It must be said that the world began to radically change for Fathers at least, with the social, economic and technical advances of the 20th century, especially in the modernist west. This no doubt, impacted the structure and function of the family, with a consequent shift in the authority of the father. A father’s influence was increasingly seen as minor, even negligible, and his importance was defined by how well he provided for the family.
This is the type of fathers, I certainly observed in the workplace. Father’s traditionally are reluctant to take time off or work from home due to taking on home duties with caring/looking after their young offspring. The conversations from fathers a few decades ago about looking after their children, a conversation worthy of a joke, some would even dread coming home to their children and family and saw work in the home as a chore or worse still “a women’s role”.
Such stereotypes were further emphasised in my work place given I have worked in a very male dominated financial services industry for over two decades and rarely saw Fathers take time off let alone mention any of their kids in a social setting. This I thought, was the norm, until I had my own and realised that it is a hard juggling act even for Fathers even when we have help from the other half. The demands of children are not to be underestimated and the connection which both parents (certainly based on my background and observations) need to have with their child is of paramount importance for various development needs for both the child and themselves.
My perception of what fatherhood should entail, stemmed largely from my late Father’s ways of parenting to a large extent. My father was from Bangladesh, who came as an economic migrant to England in the 1960s. He had me in his late 30’s, despite this, having grown up with 6 other siblings, he was a great father full of energy, who bathed us, changed our nappies, even cooked given he was a chef and all when juggling 3 jobs upto when I was a late teen. My mother did much too but had the hand of my Father to help around the home. He was a man of the home as well as outdoors, what we would term roles for the home and foreign office. Coming from a Bangladeshi origin, this was unique I later found. I made it known that when God graces me with a child of my own, I will wish to spend quality time with them whilst they are in my nest.
It is coming up to 7 years since my first born entered my beautiful World and changed my whole thinking and view of my landscape like no other. I was made redundant from my role at a top tier Financial Services company just 2 months prior to having my first born. Looking back this was a blessing in many respects, as soon as my son was born, the situation was such that I had to be the main carer for my son for at least 6-8 weeks after the birth due to my wife going through various complications during birth which required further treatment in hospital. As a result, I was the first to change my son’s nappy, give him his first feed and slept with him in my arms for the first few weeks in my arms in the wards. I gave his first scalp shave (dare I say, I needed steady hands) on Day 7, and by Day 21 he had his first circumcision (by a qualified practitioner I must add, not me) as required for sons in the faith of Islam. My situation was such that, I made it my right to be an involved father right from the outset. As the saying goes, start as you mean to go on.
7 years later, I think of myself as an involved and active Father, perhaps not the same way as my late Father but certainly from a modernity perspective to try use the tools and compliment the type of new age and environment we live in. This means doing the necessary, helping with cooking, cleaning, supporting their physical and emotional needs, and to be there for my children as the first point of reference and still complimenting the role of a women in the home and in society.
Certainly, with me being the only breadwinner, it is not easy spending time with my blessed little ones. However, where there is a will, there is a way. Thus, I look at taking on roles and working for organisation where flexible working is paramount from the outset, and speak to those who have worked in those organisations who have worked flexible. I go into roles thinking how can I ensure I can spend as much valuable time as possible with my children, taking days off to spend time with them at home, doing the drop off/pick up, playing with them at every opportunity I can get.
This summarises, what I have observed , since being an involved Father;
“Every time I stay home with a sick child, I learn more about them and our relationship grows. I learn a lot about my kids by going to their parent-teacher meeting…When I stay home with my kids, I am more invested in my marriage and my family. I feel closer to them, and I show my kids that marriage and family works best when it’s an equal partnership.”
I know that one day, my children will fly the nest and move into pasture new. I would hope that my experience and active role with them certainly in the formative years helps them become emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections. I know from the early years, I get so much if not more from being with my kids, there happiness is indeed my happiness. Thus, every day is a father day’s in my eyes.
Author: Abdul Ali
Photo Credit: Abdul Ali