CHENNAI: Ahead of Father’s Day on June 19, City Express speaks to three generation of fathers to know how things have changed over the decades. “Dads used to be more of an authority figure back then. You did what they told you to do, no questions asked. Now kids are more independent and expressive, and they have a lot more say in things and society is more permissible,” explains Harish V Iyer, who has two kids aged 11 and 12.
Decision-making, which used to be ‘top-down’ and made by the father, is more collaborative now and there seems to be a more equitable distribution of work, at least in certain pockets of the city. Dads these days have more on their hands than usual — from getting their kids ready for pre-school, handling their kids’ demands for toys and smartphones, putting together the odd meal now and then, holding a baby the right way, changing their diapers and knowing a bit of first-aid in case your kid has a bruised knee.
These are things that mothers have done for years, with the new-age dads just catching up, courtesy patriarchy. But more than skills, the overall attitude towards parenting has changed. “As much as possible, parents must spend time with their kids like friends,” adds Harish.
S Narasimhan, a 26-year-old techie who became a dad about two years back, explains, “Dad’s word used to be final. There would be a certain fear in approaching him. Now, that’s gone. We need to be approachable so that our children can share things with us.”
But it doesn’t mean that fathers in the previous era were overly stentorian. Take for example Harish’s father, 72-year-old P V S Mani. He fondly remembers his father as someone who would keep a distance, not be intrusive, but know exactly what the kids wanted.
“One day, we went to a wedding and I was listening intently to the kutchery. The next day, my father called me and asked me, ‘You like the mridangam? Would you like to learn from the man who played at the kutchery yesterday?’ I was stunned. He had noticed me sitting engrossed by the mridangam. I later studied under the mridangam teacher for 10 years,” recalls Harish.
Mani adds that he was never worried about his kids’ future.
“It was different for everyone, but I took things as they came and was never unduly worried. I never went behind my kids asking them to study, or stressed them out about marks,” says Mani. Cut to the present day, and Narasimhan has his share of worries.
“I need to start worrying as soon as the kid turns two. If I don’t send my kid to the right pre-school, will other kids have an edge over him in LKG? The waiting time for admissions to schools is a year long. It’s become so competitive,” he rues.
With the cost of living surging and the fee for just kindergarten skyrocketing to `45,000 a year, parents need to bring home the bread. “And whether it is home or work, the roles are becoming more or less equitable than it used to be,” says Harish. But the worries of the modern father are summed up by Narasimhan: “Worrying about the future, us dads forget to live in the present!”