to the blog, and thankyou for your indeed is a great way to teach our son's and daughters what a partnership in marriage should look like...

    @ Cyn : Good to know that the practice of having the hubby inside the labor room is gaining popularity in India too, it is an absolute must, I couldn't imagine being in all that pain, and freaked out about labor, to be surrounded by strangers who are instructing me without any emotional support...

    @ Chintan : My dad was also actually pretty hands on, and did a lot around the house too, and yea my father-in-law was like yours who would've been lost without
    and no fan of chetan bhagat..well that makes two of us... :-)

    @ Sub : Hahaha, yea I'm sure that's how the guys see which I say...It's about time... :D

    @ tanvi : welcome to my blog, glad you dropped by...will check out your blog too..

  11. So true ! I love the way you simplify things out :D My dad personally has been the hands-on-parenting kinds , Rather am closer to him than mum :D - Am following !! Check my blog out too -

  12. And i think it is a welcome change .Enjoyed my visit here .Thanks a lot for leading me here.You have a new follower :):)

  13. A very well written post. I've seen a remarkable change in the way fathers interact with their kids overseas. In India too it is changing. But the alteration is a lot slower because of factors outside the marriage ;) .... Nonetheless I like what I see.


  14. @ anjLi : Welcome to the blog, and thanks for your comment. I know many girls who feel closer to their dad than to mom, :-). Will check out your blog too, thanks.

    @ Kavita, welcome to the blog, and thankyou for the kind words.

    @ Gayatri : Welcome to the blog ! That makes two of us, I too like the change I see, and yea it is slower in India, but as long as it is changing it's a good sign... :-)

  15. Reading this post and the comments from other moms really gets me excited about seeing how my husband will be as a dad! I grew up without my father - single daughter of a single mom - and have always been pretty scared about becoming a parent. I feel really fortunate now to have a husband who is actually more eager and excited to have kid(s) than I am!


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