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About Me

I am an independent writer and multi-award winning blogger who writes on parenting, humour, fiction and general lifestyle topics. - Sid Balachandran

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Category: Daddy Journals

On Gender Equality and being trolled

On Gender Equality and being trolled

So it finally happened.

 

Truth be told, I’ve been expecting this for a while so I cannot say that I am entirely shocked or surprised. After all, this is what social media has been largely reduced to. A place for anonymous and faceless trolls to align themselves with an agenda and not engage in healthy discussion, but just try to beat others into submission.

 

It wasn’t the social media that most of us signed up for, but hey, this is what it has become. Yes, everyone is entitled to their opinion; but that’s what it is – YOUR opinion; so say it, but don’t beat others over the head with it.

 

Anyway, on to the subject matter. Today, amongst other things, I was called an armchair activist for gender equality and told that I’m someone who won’t walk the walk. To the people (yes, more than one!), apparently, I am like the thousands of others who just sit and harp on about gender equality and do nothing about it in reality to break stereotypes. Of course, not to mention the other messages which went along the lines of:

 

You’re a SAHD because you’re sad (Yes, great work with the pun! )

You’re just an attention whore who does nothing to empower anyone. You have a rich wife, so it’s nice to sit at home.  

And of course, the very stereotypical, You are not being of any use to society. By nature women are the primary caregivers and it’s not a man’s place to change equations.

 

Of course, some of the others I can’t really put up, because hey, family audience 😛. And I did try to amuse them by pointing them to my blog and the various write-ups, but they were obviously having none of it.

 

Now, I don’t think I owe anyone an explanation about what I do and why I do what I do, but this is important for me to get it off my chest.

 

I am a strong believer of gender equality and do whatever I can to help reach or get closer to that point. So, while I may be an armchair activist for many other things, I think over the past few years I’ve tried to do whatever little I can to help support the cause.  I did not become a SAHD so that I could sit at home and watch TV all day, or just enjoy while my wife went to work. It came on the basis of a lot of discussion and practical considerations where it made perfect sense for my wife to go back to work and for me to be around for a few years so that our son had someone around.

 

Yes, it may not have been a pre-planned thing, but I refuse to let anyone, least of all some faceless trolls, belittle it by saying that I did it to seek attention.I did it because to us it did not matter who went to work and who stayed at home because of our gender. It mattered to have one parent at home, and I gladly took on that role. It has been a learning curve and I learn new things every day, just like my wife would have, had she been the stay at home parent.

 

 

I agree that I am perhaps generalising here but look closely. All around, perhaps right in your own home, you will find instances of situations that reek of gender inequality. For instance, I personally know women who have chosen to be homemakers. And that’s a valid choice – the idea being that they are free to choose their own path without external influences. Now take a look again. How many women do you know who have perhaps been asked to stay at home once they became a parent? Perhaps quite a few. Now, I ask – how many men have been asked to stay at home once they became a parent? Yes, you hear that awkward silence – that’s the truth. Why is that? It’s largely conditioning, don’t you think?

 

Similarly, I know career women who manage both their careers and things at home successfully. But here’s another question. Why do they have to? Again, at the risk of generalising, a lot of men still don’t. IT’s not that they are incapable of balancing their work and how they contribute around the house. They can if they choose to.  And this is where the conditioning factor comes in. Some people say it’s not expected of them. In fact, I’ve even heard a couple of men say that they (spouses) don’t want their help. Perhaps the issue is that they’re looking at it as help. It’s not helpit’s called doing your bit. You are partners and that means equal responsibility. Treat them as you’d want to be treated.

 

So yes, I will continue to work in whatever way I can to ensure there’s a world where women aren’t forced or made to feel guilty for wanting to choose to go back to work after being a mother and a work where fathers can take on the responsibility and primary caregiving without having his intentions and masculinity questioned.

 

So men here’s your new definition of man-up. Take responsibility and don’t shame or emotionally blackmail your wife or partner (or any one!)for going back to work if she chooses to or for apparently choosing her career over her kid. She has a life outside the kid and you – don’t be that douche who sticks to the mentality that women ARE or MUST BE the primary caregivers and that if they do go to work, they must after they make sure your lunch boxes are packed and kids are ready to go to school. You wouldn’t do it to yourself, would you? Why expect them to?

 

And women, if a man chooses to break the mould and be the primary caregiver, support them. Encourage them. Breaking stereotypes is difficult. I know. I’ve been through it.

 

Remember, we are all in this together. In this age, if you still think a woman’s place is in the kitchen or being a domestic goddess, or her only identity is that she’s the mother of the kids – then YOU are part of the problem, not the solution.

 

And enough with parenting being seen as primarily a mother’s territory. Yes, we’ve made some progress, but it’s not enough. Look around you. What we need is an attitude shift, and a willingness to accept the responsibility to be that change.

 

 

Parenting: I confess!

Parenting: I confess!

This is a confession of sorts. Perhaps, this may make you look at what I write in a completely different way, but I think I need to get it off my chest.

 

We’re now sort of midway through the son’s summer holidays and I am pleasantly surprised that neither of us have ended up hurting each other or in the hospital. Well, our egos are probably hurt a little, but then again, whose isn’t.

 

To the frequent readers of this blog, you may be familiar with the fact that I usually write about (my wife calls it complain) some of my son’s antics. While some of it is, well, mildly edited for humour, a lot of it is the truth. Unlike my wife, I do find him quite a handful. Of course, it also has to do with the fact that he is perhaps a completely different person with me than he is with my wife. But there is also an uglier version of this that has been bothering me for the past few months, perhaps even a year. And that is that I am probably a lot more awful at this parenting thing than I care to admit.

 

My wife and I had a discussion the other day. Something which sort of ended with some deeply philosophical statement from her.

 

“Did you really think this parenting thing was going to be a joy ride, Sid? Maybe you weren’t ready.”

 

Of course, the emotional side of mine started to rumble a little bit in protest. But for some reason, I did not reply. In the interest of being transparent, I must confess. My son and I had the mother of all meltdowns earlier. Actually, strike that. My son and I have the mother of all meltdowns every time we have a fight. And it’s worth pointing out that he has just turned 5; so if you are fairly religious, this might be a good time for you to say a little prayer for us for the teenage years. So, subsequently, my wife decided to drop this mother of all bombs (not to be confused with the MOAB that President Orangetoon dropped as an after-dinner entertainment on Syria) on me with that observation.

 

Now usually, I react quicker to such statements than most chemical reactions. So, I was quite shocked with myself when I actually remained quiet and just waited for what she had said to sink in. It took some time, but it eventually did. Now, I can’t give a yes or no answer for this, but I might rephrase it slightly.

 

I really can’t answer if I knew the moment that I was ready to be a father. We’d always wanted to have children and if it wasn’t possible biologically, we were always ready to adopt. But what I did not realise was this fact that been said before, and probably will continue to be told for many generations to come.

 

Parenting is extremely hard work.  And some days, I really wonder if it is truly worth all this.

 

I am not a sexist. So the thought of having a kid and then expecting my wife to take care of him or her was never on my agenda. In my head, I had been ready to share the responsibilities. But yes, perhaps I did expect it to be easier that what it has been. Mostly because my mum used to gush about how awesome I was as a child and how adulthood spoilt me.

 

In fact, if I think about it,  I may have been born an adult and then aged mentally in reverse. Sort of like Benjamin Button, except it is just my brain with this ‘curious case’.  But what I probably underestimated was the enormity of this responsibility that we had undertaken. Wait, I had undertaken.

 

I understand that this confession is really not selling parenthood to anyone who may be considering having a child. And that is not my job. It’s a choice you must make, and all I am saying is that ‘expect the unexpected’.

 

I must also take responsibility for the fact that perhaps, some of the reasons for me finding ‘parenting’ quite difficult at times, is because of my behaviour – being constantly on the edge, procrastinating – the list could practically go on.

 

Having a child was a conscious decision. So, I will not (and can not) imagine the world without my kid. Just like I find it incredibly hard to imagine a time when I did not know my wife. That’s how deep these relationships sometimes become – sort of like the roots of a tree, slowly getting entangled with each other, supporting us through everything.

 

Over past few years, I have come to terms with a number of things about parenting. Things that I never even imagined that I would one day think – not even in the most far-fetched dreams of mine. And these feelings.

 

 

I have realised that it is absolutely normal to want to throw someone off a cliff but at the same time feel overwhelmingly hurt when the same person says they don’t want you. I’ve realised that sometimes you may find yourself wishing ‘What might have been’ to wishing you never have to even live a moment without this tiny little being who is, quite literally, your heart walking outside your body. And that you will constantly swing between hoping that he or she would just leave you alone for a moment to wanting nothing more than hearing them whisper sweet cute nothings into your ears

 

If I am honest, most of all, I have realised that it is normal to sometimes want to just climb into a cave and sit alone, especially when this tiny human being is pushing all the ‘right’ buttons to make you do ‘wrong things’. But the true love comes from seeing it all through and being there. Because at the end of it all, the goofiest of smiles from them soothes your aching, overwhelmed soul better than anything else ever could.

 

You may be wondering why I’m telling you all this. Mostly because this post is both a confession and a commitment.

 

A confession of the fact that perhaps, I have been a more shittier father than I had ever planned to be and not as awesome as I sometimes make out to be.

 

And a commitment to my wife that I will not complain so much. And of course, to my son that I will keep striving to be a better parent, yell less, do more things with him and though there may be times when he sees the darker side of mine, I will always love him. Possibly more than anything or anyone else.

 


Addendum:

I do not REGRET having a kid or being a parent. That was not the intent of this post. I also realise that these are perhaps some of my deepest thoughts that I’ve now made public, mostly so that I acknowledge that I may not have been trying as hard as I possibly should have. But as with anything, the first step towards being a ‘better you’, is knowing what to fix. 🙂
Hey Dad, Can you walk the walk?

Hey Dad, Can you walk the walk?

What’s happening in the world nowadays troubles and worries me in many ways – as a human being who is concerned about others, as an adult who sees rampant misogyny and frequently hears reports of sexual assault, as a man who feels that he should be doing more to stand up for others, especially women, as a husband who hopes (and prays) that his wife and women he knows are safe when they go out, and as a father who is trying his best to raise a son who will respect women and everyone else.

 

Of course, it doesn’t help that we live in a society that is quick to objectify women, turn a blind eye to them being molested, stalked, insulted or raped and then make them feel like it was all their fault. But it is imperative for us to realise that together we form, what is called, the ‘society’ and are responsible for ensuring that everyone around us feels and remains safe. It is also high time for us to realise that fathers can play an active role in raising sons who will grow up to create a fairer, more equal and safer society.

 

This article is part of my write-up at Parent Circle for #InternationalWomensDay2017. 

Read the rest here: Raising boys who respect women – a father’s take

PS: It opens in a new window – so feel free to come back and leave your comments 🙂

The Young And The Restless

The Young And The Restless

 There are days when I look at my soon-to-be five-year-old and be awed about ‘how mature he is and how logical his thought process is.’

 

And as I sit there and virtually pat myself on the back for having managed to do a reasonable job with him so far, the mood suddenly changes. From someone who perfectly understands what you’re trying to tell him, to someone who pretends to be dumb – the swings in mood are both amusing and scary.

 

Amusing, if you’re an on-looker.  Scary, if you’re the parent.

You’ve probably heard that phrase –  The Terrible Twos. Well, I did too. And then I experienced it and found out the reason why they call it that. Of course, what I didn’t realise was that it would then turn into the ‘Terrorist Threes, where a lot of things (including the lovely glass Bric-à-brac in my showcase ) would develop a tendency to blow up without any warning.

 

But then again, a lot of people continued to tell me that things would only get better. Someone, even told me that the worst was over. And I believed it. Until he turned four.

 

Year Four too has been one of many discoveries and learnings, much like the ones before. And just like that, I’ve also discovered that my son has graduated from the illustrious League of Ordinary Toddlers to a gang of the Young and the Restless. If you too have kids in this age range, you’ll probably be able to relate to some of these. For the rest, enjoy the laugh. After all, one person’s **** is another’s entertainment 😃

 

You will be subjected to almost-FBI type enquiries, at any point in time. Where did you go? What did you do? Who did you meet? What did you eat? Why didn’t you take me? What did you bring for me? I don’t think even my wife and I have asked each other so many questions about our daily activities, despite having known each other for so many years.

 

 

You’ll find yourself constantly pitted against your partner, despite your numerous conscious efforts and decisions to not say yes when the other one says no. Somehow, they always manage to find the weak link with the precision of a CIA Interrogator. In our home, I am always the weakest link.

 

Your phone calls will be constantly monitored and interrupted by a tiny dictator who orders you around. You will also discover that most of your phone conversations will frequently end with ‘I’ll call you back later, okay?’

 

Remember the time I told you about my adorable little munchkin using the wall as his canvas? Well, the little Picasso has moved on from there. Now, he’s into free art – where anything from the television screen to your white shirt is a possible canvas to express his artistic capabilities. Might be a great time to invest in a painting company.

 

 The moment you walk in through the door carrying a bag – any kind, really; from luggage to just grocery shopping – it will be scrutinised in great detail, and even more thoroughly than the security officer at the airport.

 

 You will also soon discover that they love reading. Yes, they used to earlier too, but most of the times they would just turn the pages of the book and just admire it. Now, they love it when you read to them. The same thing. Over. And over. And over, until you’ll be muttering the lines in your sleep. [Also valid for movies  – *sings the Minion theme song*]

 

At some point, you may also find yourself having to explain to neighbours about how the screaming in the bathroom is merely the result of failed attempts at getting your kid to brush their teeth.

 

Your cardio workout involves running after a tiny human being, trying to keep up with them. And sometimes, you will be holding the pants that they were supposed to be wearing.

 

You constantly find yourself negotiating – from food to sleep. It’s like living with a 3-foot tall salesman, who is damn good at their job and isn’t afraid to twist your arms to get what he/she wants.

 

Time and again, you’ll find yourself sitting outside the loo singing loudly so ‘someone’ can poop; that is when you’re not answering questions about what you are doing inside the toilet and if they can accompany you.

 

You will be always prepared for a tantrum at the most public location that you can imagine – from malls to train stations.

 

You’ll wonder why they have to wait until the absolute last fricking minute to tell us they need to go to the bathroom. It’s always like an episode of ‘Nina Needs to go’

 

The likelihood of them repeating something you said is directly proportional to the kind of the crowd you’re with. The more ‘politically incorrect’ the phrase, the higher the probability.

 

Your idea of a holiday is now having a lie-in and breakfast in bed, without having to worry about anything else.

 

You’re constantly being threatened to be poked in the eye by an object they want you to ‘see’

 

The probability of you wanting a hug from them is inversely proportional to them wanting to give it to you. Prepares you for rejection.

 

And of course, if you do happen to catch them on a good day, put on your most charming smile and ask them why they behave the way they do, you’ll probably get an answer like this:

‘Because I can!’

Suddenly, everything makes perfect sense. Your ‘Because I said so!’ now has a valid counter argument.

 

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@iwrotethose” display_mode=”box”]Someone smart said: Parenting guides should end with recipes for strong cocktails.You will need it.[/tweetthis]
Help! I’ve read a Parenting Book!

Help! I’ve read a Parenting Book!

Let me start with a confession.

When we discovered that we were expecting, after the initial joy-meets-confusion-meets-breathlessness-meets-joy period, we too did something that we sort of feel silly about in hindsight. We spent a lot of hard-earned money on books about pregnancy. Yes, the very same fat bundle of literature printed on paper so flawless and shiny that you would probably feel the urge to sanitize your hands before turning each page, for the fear of making it dirty.

 

As expected, we too read them from cover to cover, often analysing why our (okay, my wife’s – but I did give good competition with my belly!) baby bump looked nothing like the perfectly formed round belly that the model on the cover the book had, to discussing about the authors’ various degrees that made them perfectly qualified to be giving us pregnancy advice. We read up on all everything related to pregnancies and babies until we felt like we’re totally in control of the situation and knew ‘what to expect when we were expecting’. Because that’s what the new generation of parents do; we like to harness the power of information that we have at our disposal because we’ve been trained to vomit out facts, at the drop of a hat.

 

What did happen was that (over)loaded with all of this information, we had frequent panic attacks when sometimes the foetus’ development was not at par with what they said in the books. Or we ended up rushing to the gynaecologist because we couldn’t feel the baby kick, when in fact, he was just taking a nap and all we needed was to drink some cold water to wake him up! Yes, in retrospect, we do realise that they were all sort of guidelines – but to be honest, it was perhaps the first time we realised that ‘too much information is not always a good thing’.

 

Of course, we didn’t really learn our lesson. Which is why, when the baby was finally born, we graduated to parenting books.  The very ones that somehow with their pictures of adorably cute babies with rosy cheeks and smiles that could take away all your worries, seemed to promise that they hid the secret formulae to raising strong-happy-intelligent-artistically gifted-musically bestowed-athletically inclined-children who would be the ones to make everything alright with the world. Instead, what we got were stunning examples of a broadly generalised class of kids whose behavioural and developmental traits resembled nothing of our son’s at all.

 

Needless to say, we soon quit trying to follow those books. Because this is the part that nobody tells you about:

 

[tweetthis]Kids almost never behave like they say in these #parenting books. Mostly because they are yet to read the books. [/tweetthis]

 

It almost never goes the way it’s meant to go like in those amazing parenting books and magazines. And I reveal this, with all the experience of having read some of these books (just so you don’t have to – because I’m nice like that!) In fact, most of them are just the equivalent of click-bait articles that we read on the internet today. They draw you in with titles such as ‘How to raise the perfect kid who listens to you’ and then proceeds to tell you off in condescending tones, which makes you feel like you are the toddler now. No, thank you – I have my parents for that !😛

 

Of course, that’s not to say that these parenting books have not been at all useful.

 

In fact, we did end up using one of them to correct the shaky coffee-table that was missing one of those rubber thingamjigs on a leg. Oh, and we used another one to prop open the door when it gets really windy. And yet another to increase the height of my old desktop monitor. So yes, they have definitely gone ‘above and beyond’ what they were meant for.

 

In short, if you still want to go ahead and read these parenting bibles about raising ‘good kids’ – good luck. But remember this:

 

[tweetthis twitter_handles=”@iwrotethose” display_mode=”box”]Trying to grasp #parenting using a book is like Trump using Google to find what a President does. [/tweetthis]

 

There’s fat chance of that happening.

 


 

Author’s Note:

Having said all this, if I do ever bring out a physical book with my #DaddyJournal adventures and anecdotes, I expect all of you to buy it 😛

Also, there are some really good books on parenting out there. Funny and relatable ones. Go read them. Oh, and some of these books do have really useful tips. Yes, really.

‘Amma’ Mia

‘Amma’ Mia

Amma,

 

I am very conscious that I probably do not tell you this enough, but you mean a lot to me.

 

Growing up, you were my best friend up until I became old enough to make some friends of my own. Yes, there were others, but you single-handedly get the credit for being there for every one of my triumphs, sorrows and rants. Probably because you were always around. Almost everything I know today, I do because of you.

 

I remember the times that I used to run to you in school, trying to distract you from your work. Irrespective of how busy you were, you’d always find the time to hear me out and offer me a solution. I remember all the fun times, we’ve spent together doing homework, making charts for art class, designing towers for science projects, gossiping about movies and books and just talking about absolutely randomness. Even today, when I sometimes read to Rishi, I remember all those stories you used to tell me and all the night-time books we’ve read together. You taught me that the world wouldn’t be an easy place, and that it wasn’t always going to be a care-free ride.

 

Of course, we used to fight. In fact, some of them were down right vicious. But we always made up by the end of the day.

 

And then came the first separation.

 

I still remember those tears-filled eyes of yours when I let go of your hand and walked through those giant gates of the boarding school. I know it was difficult for you. I know how much it would have hurt you to see your only one move away from you. Yes, you remained strong. You gave me the strength to move on. You gave me the freedom to be independent. Though we hardly saw each other in the year that followed, you made the efforts to keep in touch with me. Even when I got caught up in that vicious circle of studies, sports, new friends and my new-found freedom. And when I returned after a year-long exile, a changed angry teenage, indifferent to everything and emotionless on surface, you still looked after me. You showered me with unconditional love and supported me.

 

Though I pretended not to see it then, or even understand it, I do now. And then came the day, when I left your home for good. I had grown up – gone from being the darling apple of your eye to a young ambitious man, wanting to explore the world, to break free from all shackles and emotions, and live life on my accord. I now know, how difficult it was for you to let me go again. Yet, you continued to be strong. You fought against your own emotions, not wanting to stand in the way of me chasing my dreams. And when I eventually brought you the girl of my dreams, you accepted her with open arms, even knowing well, that you would no longer be the only woman who I truly loved.

 

Amma, I know we have had our differences, and I know we will probably continue to do so for the rest of our lives. I know some of our arguments and fights have the potential to be etched in history as fierce battles that shook the very core of our relationship. Though I feign ignorance and irritation,  the reality is that I truly understand your concerns and worries. I also know that you will always find something to worry about, even if everything is well – You’re a mother after all, and worry is sort of second nature to you.

 

But today I want you to know this – When it comes to expressing emotions, I am terrible.(Just ask my wife:))

 

But remember:   you are my first pillar of strength and my unflinching support system; you’ve taught me how to love unconditionally; you’ve taught me  how to respect both men and women and value relationships; you’ve taught me how to be a better person!

 

And today on your birthday, I have just one message for you – I know that I’ve outgrown your lap; but I also know that I will never outgrow your heart. As for me, you’re the closest, I will ever come to magic!

I love you Amma – Happy Birthday!

 


 

Note:

Though this is a personal note for my mother on her birthday, I’ve opted to share it with all you lovely people for one simple reason. No matter how many arguments and fights we have with our parents, they almost always continue to love us unconditionally and hope nothing but the best for them. Often, we never realise the true impact of their love, till later in life.

For me, it took ‘being a parent’ to make me realise how indispensable my parents are for me. I may be termed as callous for what I’m about to say – but the truth remains, as much as I loved and respected my parents, until I became a father, I never knew what it felt to have your heart outside your body. Now, I do.

[Yes, a bit of cheesiness is warranted for. It’s my amma’s birthday, after all!]

PS: In spite of all this very public display of affection, if you ask my mother, she’ll probably still say I’m a Daddy’s Boy! Mothers, I tell you!

 

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