Tom Stocky on Equal parenting

Paternity leaves, at home dads and parenting – Tom Stocky from Facebook shares his wonderful experience.

Today’s the last day of my paternity leave, so I wanted to reflect a bit on the experience. When I tell people I’m on a 4-month leave, the initial response is typically surprise that my company offers such a generous benefit. Facebook’s paternity leave policy is unusual, but I hope it becomes less so. It’s good for gender equality in the workplace and it’s good for families with fathers.

That’s typically followed by surprise that I’m actually taking it — why would I want to subject myself to that torture (from parents), why would I want to sit around and do nothing for 4 months (from non-parents), or why would I want to do what is surely a career-limiting move.

That last one was especially interesting to experience because in some ways people said to me what they didn’t feel permitted to say to women. Would my project still be there when I got back? Wouldn’t my ambitious coworkers use this as an opportunity (maliciously or not) to advance themselves at my expense? Wouldn’t I be viewed as being less committed to my work, thus stunting my own advancement for the foreseeable future? I didn’t know the answers to these questions, but I viewed this as an important enough experiment to find out.

The first days of paternity leave were harder than I thought. Caring for my daughter was physical work that required being constantly alert. I had thought her two naps each day would serve as breaks, but instead that time was mostly used for showering, feeding myself, washing bottles, cleaning up her high chair and toys, and doing tasks around the house that would be more difficult when she was awake.

Walks and car rides tended to be the real breaks. Those were the times when she was strapped into something and I wasn’t really able to do anything else, which meant I could let my guard down a bit and give my mind some rest.

For the first few weeks, I missed my old job. The new one was more physically exhausting and less mentally stimulating. Each day was almost identical to the last: wake, change, feed, play, feed, change, nap, change, feed, play, feed, change, nap, change, feed, play, feed, sleep. The fact that my day was interlaced with palindromes didn’t make it any more exciting.

A switch flipped sometime just after the 2nd month, when I could more easily imagine myself being happy doing this full time. Maybe it was because she was 2 months older and had learned new and cooler tricks or maybe it was because I was really starting to reap the benefits of my work. It was nice to have her like me so much, to come to me for comfort when she fell, to come and cuddle with me when she got sleepy, to run toward me screaming with excitement after I’d been away for awhile. I realized that’s just because I spent so much time with her, but I didn’t care, it felt really good. Maybe it was also because I got better at childcare. It feels nice to be good at something, and I got much better at the work I was doing at home.

Despite all that, though, there were daily nudges pushing me away from my home and back toward an office. Most of the parent groups were called “mommy groups” — my favorite was MOMS (Mothers Offering Mothers Support) Club, which managed to work mom/mother into its name 3 times thanks to the acronym. The parenting websites and parent/child classes were mostly targeted to moms, too.

I didn’t like being the only dad at the playground, getting cautiously eyed as moms pulled their kids a bit closer. It probably didn’t help that I tried to lighten the mood the first time by saying, “Don’t worry, I’m not going to nab your kid, I already got this one.” I felt awkward at the mid-day baby music class, like I was impinging on an established mom circle, so I switched to the 5pm one that had more dads.

But honestly, I got used to most of that, and I understand that websites, classes, and organizations are targeting their primary demographic. If I remember correctly, something like 96% of full-time parents in the US are women.

What I never got used to was the double-standard for fathers when it comes to childcare. I experienced it predominantly in three forms: (1) low expectations for fathers, (2) negative perceptions of working mothers, and (3) negative perceptions of “non-working” fathers. (Side note, the term “working mothers” is bad because it implies at-home mothers aren’t working, which is of course not true, but I don’t know a better term to use.)

An example of #1 is the ridiculous praise I often get for changing a diaper or buying groceries with my daughter. To channel a more politely-worded Chris Rock, of course I take care of my kids, I’m supposed to, you low-expectation-having (yet well-intentioned-and-undoubtedly-nice) person. It also still gets under my skin when people call it “babysitting” or “daddy daycare.”

#2 includes the back-handed compliments I received dozens of times over the past few months. “Your wife must work so hard. That’s great that you’re able to pick up the slack.” Has someone ever said that to a woman?

#3 is really a variation on #2, though it usually came in the form of an assumption (“Does your wife have the day off today?”) then a correction (“No, I take care of our daughter during the day.”) that usually left the person at a loss for words. I remember one unusually direct comment from a women who told me, “It’s too bad you can’t earn as much as your wife so she can be the one to stay home.” I don’t mind the assumption about earning potential, but I do mind the one about my wife being the preferred at-home parent.

I read Lean In during my paternity leave and the book argues that we need to do more to support at-home spouses of working mothers. Speaking from my brief experience as an at-home dad, I couldn’t agree more.

It’s with mixed emotions that I go back to office work tomorrow. I love that job, so I’m excited to get back into it, and I’m curious to see if any elements of people’s career concerns about my 4-month absence have played out at all. But I also know that I’m going to miss my daughter terribly, and I already feel guilty that I’m a bad parent for spending so much less time with her.

For now, though, I need to put that on hold, because gotta go, baby just woke up

When the why is clear, how will follow

Actor and flexidad Manav Gohil: Our problems never trouble us. It’s our inability to deal with them that disturbs us.

The TV-to-films journey. The journey uphill is always demanding and rewarding both. More than theatre to TV or TV to films, I would look at this as an actor’s journey. Because from where I am looking, theatre, TV, ads, films, regional films.. they are all work. Sometimes, I can find a good script for theatre, and not any other platform and vice-versa! It’s about how I scale my journey today as an actor. On my drive back home, what am I feeling? Pride, joy, or complacence.

Buddhist Leanings. I am a Buddhist and practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism – a way of life based on the philosophy derived from the Lotus Sutra. I have been practicing it since 9 years and seen my life gradually transform.

An identity of your own. When Shweta and I went to the passport office to renew her passport, they insisted on having Shweta Manav Gohil – this despite the fact that Shweta remains Shweta Kawaatra after marriage. We found that in Maharashtra and Gujarat it’s a mandate of sorts to have the husbands’ name attached, unlike a lot of places up north. I was telling her that maybe I should change my name from Manav Gohil to Manav Gohil Kawaatra. Just that I think it’s a cooler surname.

Soaps and women. As far as soaps go and how they skew womens’ identities, they are predominantly targeted at the masses (also a reason you might see the lack of progression in them). Soaps are not really made for social awakening. They might be set amid social issues but essentially things boil down to TRPs.

Finding time for family. I make time. In this age and time, I am sure it must be difficult for all professionals to find “family time”, as much of it as they would like. I guess it turns out to be an art for all of us (me included) to try and balance things.

Balancing work and life. When we probe a phenomena, we only rediscover it, we don’t invent anything new. Work-life balance is an established fact of today’s life; discussing it might lead to a better understanding but the challenge itself cannot be eradicated. So I struggle with it. For me, it boils down to working towards expanding my state of life. Shoots, dubbings, meetings, rehearsals, time with Zahra, chats with Shweta, driver leaving, maid hunting, car breaking down… I think I can encompass it all. i just need to grow in my capacity. After all, our problems never trouble us. It’s our inability to deal with them that disturbs us.

Being a flexidad. This means a tremendous internal change for a man. I have personally experience this in the last 13 months. My respect for mothers.. actually women…has rocketed in the last few months. For dads, I guess it’s a journey of growth. I have always liked kids so I guess I came in pretty handy to Shweta with Zahra. I cannot spend time with them through the day and long to rush back home at 9.30 pm and wash up quickly and request Shweta if I can put Zahra to sleep in my arms. It’s so rewarding. Flexi-daddying is a leap of Faith. Hesitation transforms into a conviction to lead a better life. Just do it!

Keen on acting? When the why is clear, the how will follow! A lot of young people I meet act to either become famous or earn money. You cannot place the cart before the horse. If you have a dream, work (ON YOURSELF) towards it. If you love it enough, you will emerge a winner. or else Plan B is not a taboo.

The last word. All the best to all Fleximoms. You all rock  truly!

Flexidaddying is a Struggle Sometimes but works very well

Samar Halarnkar started his career as a crime reporter. After that, he worked with a variety of publications – The Indian ExpressIndia Today and Hindustan Times. He recently penned The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking and believes that cooking teaches men respect for women who stay home. The Flexidad speaks about the need to be more focused and organised when working from home, and how work-life balance is something that is a matter of continuous striving

The cooking connection. My mother made me and my brother help in the kitchen when we were boys. I started serious cooking when I couldn’t afford to eat out and craved good food. I had to cook so I could eat good food. I had to learn, improvise and improve. Not so difficult, really. As far as family goes, what’s not to like? They rarely have to bother about food on the table.  Seriously, my wife has no problem at all. My father, I don’t know. I think he struggles with the idea, he could not understand why I quit at what he considered the peak of my career, so to say… Cooking is just a part of my life, like brushing teeth or waking up. I do not consider it extraordinary.

Cooking betters men. Indian sons are victims of the mera-raja-beta syndrome. Learning to cook helps you appreciate the effort it takes to run a kitchen and feed a family. And it teaches you respect for women who stay home; it’s a respect that Indian men sorely lack.

Working at home. The thing about writing is, you just have to do it. Everything else is an excuse. I say this because I am constantly finding excuses not to write this piece or that. I realise I just have to find the time and do it. Not that I succeed each time, of course.

The balancing act. The work-life balance is something that is a matter of continuous striving. I can’t say that flexi-work has got me the balance, but it is much, much better than it was when I was working. I mean I miss the newsroom and working with colleagues in an office. On the flip side, there’s time with the kid, exploring and thinking of new things to do…just need to be more focused and organised at home, I find, than at office.

Being a Flexidad. It’s no different from being a Fleximom, I imagine. It’s a struggle sometimes, but it works very well. I get to spend time with my daughter, watch her grow up. It’s priceless. My wife does get jealous — that my daughter gives me more kisses than her. But, of course, there are sacrifices.

Working freelance in India. The going is not easy for freelance writers. I have fixed columns, a legacy of my previous job. So, I’m lucky. Otherwise, it’s very tough. It’s not so abroad. We are just unprofessional around here!

Getting published. It was quite easy to get published because I am a man. I suspect it would’ve been far more difficult if I wasn’t. Most women do what I do every day, with no fuss. You’re having this chat with me because I am male because it all appears very novel (when it should not be). If I was a fleximom, I don’t think this would be happening.

What I cook best. I cook meat and fish best, though I learned to cook veggie food after marriage because my wife is a vegetarian. We both do the dishes, but I end up doing them more often than not. Hard to expect my wife to do it after a hard day’s work.

A ‘jugaad’ recipe for all Fleximoms. The big bang stir-fry

Ingredients: 1 tsp sesame seeds, ½ tsp black-onion seeds (kalonji), 6-7 dried chillies, 8-9 large garlic pods, smashed or chopped fine, 1 tsp fresh, grated ginger or galangal (Thai ginger), 1 flat tsp red chilli powder (or paprika), 1 medium broccoli, reduced to florets; 1 small zucchini, halved and sliced; 1 small red pepper, deseeded and chopped long; 1 small yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped long; 1 tsp fresh rosemary; 2 tbsp soy sauce; red-wine vinegar (or red wine) to sprinkle

Method: Season a medium-size wok with olive oil. Throw in sesame, dried chillies (snap them into half) and black-onion seeds. When seeds start to sputter, add garlic. Cook till lightly brown. Add ginger. Stir quickly. Add chilli powder. Add broccoli and zucchini. Sprinkle with vinegar (or wine) so it sizzles. Add soya sauce for next sizzle. Toss on high heat until almost cooked. Add peppers. Add salt. Toss all vegetables. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and grind fresh pepper. Serve.

Try these. Sridatta Boarding House in Mumbai (Lalbaug) and Royal China at VT. In Bangalore, Sunny’s. The Naga kitchen in Delhi Haat and the Italian restaurant in Jor Bagh market. Sridatta has the simplest and best vadi (masala puris) and Konkan-style fish and meat curries. Royal China has great dim sums; Naga kitchen is perfect for experimenting with pork varieties.

Cooks in the making, listen up.  Just do it! If I can, anyone can. When I began cooking, I stumbled all the time.

The last word. It’s been great talking to everyone, though I had to persuade the wife to be a fleximom today and pick up my daughter, so I could do the chat.

The Married Man’s Guide to Creative Cooking and Other Dubious Adventures by Samar Halarnkar, Westland, Rs 495

A Flexidad shares on work and working from home and kids

Amit Wilson, an entrepreneur, founder Storemore (www.storemore.in) and a flexidad, shared his perspectives on choices, order and chaos in an event hosted by Fleximoms. In a room full of fleximoms, Amit was brave enough to share his experiences and learnings candidly. We share some of the conversation with you. You can catch the pictures on our facebook page - www.facebook.com/fleximoms

  One of the thoughts that stayed with us is what Amit said.
 “As a Flexidad there are three things I learnt about work - it pays your bills, it gives you a sense of moving forward, learning, development and it gives you a chance to play with grown ups, especially after you have spent a large part of your day playing with children.”
 
He added, “What I also learnt is that what really matters is to enjoy what you are doing and being with your family. When one is sitting on one’s desk writing a proposal, and one of the kids comes running to show you something he has done, it is alright to go ahead and listen to him. The child needs your attention and shooing him away is not going to help. The fastest way to get back to work is to listen to him first. One of my favorite memories of my flexidad life is sitting on my desk writing a proposal with one of my boys sitting on lap. It is a memory I cherish forever. My biggest learning has been that you got to prioritize – listen and pay attention to your family.”
 Amit also feels that chaos is not all bad – you need chaos for creativity – for entrepreneurship and little chaos is great to tell you all is well. He thinks that too much order and silence is worrying.
When it comes to workspaces, getting organized and putting some order in life, Amit mentioned that as a flexidad he learnt that working in an office is really easy, you still get way more done – despite – the coffee breaks and gossip. An office allows you to carve out space and time.
Along the way Amit felt that as our living spaces get smaller, it becomes harder for families and professionals to manage space, time, work, choices equation. He and his partners set up StoreMore (www.storemore.in) as a professional service to help customer declutter their living spaces, organize work from home and manage papers and records better.
If you run a business out home, StoreMore helps you managed your documents, samples, paperwork, records – not in a dump them somewhere sort of way but in a sort them and use them when I need them sort of way. As a small business or a flex or work from home professional, it will help you organize your space. Amit also said that while we need to throw away a lot of stuff, there is still a lot that one needs to keep and organize. StoreMore also emphasizes on the approach that deal with your clutter now and decide. And that is an approach which helped Amit a lot personally.
Amit added, “In what I do today is helping you carve out space as you choose to work from home. I can help with carving out time, but yes with space.”
More power to you Amit and may your tribe grow!
If you are a flexidad, fleximom or a professional with a  work-life choice experience, story, idea – please get in touch. We are happy to have you join the conversation.