They wake up early to prepare breakfast. Hustling with the speeding hands of the clock, they pack our lunch boxes, and get us ready for school. From dawn to dusk, they make sure that our lives are simpler and more comfortable.
Who do you see while reading these lines?
The usual response is, your mother.
Over the years, through social conditioning, Indian imagination has grown to assume that these roles belong to women and that any instance of a man engaging in domestic upkeep, cooking or childcare, is odd.
The oddity, however, has nothing to do with the work, but more to do with us and our society.
In a world that wears thick glasses of patriarchy, it is unfair to say that women face the brunt. Men also fall prey to the overarching idea of masculinity, and thus, are assumed to be incompetent in taking care of household chores, or their own kids.
“When I told them about my decision, most of them laughed it off as a joke. After they realised I was serious, their response was not too forthcoming, as I had expected. I would be repeatedly asked if I could manage the kids or if I was really going to do the housework. It was unthinkable for many, and that was a mirror of how society at large thinks of stay-at-home dads,” Lahar Joshi tells The Better India.
In 2015, after his wife delivered two beautiful twins, he decided to quit his job. Today, he is among the small community of stay-at-home fathers in India, who are breaking the stereotype of childcare and domestic work being a gendered domain.
He shares some frequently-asked questions. “Are you really going to do housework? Do you seriously think a man can handle a baby on his own, let alone two?! Will you be okay asking your wife for money?” However, many women welcomed the idea as a positive start to breaking gender roles.
A fair balance without a gendered equation
For Lahar, it happened by accident.
Back in 2013, he began his branding and advertising firm, PinkElephant Disruptions LLP. Two years later, the couple was saving up for a vacation, when they found that they were seven weeks pregnant with twins.
This meant that his wife’s maternity leave would need an extension than previously anticipated, and that post-pregnancy recovery would take longer.
“I decided, in all fairness, that it was right for me to take some time off. She continued working until her eighth month, and after delivery, I took up the responsibility to take care of the house and the kids. It was the most practical decision at the time,” says Lahar.
He believes that like our careers, housework or childcare have nothing to do with gender. Both are highly important responsibilities that a couple should share fairly.
“The predominant idea that women should be able to balance personal and public lives, and if not, then give up these aspects of their lives, is an extremely ignorant way of looking at things. The choice of balancing those aspects or giving up one to pursue the other solely falls on the individual, be it the wife or the husband. And if the couple is in sync with each other’s choices, the question of what society will think is immaterial,” he says.
However, not many share the same ideas. A 2019 study conducted by Ipsos MORI reveals that about 39 per cent of Indians consider a stay-at-home father as ‘less of a man’. In this regard, India ranks second after South Korea, among 27 nations.
However, Lahar and many more men like him are determined to surf against the waves. In a world grappling with strict gender roles and portrayals of masculinity, he is a striking example.
“Now that my two sons (Ryu and Thorin) are growing up, I have returned to work. My wife and I balance our private and professional lives. However, if needed, I would go back and do it in a heartbeat. Watching them sleep for 18 hours a day and grow every instant was a completely different experience!” he says proudly.
He believes that fatherhood has given him a new perspective to life, a gift not necessarily limited to women.
This story is part of The Stereotypeface Project, an initiative by The Better India that challenges 26 stereotypes, which continue to exist even today. We are showcasing these stereotypes through all the letters of the English language alphabet.
Stereotypes exist everywhere — they are passed down over generations. Instead of embracing and celebrating what makes us unique, we stand divided because of them!
We’ve unconsciously learned to stereotype, now let’s consciously #EndTheStereotype.
Visit www.stereotypes.in to know more about the campaign and support the effort!
How can you support this campaign?
1. Follow this thread on Twitter or Facebook
2. Re-Tweet / Re-share the stereotypeface that you would like to put an end to
3. Use #EndTheStereotype and tag @TheBetterIndia
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)