The Journey of Fatherhood: Isolation to Connection
In my opinion, parenting is not a single person’s job. A mother and father both equally play an indistinguishable role in the upbringing and overall development of a child.
It is universally known that a mother’s role is the most important factor contributing to a child’s initial growth stages. But, a father’s role, which is often considered a compliment to the mother’s role, is equally challenging and indispensable and cannot be disregarded.
In this article, I share my transformational journey of fatherhood from isolation to connection.
My Journey of Fatherhood
My son, Shriyans, was born in November 2007. At the time of his delivery, my wife, Bhagyashree, was staying at my in-law’s place in Nagpur. On 27th November 2007, my landline ringed at around 0600 hours, and my father attended the call. At that time, I was taking a shower, and my father broke the news announcing the arrival of our little angel.
Instantly, I felt some flicker of emotions twirling inside my body that filled me with a great sense of responsibility. In no time, tears of joy started rolling down my cheeks. It was difficult to differentiate between the tears falling on my face and the water droplets getting sprayed from the shower.
I had a firing desire to see the newly born baby and hold him in my arms. I wanted to be with my son and wife as early as possible. So, I decided to travel to Mumbai and take the earliest flight to Nagpur as the next air connectivity from Pune was possible only late in the night that day.
My parents accompanied me, and we went straight to the maternity and nursing home after landing in Nagpur.
Seeing my child for the first time was a deeply emotional experience for me. I got carried away when I saw the little angel slowly responding to my touch. He snuggled his palms over my index finger, whenever I attended his cries and signals. Mothers do provide emotional security to the child. But somewhere, I feel fathers also provide physical comfort and happiness to a newborn baby, although not to a similar extent.
Meanwhile, things changed after I returned back to Pune. I was staying for nearly 11–12 hours a day in the office, neglecting my health. I didn’t realize that I was spending more time at the office than at home. Increased stress levels on the professional front in a typical intimidating work environment was a normal routine for me by now.
Bhagyashree and Shriyans joined me at Pune after 3 months since my visit to Nagpur.
Balancing Work and Family
Challenges on the professional front increased further in 2008, particularly at the time of the great recession that lasted for more than two years. It translated into spending, even more, time at the office including weekends. For me, holidays reflected only on the calendar.
Soon, I realized that time was passing pretty fast, and I was spending very little time with my newly born child. I missed many moments from his infancy to toddlerhood, which is considered the golden period for parents to see their child learn to walk and talk.
On the other hand, Bhagyashree had been silently playing her role without any complaints.
I corrected my daily routine only when my only role model, my father, suffered a heart stroke in 2010.
I still remember that day. It was a Monday night. I had reached home at 2245 hours after another stressful day at the office. I had to reach office the next morning by 0900 hours for a weekly review meeting. When I entered the living room, my father asked me for some antacid as he used to take Gelusil syrup/tablets every now and then to manage his acidity. I simply ignored his condition thinking it is a normal regular issue. I replied in negative to him and rushed to retire and hit the bed, skipping the dinner.
Next day, I left home at 0800 hours for the office and did not meet my father as he was not yet awake.
Later in the afternoon, at around 1430 hours, I received a call from my mother. She sounded very worried.
“Your father is in the ICU,” she was quite succinct with her message and started crying as she spoke the last word.
She somehow controlled herself and gathered the courage to continue, “As per doctors, he suffered a mild stroke the previous day but carried it all through the night. He was struck with another attack early in the morning today according to them. Fortunately, he took me along with him today to the hospital to get hospitalized.” I could hear her wailing on the phone, and here on the other end, I was dumbstruck with the untimely revelation.
Because of his reticent nature, my father purposely did not disturb anyone that day. Having worked in the defence, albeit as a civilian, he has a tough mental state with an equal edge of strict discipline and reassuring solidity that I witnessed in every corner of life while growing up.
Fathers: Strength of the Family
I realized that not just my father but there are countless examples around us, where the man in the family suffers silently and doesn’t allow an iota of stress pass onto his loved ones. In fact, he keeps working relentlessly on plausible solutions. Such struggles are quite lonely and often untold.
My father survived the after effects of the stroke, but I still feel guilty, even today, for not spending time with him that night.
I also wasn’t doing justice with my son who was growing rapidly and sought my presence. In a stage when kids are more curious and trying to explore new things, I couldn’t play the role of a guide for my son or be his playmate. I was still away from the role of an ideal father who would build strong emotional ties with him.
Meanwhile, my wife got busy with unending daily chores, managing the kid and taking care of my parents.
Work or Remove Time for Kids: A Turmoil in the Mind
On one occasion, it was Shriyans’s last day at the nursery. His Montessori school had organized a cultural program and had invited all parents including grandparents. It was a special event as the kids were presenting some creative acts.
I was supposed to reach the venue by 1700 hours sharp, but I couldn’t reach on time. I missed the event to attend untimely “fire” at work that evening and reached home pretty late.
It is extremely difficult to manage work–life balance, especially in a demanding work environment. There are moments when you fall prey to the mundane office routine and get busy with additional activities that do not add any value to your life, leaving little scope for family or personal life.
On the night of the nursery event, my wife was extremely unhappy with my absence. When she said, “How irresponsible you can be. Can’t you manage to take out some time for your own son even one single day?” it hit hard and pinched me to the core.
I decided to change my lifestyle and develop a general approach towards life.
I started spending more time in solitude and reading books to settle my monkey mind. Reading many self-help books enabled me to learn many valuable things on the spiritual front. At that same time, I realized the importance of effective parenting and started making changes in my daily routine, rather prioritizing things, which I believe added the most value to my life.
“Better late than never,” I consoled myself. Within a couple of months, I brought in some incremental changes in my schedule. These turned out to be quite transformational for me.
Today, I am able to squeeze in time for my family. For the last couple of years, I am spending quality time with my son and feel immensely satisfied to have created a special bond where we instantly connect with each other.
Shriyans opens up to me without any inhibition and shares his awe and uff moments more easily with me than with his mother.
These changes didn’t happen overnight; they took a lot of time. Because habits and discipline are subjective, I started spending more time to understand him as I saw him grow both mentally and physically.
Well, I want to conclude on a note that a father has to don many hats for the kids in his lifetime, such as being a playmate, a friend, a coach, a teacher, a protector, a companion, a provider, and the list can be endless. I realized that spending more time and understanding the child is the key to fatherhood.
How much time do you spend with your child?
Everyone knows that Mothers are important but we shouldn’t forget the fathers. If a woman compromises and sacrifices after marriage and baby even a man has to take lots of burden on him. I guess sometimes we ignore that. But I guess Anand has said it all. It’s a responsibility of both and the only thing to remember is every individual should play his or her part well. Parenting is fun. It’s just you have to see the fun part when you become Parent. “Becoming Parent is Blessing indeed”.
There are several parenting workshops and books are available. Also, I am here to help you ;).
Some Parenting Workshops:-