My friend’s mom had told me how decades back her husband had participated in the caregiving of their infant daughters that was a blessing considering that she had no parents or in-laws near her to bank on. (It was possible because of her husband's job profile and the unbiased mind he owned). The scenario, strangely, is not like what it was in her case even today in India, particularly when the husband is working in the IT. Paternity leave (for a reasonable period of time) is still a new concept!
Gender equality as a topic of debate has been there for quite long by now, like feminism. Without going into all that, doesn’t it sound right when we hear of a new father doting on and caring for his new-born as much as the new mother is?
My husband was the pillar after my son’s arrival to the world. Suffering from colic, my first-born routinely cried and screamed, turning red, as I clenched my fingers and thought hard if there was anything we could do to alleviate his pain, tormenting me every time his face was racked with pain. It was my husband who began taking us out in the car, baby and me, driving round and round the neighbourhood during those times (colic pains visited our son mostly after sundown) and miraculously the crying would stop, providing the much-needed relief to my frayed nerves! All thanks to Internet where he had searched to come up with such novel ways of handling colic attacks. And when within a week, our little Dev was found to have dust allergy with even the cotton mattress inducing severe cough, it was the father again who sat sealing the mattress inside a plastic cover with stitches all along the border, till the wee hours of the morning, I supplying with only little help, intermittently.
The new father, delirious with happiness, would definitely have loved to lend a hand in the regular baby-care matters like feeding and preparing his feeds (Dev could not suck properly initially and often ended up being half-fed by me), only if he had got paternity leave. My husband made up though by religiously dedicating the evenings to baby-sitting no matter how tired he was after the long drive from his office through traffic-congested roads.
When my daughter was born, the born-again father was now a much busier man, but managed to give me enough support at the hospital and once again, after a gap of six years, devote the evenings to the new baby with the same, familiar dedication. And this time he even played a mother to our son (who felt more left out than thrilled with the arrival of a sibling, a girl to his dismay) by taking him out and treating him to zoo visits and restaurant food just the way I used to before I got heavily pregnant with our little Vini. Well, that was definitely a big leap from the times of my mother-in-law whose husband visited her at the hospital two days after their first child was born, lest he earned the label of ‘a too-doting father’ from their neighbours!
When a baby arrives, a father is needed as much as a mother is – not only for the baby but also for the new mom who too needs to adjust to her new life as much as the baby needs, in fact even faster.
The rest is in my book Rays and Rains (e-book available at a much lower price).