laying down lines

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.


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24 thoughts on “laying down lines”

  1. i love love love this post.Some things arent a 50-50 divide and some things arent 100:0 divide either. I think its pathetic when guys dont take a hand in helping changing pampers, feeding etc. they are just losing out and ironically its usually other women who make others feel worse when their husbands help. and the biwi ka ghulam is enforced. Or usually the mom in laws who are like oh my boy doesnt know anything. This was word to word. He did plan to have a baby so maybe he should get to knowing something. Guys probably dont have to help a 100 percent but they do have to help.

  2. thanks pi 🙂 little things become big victories in the effort to actually attain a working relatonships and i dont think 50-50 is necessarily always the key. I guess everyone has to find their own ground na?

  3. love the post.. some places the co-parenting thing just happens naturally, with some you have to nudge and send out reminders like “well hello your job didn’t end with donating them swimmers to the cause!”

    we’re somewhere in between and we have partly my perfection thing and partly his crazy schedule to blame.

    thanks for an eye-opener though..this is SO going to land in his inbox as another not-so-evasive hint 😀

  4. exactly mayG- you got it – heh. we are all in between i think, striving to get where we think we should be- 🙂

    and to the comment above that from unnamed (of course)- there was nothing in this post that was about me being perfect but in your insecurity if you choose to take it so, your call. Just dont clutter my blog with your silly thoughts again.

  5. and so what if you and K ARE perfect parents. you dont have to say it, but i will.
    i may be biased, but i do see good parenting and an irresistible baby, with hilarious and very intelligent habits.
    and i really like k’s quite-disciplining-disguised-as-negotiating with baby kaddu.

    give my nephew a slobbery kiss for

  6. i can’t stand men who sit there and proudly boast that they’ve never changed a diaper in their life. its one thing that they dont do it, but completely another to show off how much theyve got their wives tamed!

    imagine, if the roles were reversed and a woman dared say she’s never changed a diaper in her life!

    im not one to care much abt equality in roles as a parent either, but i definitely think its important to be just as non-judgemental if the woman was to choose the same for herself.

  7. hi there 🙂

    been a silent reader for the longest time…

    just love, love, looooveeeee ure postss….

    it’s like u r speaking out my heart/mind…:)

    *do a lil’ dance every day for ure accomplishments*

  8. thanks khiz 🙂 you are too cute hahah

    sheza exactly- choices are choices and we all have to live by what we think is right for ourselves- im notone for role reversal and equality to th epoint of obsessiveness because i do believe there are roles set by nature but to BRAG about tame wives like that- ugh not on!!

    sparkle- thanks for commenting then finally 🙂 love it when words connect with someone! 🙂

  9. agreed with your response above.. but sometimes role reversal works for some couples and its only fair to be unjudgemental abt it. maybe theyre not obsessively like that, but naturally? whatever floats their boat, right?

  10. I wonder what the troll will make of me and my marriage…in my case the husband *very matter of factly* (as in not being saracastic) has already stated that he knows very well that he will be doing most of the ‘maintenance work’ when it comes to the baby…I think I was very smart to keep a cat for a while (and get him to do the litter tray duty)…Ive assured him that changing the ‘big job’ pamper is a picnic after that! We will get the cat to do the ‘discipline’ stuff.

  11. its very characteristic of fathers to be the strange “touch me not” types, i hope to God that fewer fathers are like that [in future …my childs father included]
    although there is something i have noticed, father and son bonding is somehow a lot more [in fathers who are at all the bondy type] as opposed to fathers and girls, that has a difefrent type of connection [less controly and more “whatever you say honey”]
    well its all just observation
    but yeh k is mashallah a role model abba!:D

  12. sheza/aneela/meyum

    actually i know some moms who are also not the hands on types and i think thats ok too- i thinkw hat bothers me is the pigeon holing and doing what is you DUTY morlaising sermons. If a couple decide that the dad is stay home and take care of baby while moms goes out into the big bad world to earn the money kudos to them- but i dont thinkill ever be ok with being told that its my birth duty to change pampers. maybe its not so clear in my post coz all the thoughts happened together, but the point is that solutions need to be suited to couples- and not to norms that dictate society…

  13. Sorry babe, I haven’t read all the comments, so if I’m saying this for the hundreth time… oops, sorry! But well done on your parts. First and foremost, it is SO important to have a partner who’s with you in this.

    And well done with handling Nadi with words at the shop. AND for K to come down to his level!!! Kids need to be spoken to, if we insist that THEY use their words, we should start using them first!

  14. hey jammie, so much of this post i was nodding my head to. thank God, i have Z who loves doing everything for Noo. we play it by ear too mostly, on days when he needs a break, when i need a break, days when she’ll eat only with him, or only with me. the only thing i’ve seen as changing of the times is my mother-in-law proclaiming loudly to anyone who will listen how wonderful her son is, such a great dad, such a great husband. it gets my goat, because he’s just doing what he should be doing! (he is pretty great, though)

  15. yes Mona there are dads who scan the Pakistan Day Awards section just in case there is a Tamgha Jurrat earmarked for them (for pamper changing and baby feeding service beyond the call of duty).

  16. jammie: agreed 100%!!

    mona: i hear ya!! its as tho the poor son does SOOO much beyond his role expectations, meanwhile the DIL is only tackling her list of to-do’s! :S

    have u guys noticed how its the women who perpetuate this kind of cultural attitude more than men do? why is that so? even some of the moms i really didnt expect this from, have done it to their DIL’s. weird! :S

  17. i don’t know why we perpetuate this behavior but it drives me up the wall. i fully intend that when i have a little boy i’m going to equip him with lifeskills like making his own bed, cleaning up after himself and even cooking for himself. there’s no reason his mama or his sisters or his wife should do it for him. when he’s doing ‘what he’s supposed to’ as opposed to ‘helping his mama/sisters/wife out’, i’ll know i’ve done my job.

  18. i agree with you mona!!! little boys need to know that making your bed doesn’t make you a sissy, just as little girls should know how to change lightbulbs.

    sheza- a LOT of female oppression is perpetuated by women themselves! i think it’s a combination of the competition a patriarchal society forces all women into (snag a man since he will provide, etc) and a resentment of women who’ve had the guts to go for- and get- what they want. you can’t possibly be a Good Girl and not be smug about it on some level. and smugness means judgment, somewhere- “if i could do it so can you, even if i was miserable”.

  19. woo hoo- i come back after a day and ive been bombareded!

    until we- the so called educated class stand up and realize that we dont have to stand for the silliness of everyday elevation of the man into some God like thing, nothings gonna change. I see my own friends fall into the trap of oh my husband cant change pampers/cant cook/cant breathe without me- the same husband who spent a good 7 years living abroad doing his laundry, working, managing an apartment etc. we want to judge others so we need to be superwomen ourselves which means we need to have the guys be less than great. its all really weird vicious cycle which we all find ourselves being part of. success is when we stop and yell ARGH. and change how we are being. (simple?? hahahah)

    im so sick of the boys can and girls can. i hope and plan to bring up nadi ensuring he doesnt think that making beds, cooking food and opening doors is all part of the same etiquette of being able to look after oneself and othrs.

  20. I may be generalizing,but ,”moms ought to take care of the kids”,is a slogan of the east only !!! In the west sharing the duties ,not just when it comes to child raising but also all the rest,comes sooo naturally…that i find it totally amazing.It happens even if a mom is not a working mom..amazing!!!!
    I see dad dropping kids all nicely dressed up,and as old as 6wks to the daycare with milk bottles and what not!!!

  21. Oi! I am injecting some testosterone into this debate…let’s not knock on men, you have to realize the world will be a complete catastrophe if men are given baby raising duties because we will most definitely indulge in the following…

    1) We will compete with other dads over how much poop our babies can produce.
    2) We will take pictures of babies pre and post poop and later on when they are learning how to be potty trained so we can traumatize them when they grow up.
    3) Babies will learn three new swear words every time daddy deals with a particularly vindictive poop session.
    4) Babies will grow up like their daddies and believe that farts are not just funny…they are downright bloody hilarious.

  22. hahaha omar your man view and very masculine words of wisdom have opened my eyes and even though this wasnt meant to be a man bashing post at all (why have the comments so turned that way i wonder), you have made all the women here realize (im very sure) how lucky they are that the guy take less interest in baby raising than women. 🙂 cheers!!

  23. although i’m not a mom – but lately i’ve been noticing how men in our society refuse to change diapers, feed their baby, etc. and it really annoys me. is that child not theirs? why the shame in helping raise the child?
    i think a lot of it has to do with the fact that many couples live in a joint family unit where the dad taking part in raising the child is frowned upon.
    I’ve seen some fathers (most of whom don’t live with their parents and their extended family), who are extremely active and share the responsibility.
    I agree with you – i’m not the one for the complete reversal of roles, but if that works for some couples, then why not?
    I think it’s mostly about being strong and standing up for you how feel relationships and parenthood should be like.

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