The Penguin Dads or the story of real men

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with Doniger and Hindus. 

Thanks to social media, everyone and their Tiger Mom has an opinion on parenting, status of women depending on whether they work or not, gender equations etc. While I do study such social dynamics I write this not because it's an academic piece or descriptive of something that has achieved critical mass, but because it's a story of real men and one that needs to be told. 

A couple of male friends of mine started a company. The kind of work they do is what entrepreneurs call a "passion project." The money isn't in the range that guarantees you business class seats but it's decent. But the work is demanding and most of them have to be out of home a lot and they all have young kids. Most of them also have wives who work.

One of these men lives in Bangalore with his two young sons and juggles his office routine and travel to be home with them while his wife works in a fairly senior position in another city. They figured that Bangalore made sense in various ways, quality of life being huge and that her career shouldn't be compromised either and she commutes back home on weekends. A lot of sacrifice and adjustment from everyone of course, but they make it work quite beautifully. 

Another dad is married to a journalist who works afternoons through nights. I've spent some time with him and heard him on calls and each decision he takes has to account for how he'll be back home with his young daughter. They are managing to make this work without live-in help and while it could be stressful for any single person to watch, as a parent and a mother it just warms my cynical heart. 

I too live in a similar set up where both parents have to coordinate with each other to make sure at least one of us is at home, at least by night when the kids come home. Day before yesterday, there was a sudden need for me to fly out on a day when my husband was already in Ludhiana. Usually my mother travels from Chennai to Bangalore and stays with the kids but at 7:00 PM in the night, it's not really an option to have her come over from another city when I have to leave the house at 5:00 AM the next day. 

I tried to make emergency arrangements with a colleague and my maid. When my husband heard how complicated the logistics were, he promptly called his friend (a father of three) and told him that this was insane. This friend also happens to be my client on the job that required me to travel suddenly. You'd think that the most reasonable response would be - "Sure, let us reschedule this so you travel when it's not so insane." What he did though was offer to pick up his kids, drop them off at his house and then come over to my place and watch my kids till I got back late at night. I imagine it's hard to understand the power of that offer if you're not a working mother, but it's like if Neil Armstrong had been a gay, Indian woman and taken a giant leap on the moon. 

Incidentally, I do seem to know a statistically questionable number of engaged dads and "Ram Mohan Roy-like" men. And yes, I know it's not descriptive of the norm and there's probably not even enough numbers to call this a trend, but this too does happen and in the reams of angst we read about men not doing enough as parents and caregivers, I'd really like for this to be recorded in writing.

It's a little early in the morning but if I did make a toast, it would be to Penguin Dads. May their tribe increase.

Nima Srinivasan

Disclaimer: This has nothing to do with Doniger and Hindus. 

Thanks to social media, everyone and their Tiger Mom has an opinion on parenting, status of women depending on whether they work or not, gender equations etc. While I do study such social dynamics I write this not because it's an academic piece or descriptive of something that has achieved critical mass, but because it's a story of real men and one that needs to be told. 

A couple of male friends of mine started a company. The kind of work they do is what entrepreneurs call a "passion project." The money isn't in the range that guarantees you business class seats but it's decent. But the work is demanding and most of them have to be out of home a lot and they all have young kids. Most of them also have wives who work.

One of these men lives in Bangalore with his two young sons and juggles his office routine and travel to be home with them while his wife works in a fairly senior position in another city. They figured that Bangalore made sense in various ways, quality of life being huge and that her career shouldn't be compromised either and she commutes back home on weekends. A lot of sacrifice and adjustment from everyone of course, but they make it work quite beautifully. 

Another dad is married to a journalist who works afternoons through nights. I've spent some time with him and heard him on calls and each decision he takes has to account for how he'll be back home with his young daughter. They are managing to make this work without live-in help and while it could be stressful for any single person to watch, as a parent and a mother it just warms my cynical heart. 

I too live in a similar set up where both parents have to coordinate with each other to make sure at least one of us is at home, at least by night when the kids come home. Day before yesterday, there was a sudden need for me to fly out on a day when my husband was already in Ludhiana. Usually my mother travels from Chennai to Bangalore and stays with the kids but at 7:00 PM in the night, it's not really an option to have her come over from another city when I have to leave the house at 5:00 AM the next day. 

I tried to make emergency arrangements with a colleague and my maid. When my husband heard how complicated the logistics were, he promptly called his friend (a father of three) and told him that this was insane. This friend also happens to be my client on the job that required me to travel suddenly. You'd think that the most reasonable response would be - "Sure, let us reschedule this so you travel when it's not so insane." What he did though was offer to pick up his kids, drop them off at his house and then come over to my place and watch my kids till I got back late at night. I imagine it's hard to understand the power of that offer if you're not a working mother, but it's like if Neil Armstrong had been a gay, Indian woman and taken a giant leap on the moon. 

Incidentally, I do seem to know a statistically questionable number of engaged dads and "Ram Mohan Roy-like" men. And yes, I know it's not descriptive of the norm and there's probably not even enough numbers to call this a trend, but this too does happen and in the reams of angst we read about men not doing enough as parents and caregivers, I'd really like for this to be recorded in writing.

It's a little early in the morning but if I did make a toast, it would be to Penguin Dads. May their tribe increase.

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