“If not for the family and kids, I would have left for the mountains.”
I have heard my father say this.
I have heard my husband say this.
I have heard a couple of male friends say this.
I’ve also heard that my grandfather used to say this.
I don’t know what they all wanted to do in the mountains but I know all of them wanted a break from their career life.
It was a time in life when my dad’s job was in oscillation, making our financial state tighter. My sister and I were doing our college studies in distant towns. One day, when I was leaving back to college after holidays, my dad gave me Rs.50, the amount needed exactly for the bus journey to my college. Anger filled me. Rs.50? But, at the same time, there was sadness and guilt on my dad’s face. He didn’t mean to deprive me of having money. He just didn’t have to give me enough then. Having faced a loss in business, he was working hard to source money for the family. Life moved on and in a few years, the family finance came back on track. Sometimes now when I recollect those days of life, I feel a profound sadness for my dad’s then state of living. No matter how life’s circumstances turned on to, he was constantly imposed on the duty of looking after us. He had no choice. We were his responsibility. What confinement this can be to someone?!
Though the trends in working mothers are increasing, men remain the primary bread winner of most families. At least from a societal point of view, men carry the responsibility. Fatherhood adds more pressure to this responsibility. Children have to have food, go to school and live decently comfortable lives if not luxurious lives. And it is all in the father’s hands. It might sound a simple statement to read but to get into that being is frightful, at least to me.
As long as the father is comfortable within his working space, all is well that ends well. However, unfavourable situations can shoot up like the boss is a villian, the work becomes something he cannot put his heart into, work location is plenty of miles from home or work demands to be away from the family. Or it could be a mid-life crisis or a dormant passion rising up. There might arise a compelling need to quit the job but on the other hand, there are children at home who have to have food, go to school and live decently comfortable lives. The feeling of confinement such dads undergo isn’t as passive as any of the everyday troubles that a stay-at-home mom faces. It is a matter of financial security, not just for himself but for the entire family. It is a matter of dignity, for he would be judged for his ability to earn. It is a matter of love because he cannot see his children get disappointed by not buying them that toy car in the toy shop. In such families, while the rest of the family relax on a sunday night, a confined dad silently cries loaded with guilt, fear and frustration.
Furthermore, the burden that the family might pose on him in such situations feels ungrateful. All that the wife wants to call him is ‘irresponsible’ because he didn’t remember to buy baby diapers on the way back home. For the state of mind he is pushed to by career confinement, wife’s nagging and kids’ demands, soon after reaching home, can feel miserable.
By highlighting this emotion of fathers today, I would like to raise awareness to stop tagging men to financial responsibility, to support stay-at-home-dads, to change our perception about gender-biased parenting and to understand the emotional confinements of a father. If there is a father at your home – your father, husband or brother – speak to them with concern about the career difficulties and anxieties they are facing. Listen to them, that’s all they need!