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Sunday, December 05, 2021

The privilege of being a stay at home dad

Eventually making him fall in love with my Royal Enfield bike finally did the trick. The bike is no more mine, it’s “our Bullet bike”.

New Delhi |
July 3, 2018 5:30:58 pm

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By Sanu Nair

On a recent bike trip to Rajasthan with my friends, the more experienced riders in the group were discussing the importance of slowing down and taking routine breaks, especially while covering long distances. They said, it ensures better focus and a more enjoyable ride. Life is not much different, I guess. Working as a communications advisor, time was inherently a precious commodity. One always wished to add at least few more hours to a day, just to catch up with the long list of pending press releases and client briefing documentation, work calls, networking lunches and to also sneak in those few beers with friends at Press Club.

It helped that my wife’s three-hour daily commute to work and back gave us less time to complain about each other’s life pattern. Sleeping for eight hours was the only luxury that I tried to cling on during this phase. Life was moving like Delhi traffic, bumper to bumper and seemingly aimless. I still remember the reluctant smile I wore when my wife broke the news about her “positive” pregnancy test. I remember telling her a line I had memorised for a situation like this, “I will stand with your decision. We are in it together”.  Nine months later, we had Sumer in our hands. I vividly remember his first expression; it still remains the most unimpressed, judgmental look I have got in all my life (worse than what my disapproving parents have reserved for all my life decisions).

Before his second birthday, I had two spells of jobs. It was a relief on both sides of the table when I submitted those resignation letters. My wife finally convinced me that I would do better as a freelancer, than a 9 to 9 employee (who works for 9 to 6 these days?!). Prevailing job market conditions and my wife’s stable job made my decision to work from home easier.

Our kid until then was largely being brought up by my parents and his nanny. He was learning and growing fast (he could walk and also count till 10 before he even turned 18 months!). That’s when I realised I better slow down and be with him before it would be too late.

Making a deeper bond well in your 30s is a struggle. Making new friends feels like a chore. Even completing those unfinished shows on Netflix feels cumbersome. The 30s is basically a decade where you feel repelled with everything you thrived on in your 20s. Parenthood, especially as an at home parent, is not that different either.

I started slow. Initially, I tried to work it out as a schedule. Soon to realise that parenthood doesn’t work according to your plan. While at a job, like most parents, spending those two or three active, high energy hours at home with kid was easier than maintaining the same zeal and concentration for an entire day. On top of it, I had to work towards building the rapport, but thankfully he took to me a lot naturally. What helped was the fact that my wife led me through the journey. She took to parenting effortlessly, as if all she had to do was switch on a button! But behind all that ease she would portray was a lot of effort, discipline, hard work and love. She would be 100 per cent at work, while also checking on him routinely. She would double the effort once back at home after a grueling 12-hour work and travel schedule. This relentless effort only motivated me to be a more involved parent.

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I began with simple tasks, taking him out for his daily evening walk to the park, helping him make new friends while introducing him to new things at the playground, listening to him patiently while he would explain the smallest happenings in great detail. Watching and getting addicted to repeat shows of Dora the Explorer, Paw Petrol, Masha and Peppa Pig also helped (I am now as addicted to these shows as he is; although it has come at the cost of me dumping Netflix). And, eventually making him fall in love with my Royal Enfield bike finally did the trick. The bike is no more mine, it’s “our Bullet bike”.

Seeing him grow every day, asking trivial questions, watching his creative mind explore the world around him and beyond has made me more thankful to my wife who gave me the luxury of being at home. Having a set of active and involved grandparents also helped me share the workload at home.  Having them around also helped as a couple, as we could steal our moments and sneak out for a movie date while Sumer would be busy playing with his granddad.

Being a stay at home parent does come with its own limitations too. Your initial plan to balance work and play time with kid will be the first casualty. Your kid will also invariably or due to some cruel design choose the office space you reserved inside your house as his or her play room; in fact the entire house will become a big ball of mess. Your sleep timings will start reflecting that of your kid’s, and soon enough they would have moved on to a new schedule while you are still stuck to the same old one where you need a sleep break every two hours. One definite positive outcome is that if you used to choke up at the sight of vomit, shit and piss, then seeing it being dropped every few hours will definitely cure you of it.

It may read as a mixed bag, but taking a break or slowing down for few years before they reach the rigidity of school life, is a privilege you may want to exercise. Being a stay at home father is neither something I wear as a badge of honour, nor as something to be embarrassed about. I am just glad and thankful that my wife chose the right decision that January morning with that pregnancy strip in her hand.

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