Even in the 21st century, it's difficult for society to accept a couple in which the man stays at home to manage the house and kids and the woman goes out to earn. Gender stereotypes are still deeply rooted in people’s minds.
Staying at Home With Our Daughter Works Best for Our Family
My wife works as a metro train operator, and I work as a content creator for a nonprofit organization. The nature of my work allows me to work from home, while my wife has to go out daily, commute to the station and then travel across the city. We both enjoy what we are doing and take pride in our work. We share a loving bond. We have been happily married for the last six years, and we have huge respect for each other and for the roles we play in managing our house and our daughter. Over time, as our careers have moved forward, we figured out the roles we would want to play in living together.
I had laid the groundwork for being a stay-at-home dad by once joking about it to my wife before our marriage, telling her that: “I don’t think I’ll be able to ever work from an office without missing and worrying about the safety of our first child.” My wife and I talked about our general desire to have a parent be her primary caregiver, but it was always with the understanding that it was my preference to fulfill that role and not my wife’s. And after our daughter was born, because of my wife’s busy schedule at work, in the initial weeks, it was I who started taking care and spending more time with our daughter compared to my wife. It was I who started setting up the food, hygiene and sleeping time for the baby and managing my work accordingly. Gradually, it became very important to me to be with her, so somehow, with my initial efforts, we had child care miraculously lined up through sheer determination and luck.
For me, on a day-to-day level, just moving through the day with a joyful and exploratory sense of adventure and my family falling asleep peacefully and well-fed is a great success. I’ve never felt overwhelmed with the work and responsibilities I have in taking care of our house and daughter, as my wife and I try our best to support each other in whatever way possible—sometimes even without being asked for help. That’s the level of understanding and empathy we share between us.
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Our Neighbors Make Fun of Me for My Choice
But I’ve had to defend my choice to stay at home! It certainly raises eyebrows and causes heads to shake. Being a stay-at-home dad requires being a team player, ignoring sexist stereotypes and putting most of your ego, some hobbies and interests aside for a bit and seeing the big picture.
Our neighbors laugh at us and ridicule us, as they find it really strange that I stay at home, cook food, take care of the child and plants, do cleaning and wash clothes—all the while my wife is operating a metro train and traveling across the city, carrying hundreds of passengers safely to their destinations. During a social event in our neighborhood, one representative from each family was supposed to bring a homemade sweet and put it in front of our common peepal tree and gather there to worship the tree together in a circle. I had gone with the idea that maybe by this, I’d get to talk and introduce my family to everyone. But since I was the only man there in the gathering, our neighbors started calling me names, and I clearly heard one of them calling me “woman of the year.” It was humiliating.
We get ridiculed by the society members where we live who, still after centuries of economic and social development, are fixated on the gender-based roles that they have created in their minds without any openness to hear new ideas. Changing mindsets is difficult and almost impossible for those who are not even open to hearing the different perspectives. Now we are not invited to any gatherings of the neighborhood group anymore. After the peepal tree incident, there was another instance where my wife and I got heckled by the neighbors on our way to the main gate. We decided to fight back to defend ourselves from the mocking, which resulted in the society committee unanimously deciding to ban us from any social gatherings, which is ironic, as the society committee exists with the sole aim to bring families together for peace and harmony and to support each other in any kind of adversities. Of course, my wife and I felt dejected by this decision and the behavior of the members, but we take pride in our choices, and we try to be happy in our small family of three.
Being a Stay-at-Home Father Isn’t Stressful
A lot of people, before the baby was born, asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this. My mother would ask me if I was sure I wanted to do this, if I realized what I was getting myself into. Now sometimes, my friends, distant relatives and colleagues ask me how it really is being a stay-at-home parent, and I tell them that it can be hard and definitely tiring and frustrating, but it’s never stressful. I feel lucky to be in this situation. We together want to raise our child to be an open-minded and empathic person who will have the courage to accept the differences in the perspectives of the people in the world.
I always had a very unloving relationship with my own dad, where most times, communication issues were compounded when both wanted a better father-son relationship but neither one knew quite how to go about it. He wasn’t super emotionally giving but was certainly not a bad parent; he always took care of all my material needs. To know that my daughter is going to be so much closer to me than I am to my own dad makes me really happy. People always say they want to learn from their parents’ mistakes in raising their kids, and I feel like so far, I’m doing that by having my daughter growing up close to me emotionally, and that feels really amazing.
I believe we should celebrate the ever-changing role of fathers in society. Stay-at-home dads aren’t just looking after the baby. We are the feeder, the storyteller, sleep negotiator and much more. We aren’t trying to be mums, and stay-at-home dads shouldn’t ever be perceived as a threat to the role of mums. Both parents have a role to play, and stay-at-home dads should be encouraged and celebrated, not prejudged.