The Changing Role of Dads

Guest Post by wordssetmefreee

When I was a homemaker (when my kids were little), I was in this playgroup of 5 kids and their parents. 4 of them were moms and there was one dad. It was my first time meeting a full time stay-at-home dad. He was completely capable and handled tantrums, diaper leaks, eating disasters, and slushy mud puddles with ease and a great sense of humor. This was about 10 years ago.

Now I meet stay-at-home dads everywhere – in my neighborhood, at work, at my kids’ school, in my support group. Some of them work from home. Some of them run businesses from home.  Others take care of their little kids and the house full time.

In the last post, Chaiwallah brought up the point about a man being discriminated for being a homemaker. I do not see this discrimination as something separate (men’s suffering versus women’s suffering in patriarchy) but as connected. The more we encourage gentleness and caring in boys, the more nurturing and helpful they will be at home when they become parents. Dads doing their fair share at home supports moms’ empowerment. If men are free of stereotypes, then women are free to make more choices. If men can choose to stay at home more, then women can choose to be more career focused (in families that prefer to have this division of labor). If both parents choose to work outside the home, then both can share the housework and childcare fairly without attaching gender labels to these duties.

Here’s a sampling of some recent ads about dads. Of course, for every one of these ads, there are a 1000 others that show women in traditional roles.  In reality, (if we look at stats worldwide) men have a long way to go in terms of doing their fair share at home. But, look around you. Things are changing, little by little. The fact that businesses want to spend millions of dollars positioning their products around this cultural shift means that the shift is happening. It means we are beginning to lean toward the following notions:

  • gentleness, warmth, and caring don’t make a man any less of a human being
  • the ability to demonstrate emotions makes a human being stronger, not weaker
  • dads are not clueless at home, they can be relied on to do their part at home and keep the family running smoothly, and they can multi-task as well as moms
  • housework, cooking, and cleaning are not “inferior” jobs assigned to “less capable” people (read women), they are simply – jobs that need to get done -and every person (man or woman) has to learn to do them.

Swiffer Ad – dads cleaning the house, watching kids jumping in puddles. Dad complains, “no such thing as deep couch sitting” 🙂

Dove Ad –Dads kissing, hugging, playing with their children. Dads helping kids out of stuck shirts, cleaning them after toilet use, ready to help when they’re stuck on a road, when they’re afraid of water, when they have a bad dream, when they’re distressed.

Tide – Child napping with dad.

Cheerios – A funny ad about a capable, confident dad – it’s called “How to dad” 🙂

Extra gum Origami – Dad is there with daughter through all the stages of growing.

Johnson’s – Dads comfortable conveying their love through touch, caring for their babies, being delighted in them.

And here’s a dad who’s better at cleaning than mom – because cleaning is just like any other skill – it isn’t gender specific – some people are great at it, others not so great 🙂 Some people enjoy it, others don’t.


Watching these ads, I am reminded of my childhood. My father would practice volleyball with me to help me win the matches at school. The ball would keep going over the fence and he would quickly scale the fence and get it back in a jiffy. Bonus points for teaching me as well how to scale the fence 🙂 He was also a great cook and could make the best eggplant bhajjis. He would slice them so thinly and dip them in such light batter that they would just melt in the mouth.

Please share if you had fun experiences with your dads at home doing things that break stereotypes. Also, if you have seen other nice dad ads, please share.

Do you agree that things are changing in this regard? Or do you feel they are predominantly the same?  What has been your experience with your father/husband/siblings/friends/coworkers?  If you’re a guy, please add how you feel about all this.  Do you want to change things?  Do you want to be a different kind of dad from your own (assuming your own played a traditional father’s role)?

Related Posts:

I Want To Be A Dad. – Radhika Vaz

“My problem is my wife doesn’t like me hanging out with friends.”

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s body and Willow Smith’s hair.

An email from an Indian father: I want to place on record my own story as a warning to anyone…

Workplace Equality requires Equality at Home

The Men in Our Lives

Why are these dads such a threat to patriarchal social structures?

Dad wears short shorts to teach daughter what she wears is everybody’s business and everybody’s approval proves her great worth.

“My dad tells me not to wear skimpy outfit when he is around”

“I know my dad is short tempered but he was never this aggressive until my relatives started making him over think about my marriage.”

Dad knifes girl for speaking to lover

Why do men NOT have to choose between being a CEO and a father, but women have to make this choice.

“Freedom can wait, I’m staying put for Dad”

Abhishek Bachchan as a Working Dad in the new Idea ad.

“My husband says he can’t go against his family. My father says study but not without your FIL’s permission.”

“Ask your father if he has never beaten your mother!” Please adjust.

Response to “Koi Baap Apni Beti Ko Kab Jaane Se Rok Paya Hai”

Haryana killing : Here is a father A P Singh might want to defend.

“This dad is openly threatening his daughter and is instigating others to burn alive their daughters.”

The father threw the baby on the ground and tried to strangle her with his legs: No case registered.

Father wants the world to know her real name.

Feminism Is Good For Society

Where do they go away?




Where do they go away?

Just an old man crossing the road, shopping bags in hand, hesitating in front of the car,

Made my eyes fill up.

I wanted to walk with him while he crossed the road

He had to be more than 74.

Men more than 74 do live.

They shop, they walk.

They nag their children.

They call them all the time asking them to Google the new medicine they have been prescribed.

They trust their children more than the specialists.

Or they look for excuses to call them.

They call to ask if their married-and-mother-of-two daughter had got back home safely after her first drive on the highway.

They always have the answers.

They know what to do, when the steering wheel is jammed…

Once he called and mentioned some pain.

When he didn’t sound annoyed when I showed concern, I should have guessed.

But I never thought.

The calls reminded me to be more regular with the gym, not to inherit carelessness.

They force their daughters to get a paper and pen and write down the names of their great grandparents.

The ones who had to leave Kashmir in a hurry

Of a great grand mother who brought her baking skills and mouth watering recipes with her from there,

For a forever hungry grandson

Who years later, when he has restrictions on his diet,

Would describe to a non-foodie daughter

The huge oven in which she rolled arbi leaves

And stuffed them with …

I have forgotten what the stuffing was,

And now there is no one to tell me.

He had talked of how he had run after the tonga carrying his mother away, at the age of five…

All those December holidays when I had the first choice of New Year diaries and calendars

In exchange of copying all the addresses from the last year’s diaries

I continued to do this all my life;

Later I had to check his hotmail account,

And respond to his emails, response dictated over the phone

I did it out of habit,

I thought it was just a continuation of a chore I had done all my life…

I didn’t notice how I had never before checked his mail, only updated his address books.

I once chatted on MSN Messenger with my siblings pretending to be dad,

Who thought then why he had difficulty writing his own mail?

When he and his walking friend,

Like two little boys, tried making Grilled Fish in their never used microwave,

Me dictating the recipe over the phone

They made an absolute mess, finally eating a home delivered dinner of grilled fish and French fries 🙂

My vegetarian mom disapproved.

but I delighted in and defended his love for food.

He held ice cream eating competitions amongst the grand children.

How do you think of such a person as old?

When I locked the car keys inside the car,

On a hot summer afternoon, in a new city, feeling lost

He showed me how to open the lock with a 6″ scale, on the cell phone.

Once in South Extension a cow had come running, chased by someone.

And I screamed,

Dad came in between, as expected, as taken for granted that he would…

So wasn’t it natural that I never noticed he was aging?

Not even when I opened a Flickr account for him,

And loaded his collection from his young Photography Club days.

He said

You think you will keep me alive like this?

And I laughed, “What  a nautanki-party we are  Papa!”

I was reassuring him, because it’s all a state of mind,

If you think you will live – you will live.

But we read about how we fool ourselves the fastest?

It’s true.

He wanted to talk about his younger years…

He wondered if the way we didn’t know of our great grandparents, maybe my grand children will never hear of  him…

He was thinking of death.

And I told him some grandparents are never forgotten.

I told him what his grand children thought of him, how he was their hero..

I know I was always there,

There when he spoke so often of death.

Of friends no more.

When his sister died, he said she was younger.

He asked if it was going to be his turn next.

He was laughing I thought. I never thought he meant it.

I teased him about how many ice creams he would eat at my daughter’s wedding.

I wasn’t comforting, I believed that.

He called all the time,

He called when friends visited, while I shopped, drove, attended PTAs …

He knew what I cooked each day

And complained about how my mother won’t let him eat forbidden Butter Chicken or Gajar Halwa.

Or he’d call to say, like a naughty child,

How he ate salted, fried cashew nuts he wasn’t supposed to

Delighting in sincere concern!

He who was too proud to tolerate sympathy,

And he who had never any patience with advice,

Would discuss in detail my ideas of how to eat healthy but tasty sweets…

And yet I didn’t see the changes.

His talk of his childhood,

Of his regrets

And his pride,

And the things he gave up to raise us well…

His photography, rowing, athletics, horse riding, dramatics, reading and writing…

And I listed out which of his grandchildren had inherited which,

Especially the youngest who can eat without pause.

No regret there, I know I was always there,

And it was not out of any sense of duty.

So I heard his delighted laughter, at the mention of the youngest grandchild… while loading the washing machine.

I asked for advice while shopping for electronics

I called him when asked to pay a fine (He said throw the money on his face.)

I complained about Indian schools

And discussed Lalu’s Railway Budget and Cricket…

But I never got to say good bye.

Now that he is not there, I can see so much more of him,

In all that is missing.

I got a call from Reliance Communications, asking if I had some problem with the service.

I thought it was a sales call, but then she said,

“You’ve not been using the phone, ma’am.”


(This post started as a post about my mom, about how she was coping without dad, in response to Solilo’s beautiful post about senior citizens.)


Note: Found this post dated April 20th amongst unpublished drafts.

Date April 20th, 2008, Time 6 pm.

Husband watching TV. With IPL, ICL he’s even more glued to the TV, if that was possible. I am glued to my laptop. Kids busy preparing for their bright futures in their rooms…or at least one of them is. The other one enters the room.

Daughter- There’s nothing nice to eat at home! Husband can hear nothing except the TV.
IHave some juice.
Daughter – No, something nice.
I (knowing very well what ‘nice’ means) – Like what? Shall I cut you an apple?
DaughterNo not fruit or fruit juice. Not something good for health! Something nice.

Husband generally believes I get carried away with my passion for healthful and wholesome; he gives us an absent minded glance.

I say – What you need is a glass of milk and a sandwich.
Husband continues watching TV. Daughter gives me “and you call yourself my mother?” look.
Maybe all this is just an excuse, because you don’t want to study. (watching Husband who now peels his eyes off the TV and gives the brat a glance).
HusbandWhat do you want to eat?
Daughter(without looking at me) Plum cake. Masala peanuts. And Pepsi.
look like I am going to choke What? You want an upset stomach and pimples? Just before exams? You go do your work; I will get you some chilled watermelon.

Husband, eyes at the TV again, mutters… Are you sure?
Daughter – I don’t want something healthy, I want something I like...I am studying!
(to me) – It’s okay during exams…they are working hard, let them have what they want…
I (very firmly, pretending to get up) – I will sprinkle some chat masala on watermelon and you will love it with …
No I don’t want such things! I want something nice!!! (Realises this is taking time. Sits down)
I – What’s wrong with you? Show me what you were studying, maybe it’s becoming too much, I will ask you some questions to help you revise…
Daughter Nooooo I am hungry…
Husband forgets the TV, picks the phone (like I knew he would) and orders Plum cake, Pepsi and Tasty Nuts for instant home delivery from the neighbourhood grocery I knew he would 🙂
I pretend to give up in mild disgust…

Happy Daughter’s Day 🙂


When I was twelve, we were in Jaipur. This was in 1975-76 …we had no TV then. When I see my kids today I wonder if without the laptops, TV, an internet connection…they would have been different. We had a ‘Children’s Room Constitution’ (CRC), with written rules followed by all (three) of us. Some rules were applicable to the two adults in the family. They were not allowed to break any promises for example. They unabashedly flouted these rules. We had CRC Currency, a Children’s Room Currency (with stamps and initials of all three children). Part of this was influenced by Enid Blyton but the bigger influence came from a new subject started in class VI, Civics. The first time I read about our Constitution, which Dr Ambedkar took three years to draft…I was fascinated.

Why didn’t I take up Law as a career? Didn’t give it a thought. My mother was clear that I should take Science and be a doctor. That’s what her father had wanted, at least one his four daughters to do.

I had no interest in becoming a doctor, I loved and lived for reading and writing. I wanted to be a reporter, run a local newsletter (…like we read about freedom fighters doing). I believed I could change the world with the power of my pen. I persuaded my uninterested siblings to read the three local (room) magazines I took out. We invariably ran short of carbon paper (three copies had to be made, one for the children’s room, one for the ‘papa-mummy’s’ room and a third was kept for record with the publisher.

My two younger siblings soon lost interest in the new game, but I continued to take out magazine after magazine with homemade carbon paper. All the wax crayons at home were used up to rub on blank sheets to create carbon copying paper. Sometimes I thought I would grow up to be an illustrator. I also found Dad’s old Agfa Isoli camera and spent all my pocket money on buying film rolls and printing black and white photographs.

My dad did not encourage all this. He warned us that there was only one way to be successful in life and that was through academics. He had been an amateur photographer in his young days. One had to do the Developing on one’s own then. He used a dark room inside my grandfather’s house. He joined an amateur photographers’ club and they planned shoots and exhibitions. He rowed and won trophies, rode horses, was an athlete, had great aim and was a great shot. He read about Astrology and made birth charts of all his family and extended family. We devoured his collection of books on Astronomy too …now why did someone like that discourage most hobbies his children pursued?

I kind of didn’t understand this, not really giving it much thought but wishing we (I) were allowed/encouraged to do the ‘useless things’ we (I) loved so much to do.

When I saw my daughter Tejaswee loading her sketches on Deviant, I was worried. She seemed to be spending too much time just sketching, scanning and loading her art work on the net.

Or she’d be busy taking macro shots of some flower or insect, or her own eyes (!) to post on her Flickr account.

Another time I found the internet connection becoming too slow, she told me it must be because she was downloading ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’. I wish she would show the same interest in finishing the work she was given by her SAT trainer.

When she says she doesn’t get along with an acquaintance or class mate because they are not astrologically compatible, it bothers me. “Don’t take astrology seriously, there isn’t enough research, too many contradictions….”  But I am to blame – they have heard me say similar things.

Papa was right I guess. He did not stop us, but he conveyed that he considered academics important. Hobbies were fun, meant for free time. Sometimes I find myself repeating his words. I know she is unlikely to use any of these things to earn a living, I see her doing fabulously… A successful career of her choice can be hers, she is smart….

And she says she wants to take medicine. My mother was worried, “She will be middle aged by the time she starts practicing...”

But didn’t she want me to be a doctor???

I have realised you are happier then so many doctors I know, you should do what you like to do.

Well, then your granddaughter wants to be a doctor.”

My mother is not at all happy.

My phone has not been ringing with my dad demanding attention. Normally he calls to tell me everything, and to find out if I bought or sold something (in the stock market), to insist that I never miss a day in the gym, to tell me how my mother tries to get her way all the time.

He loves dogs and feeds some stray dogs outside the house.

She objects to that! You should see how they greet me, one of them seems to actually sing in delight or in complain, and your mother does not like them…yesterday I was just feeding them some chicken bones I had saved in the freezer, and she did not like it.

Why would mom object to his feeding left-over chicken bones to stray dogs? “She says they cannot come so close to the fridge, they should be fed outside, they are not to enter the house...”

I was aghast, “Papa did you really bring stray dogs inside the house!!!” My mom snatched the phone, “You stop giving him these ideas, if those dogs come inside this house one more time, I go out.” LOL LOL LOL No wonder we had such a fun filled childhood, with parents mock fighting so entertainingly 🙂

Today my dad is in ICU. We are flying to Delhi tomorrow.

Edited: Added the pictures on 14th October 2010.