“How does it happen,” Hope Edelman asks in her essay, The Myth of Co-parenting, “that even today, in this post-second wave, post superwoman dual income society we are supposed to live in, the mother nearly always becomes the primary parent, even when she, too, works full time- the one who meets most or all the children’s and household’s needs?”
I have seen it in most of my friends, my cousins and even in the random acquaintances that when disaster struck in the form of a wailing baby in a restaurant, a fall, throw-up, pamper alert or even inter-kid tension, the father after throwing a panicked look around, retreats and the mom moves into turbo charged control mode, flinging any obstacles aside that are in the way of her performing her motherly duty. (Of course I am exagger-generalizing. In every 20 families, there is probably one where the roles are reversed, but for this particular entry, we shall stick to the sad norm.) In our culture, fathers who are overly involved in parenting are subtly catergorized, almost labelled as being under the wife’s spell, or in meaner cases, as being whipped. I mean a father who would naturally want to be part of the baby’s daily sleep-poop-play routine- unheard of!! We also box moms who work as being uninterested in family life and of largely ignoring the vital needs of the baby, and the kid will defintely grow up both disturbed and in need of therapy by the time he is 21. We don’t like mediums- they dont make for exciting chit chat and we don’t prefer balance because it means that someone out there has actually stumbled upon a formula that allows both parents to take on equal reposnsibility but according to their area of expertise.
Personally, I simply do not get wives who are ok with the fact that their husband refuses to change a pamper saying that his role is that of the provider. I also do not understand how some wives are ok with the husband needing his alone time after coming back from a day of work and asking her to take the baby out for a bit so he could relax in peace. As one offs both situations are acceptable- who doesn’t need some quiet sometimes and of course fobbing off a pamper call to the other is apart of the game. But as a rule, they are not on. For me, the decision to have a child meant that both of us were willing and agreeable to the chaos that would ensue in our lives. It meant compromising on certain things for a while for both of us- no more endless head massages and pedi treatments for me- but no more never-ending video gaming for k. It did not mean that we would have a kid, and he would get on with life as we once knew it while I made all the baby and home calls.
Funnily and sadly enough, we women are programmed in the traditional way- of taking on the onus of ensuring the the mans life stays undisturbed to a large degree. We feel the need to apologize when the baby is babbling non stop during the newspaper reading time; we opt to take the baby/kid out to the park or the play area so that he can go to with his game of squash/tennis and then hang out with the boys. We take on all this as a choice because we automatically answer to the deeply ingrained roles of, as Edelman calls it, the provider and the nurturer within us, at that particular point, paying no need to the logic driven idea of parenting as team work. Mind you I am not a big fan of the super equality idea either. I honestly do believe that there is an area of parenting that a mom does better and another area, the dad. The key lies in finding what those, for you as a couple and parents is.
Yesterday, we were at the Z’s Mothershop and Nadi fell in love with a small tabel and chairs set. While browsed he played with it under k’s supervision. Time to leave was met with a quivering lower lip and a couple of half hearted stamps and yells; part bedtime tiredness and part indignance at being asked to leave all this fun. I glanced up at k and by some mutual signal agreement thing, I retreated and k lowered himself next to nadi and had a few words with him in a low but no nonsense tone. A few minutes of what seemed like major negotiation and k came behind me carrying a not at all unhappy Nadi. For me and k, this was a point, a real co-parenting teamwork kinda moment where one took on the task and the other moved away through in a weird seamless harmony, without needing to put into exhaustive words and directions what one wanted the other to do. For me, this is what parenting is all about.