I would like to propose the beginnings of a revolution. Let’s not call it a revolution, actually, because that might spook the proletariat. My proletariat here comprises daddies.
Svend regularly cares for our 5-year old when I travel for conferences, but we usually rely on babysitters to cover the work-day. What this means is that, as an academic with a more flexible work week, I have the opportunity to spend various times of the day with Raihana, off and on, but Dad only gets to see her when she is winding down for bed, or on the weekend. The hours that stretch out during the day are lost to him. A part of the child’s life is never accessible to him.
Last week, while I was on a work-related trip, our babysitter suddenly became unavailable, and Svend had to take a day off because our peculiar circumstances did not make it possible for him to drop and pick her and take care of the day. He discovered what is for me a routine experience – the profound enjoyment of finding a group of preschool children entertaining themselves in a sunny school playground.
Why is it that fathers are deprived of that experience? While mothers are penalized for motherhood, fathers are ‘naturally’ shunted out of parental responsibilities during the week. I suspect there is some correlation between how the shorter life span of the male human and his inability to access the mundane, calming features of family. There, too, may lie his inability to effectively handle the needs of home and children, so that the mother emerges as the unchallenged expert on everything, from soothing babies to cooking a good curry. “I’m so BAD at it,” he whines, and she agrees, and snatches the ladle from him.
Let’s give him a chance. Give him a day for fatherhood. A day a week. Too much. All right then – a day a month, to care for the baby, to get the kid/s ready for school, drop them, pick them, get them their meals, entertain them, get up to speed on their needs, have serious daddy-talks, go to the playground – anything. A day a month – it isn’t too much. And don’t say that he gets two days a week, because the weekend is an entirely different kind of day. Dads need to be able to taste the flavor of a work week day with the child/ren. Let him have – at least a taste. Not to punish him for his absence the rest of the week, but to permit him the experience of which he is deprived.