Recently, Indian skipper MS Dhoni and his wife Sakshi became parents of a baby girl. Even though 'Captain Cool' was elated, he could not fly to India to spend time with the newborn, as he was preparing to defend the World Cup in Australia.
"I am on national duty," Dhoni said, knowing that the hopes of billions were riding on his team's shoulders. While the Indian cricket team captain's case is understandable, there are many new-age dads who are making it a point to work around conventional set-ups to be there for their kids in their early years.
"In my family, male members were never that involved. It was the mother who took care of the kid. But for me, becoming a dad was the best thing that ever happened, and I made it a point to help my wife in every aspect. I work five days a week, so on Friday and Saturday nights, I make sure that my wife gets rest and I take care of the baby," says Ashutosh Srivastava, a PR consultant and father to a four-month-old boy. He stays awake at nights to change nappies, put the baby back to sleep, even helps feed him.
Others go a step further. Abhishek Verma is a resident of California, USA. Eager to spend the initial years with his newborn daughter, the techie has opted for a three-year sabbatical. "My company had offered paternity leave and flexible hours. But I wanted to be around before the schooling system took over," he said.
While paternity leave, creches at the office, flexible hours and work-from-home options exist at several workplaces internationally, and at some in India too, most of them still follow the rigid system of just offering three months of maternity leave. Raghav Modi, who works in exports, has an unconventional work set-up at home besides a main office. This allows him to spend a considerable amount of time around his kids - a 15-month-old son and a seven-year-old daughter - and interact with them on a daily basis.
"In this day and age, workplaces should come up with a plan that is beneficial to both (the parent/employee and the employer). I don't think a fixed set of rules would work because each household has a different set-up," he says.
This is especially true for young couples working in big cities without traditional support systems in place. With both parents working long hours and never-ending commute, day-to-day stress can hinder the best of intentions when it comes to raising a child.
"Given the kind of routine and work culture that most organisations follow these days, it becomes difficult to spend time with your kids. And the traffic situation in Mumbai only makes matters worse," says Sagar Tanna, a communications professional. So, he has made morning time with his 11-month-old son his top priority.
He adds, "I try and ensure that I end up spending at least three-four hours a day with him. For Reaansh and me, having showers together is a daily routine. We also sit together from 8 am to 8.30 am while I have my morning tea and breakfast, and he has his milk and Cerelac. These are his formative days, I want to be part of everything that he does and learns."
Tips for young dads
*You must understand that parenting is a big responsibility and once you have a child, you simply have to put your kid's life before yours. This might mean missing out on watching films, attending late-night parties or even going on holidays. It doesn't mean you completely give up on your own life, but the priorities do change.
*Try and involve yourself with your child's life and his/her daily activities. This will help create a strong bond between you and your child.
*Let the wife take the lead in the first couple of months and then divide your duties amicably.
*Share chores around the baby or the house. Understand the sheer physical, emotional and hormonal exhaustion that the wife goes through, and be supportive by preempting her needs.
- Swati Popat Vats, educator and parenting counsellor
Fathers who took time out
Roger Federer: The Swiss tennis player pulled out of the Madrid Masters last year as his wife Mirka was due to give birth.
"I've decided to be with my wife during these next few exciting weeks for our family," he posted on Facebook.
Imran Khan: During his wife Avantika Malik's pregnancy, and even after she gave birth to a baby girl, the actor didn't take up new projects for a few months.
Brad Pitt: Angelina Jolie and her husband Brad, don't do movies at the same time to ensure one parent is always there with their brood.
Prince William: The future heir to the British throne told the London Evening Standard, "I very much feel that if I can do it myself, I want to do it myself."