Role reversals are not new. In the Vaishnava paintings, we see Radha play the flute instead or Krishna decorating Radha’s feet with alta (red colour) or tie her hair. Assigning gender specific roles were absent in ancient times. With the patriarchal system holding sway, things changed. Though women work and share responsibilities of being the bread earner, men conveniently stick to the feudal-patriarchal system, making life difficult for their wives. Things are changing now. Some men happily take on the responsibilities of being househusbands. Maya takes a look at the changing social scenario in this in-depth article here.
“As a househusband, I spend lot of time with my kids, while my wife goes out for her job. I am one of the few fathers from IIT and IIM who is actually seeing his kids growing. Others from these institutes may earn a lot of money, but they don’t actually see their kids growing.”
Hey guys! Does it ring any bells?
Yes. That’s Chetan Bhagat, one of the most loved authors of young India.
But it is not an easy task for the author of five bestsellers to be a ‘househusband’, a word he uses in a jocular sense as a male counterpart of ‘housewife’.
He asserts, chewing the cud of memories that children in his time were far happier without gadgets and big pocket money.
Is it really cool to be home 24×7 indulging the whims and fancies of kids? For a man?
When I’m asked to cover a story about househusbands, I’m nonplussed for a while for it’s really difficult to find men who would rather stay home to see their kids growing, while their wives occupied the front seat, be the breadwinners.
A month ago or so, while watching the trailer of Ki and Ka, during a movie intermission, a shiver of guilt ran down my spine, as if I was carrying the entire womanhood and its flag of freedom on my tender shoulders!
Why the hell did I feel guilty about it?
I was wondering if my hubby would like the very idea of watching the movie that blatantly screamed out to have the roles reversed!
Well, we did watch it together. He was intrigued, had bouts of laughter in between but evaded the discussion later on finding it perhaps too impractically silly an idea to brood upon.
Meenakshi, one of my close friends, tells me how despite being a highly compatible kind of a couple, she and her husband are at loggerheads when it comes to hers likely to move out of doors for howsoever brief a span of time, on job’s demand. He bluntly reminds her, “You should be more than happy that I’m allowing you to work. That’s enough I can do. Don’t expect me to sit indoors and take care of your kids. I’m not supposed to be a woman.”
She would as usual approach the authorities with her not so sensible pretexts unable to express what really lay at the bottom.
Times however are changing. So are our mind sets. It’s really being cool with life allowing your better half to realise at least half of the better things you have been granted as a prerogative till date. Being a mother doesn’t mean she can’t dream anymore!
Dr. Anuradha Bhattacharyya, one of the esteemed gynaecologists in the field of my acquaintance, sits moaning, on the bed, in the maternity ward, having delivered a baby boy.
She’s suffering from physical pain. What, however, she’s not able to endure is the idea that for at least three to four years now onwards she wouldn’t be able to proceed with the profession that’s the very essence of her being. I find her swinging between two extreme passions i.e. the joy of motherhood and the smothering feel within that where a mother is born, perhaps a woman is no more a dreamer.
Satish Bhatia, 52, is a househusband, who has been looking after the household liabilities for how long he doesn’t exactly remember.
His only son, Akash has been doing MBBS from South, his wife, Shaila, works as a PGT teacher in an esteemed school and his daughter, Antima, works in the same school along with her mommy.
The two leave for the school early morning, while the daddy helps them pack the tiffin and bags.
“I enjoy my morning cuppa tea once they are gone. I’m at peace with myself, all absorbed in the newspaper till the maid arrives. I have things done up to my satisfaction and take a nap thereafter. My wife helps me in cutting the vegetables, the previous evening, while we share the evening tea, all three of us together. Our daughter does her checking work, while we go for an evening walk, hand in hand. Not a thing seems to have passed in the world until it’s shared between us. I have always been an early rising bird so no hassle.” He laughs away my unease to probe further.
“Err…did you never work outside?” I demur.
“We had a joint family. We are three brothers. We worked together. I was sweetly unaware how and when the two join hands to throw me out of the business. I wasn’t cut out for family business may be. I didn’t want to fight with my own siblings for the sake of material comforts. We left home, have been living on rent since then. It’s been more than twenty years.” He takes a dip into the rill of past.
Seeing him, still drenched, I ask, “How did you manage then with your still toddler, a son, and a daughter of six months?”
“I couldn’t work as an apprentice having once been the owner of my own nicely running spare parts’ shop. So, I quit,” he gasps.
It was there that his wife Shaila, a home-loving woman, with simple charms and middle class background chiselled herself into the shape of a working woman.
Navin Wadhwa, Director in HVAC System Integrator Company, takes care of sales and project execution, gives a beautiful smile that speaks of contentment and a life spent in doing things for the satisfaction of his near and dear ones. He is proud to have a learned woman, as his mom, who understands things like woman empowerment and sees to it that her daughter-in-law suffers neither from the pangs of guilt, as to have zapped her own ambitious self at the altar of domestic liabilities nor from the pangs of not being able to prove herself a worthy and a loving mom.
Navin tells, “My wife Rashi, QA Manager with NIIT Technologies Ltd. has had a number of opportunities to climb the ladder up in the corporate world but keeping the wellbeing of Tuyen, our son, now two, she suppressed the inner voice, turned a blind eye to it, knowing the infant needed her more than anybody else.
“But now as our son has got beautifully habituated to my presence and care around, I couldn’t procrastinate her career growth any more.
“I’m not a house husband for God’s sake!” he chortles. “But I don’t really mind being labelled as one as far it’s about being a good husband and a good daddy,” pride written large on his face.
“Rashi has been to London for six months. Six long months! It’s designed for software testing for client in London. Initially, I and mom gasped. But then we discussed things amongst us the three and worked out a way. It’s been a fortnight already. So far so good….Let’s see.
Tuyen is all chirrups and coos when he sees his mom on Skype. He jumps with glee. Rest fine. We manage together. Me and my dear mommy. No hassles. Even a woman sacrifices a lot for the sake of her family, what we are trying to do is nothing bigger than that,” he tickles little Tuyen, who gives out a shrill shriek of joy.
“Do you think the baby won’t miss his mommy till then?” The curiosity has the better of me.
“The plan is – I’ soon leaving for London. I have already applied for a one month leave. Mom will join us later, next month. I will come back and mom will stay on for another month. After that the last lingering of the span…Skype hai naa (is there)! ”
This is what Bhawna Agnani, the General Manager in a global organisation, Gurgaon, has to say about her husband, who is the rock solid support in her personal and professional life.
“When I am traveling, he always makes sure he doesn’t scheduled his travel. He makes sure we talk through FaceTime in the morning and evening. Even if it is for a minute or two. And depending on kids’ availability/ waking hours, he gets them to talk to me. While I am gone, nothing changes for the kids as their school timings continue as is Weekends he spoils them, with food of their choice. He drops me to the airport and comes to pick me especially when I go on international travel (flight time are usually late nights),” she says.
“Studies for kids remains as usual, last time when I went to China, it was for two weeks and Sid used to have his weekly tests so Jai used to be in touch with Sid’s best friends mom on what’s the syllabus or what’s the homework, etc.
“Not that he taught him, he just made a pact with Sid that he should ensure he gets A grade, rest of the time he could enjoy.
“Additionally, our house help takes good care of the kids.
“Plus MIL and FIL used to keep visiting so the kids don’t feel lonely.
“Jai completely understands that my job is very important to me.
“And he knows, I will go mad and drive him mad if I stay at home.
“Jai’s mom was a teacher and he has had progressive upbringing as all his chachis (aunts) were also working and his cousins are also working.
“He is no joru ka gulam (henpecked husband), he treats me as an equal and respect him for everything.
“He is always very proud of my achievements in office and I am proud of his. He works as the Vice President of a global organisation,” she tells with pride.
Marriage is one of the most beautiful relationships that thrives on mutual faith and understanding.
An ideal marriage, to my mind, is one where one doesn’t try to have an upper hand over the other, where both respect each other’s potentials to succeed, feel proud of each other’s achievements, don’t try to bind each other, are rather instrumental to each other’s growth.
Let’s not forget that the best security blanket a child can have is a set of parents, who respect each other. Women are, by nature, gentler and more self-evasive kind but their needs, physical, emotional and intellectual must equally be respected and taken care of. She can’t be expected to strew happiness around, if she remains unquenched.
Pix by Author and Net.
Maya, happily married to writing, is a published author of three books- My favourite Mistake Ever, Just Zindagi and A Beautiful Mistake. She’s also co-authored I Am a Woman, a tribute to Kamala Das. She’s been a regular contributor at blogs and e- magazines like Womanatics, Bonbology, Learning and Creativity etc. A passionate lover of nature, she can commune with it for hours. Nature, in its various guises, enthrals her.