Rajan Malhotra is a senior employee in a multi-national organisation. His wife Sarojini, a South Indian, works for a Bank. 10th June, 1997 was a very important moment in their life – a beautiful baby boy was born.
Rohit Menon is a senior manager in a multi-national organisation. His wife Kratika Sharma, a North Indian, is a house-wife. 1st April, 1997 was a very important moment in their lif- a baby girl was born.
Venugopal Nair is a Bank Employee in Bombay. His wife Jyothi Venugopal is a typical south Indian, but born and brought up outside Kerala - her native place. They lived in a well furnished house (but on rent) with necessary comforts. 10th November, 1997 was a very important moment in their life – a baby boy was born.
Congratulations poured in from different parts of the country - from their respective organisations, family relatives, friends etc. Everything was going well for them. A happy married life, a beautiful kid, a good job, and a comfortable own-flat with all comforts for the first two families.
Three different families, and three different social set-ups, and three different social status. But all of them had one thing in common. They became parents just after a year and half of their marriage.
The scenario portrayed above is only a part of today’s family life. These real-life scenario has been taken to focus on the difficulties of parentage and how they could handle the same better in the ensuing days. Everything was going well for all three families for the next few months. However, slowly issues started growing up in the families of Rajan and Rohit. The issues they indicated were:
Rajan become more irritating and started coming late from his office. In Rohit’s house, Kratika, coming from a wealthy family, started pestering her husband more and more. This even resulted into occasional arguments, and even lead to the point of divorce.
- the wife is spending more time with the kid
- the wife does not have time for the husband
- increased financial liabilities
- less personal freedom
- more complaints from the wife about non-caring the kid, wife, their visiting relatives,
- inability to visit many of their friends who invited them, because the wife is not interested
- his inability to support the wife for the chores of child care
- wife wants to join the duty, and husband wants her to resign from the job to look after the kid
- too many celebrations related to child birth which is not liked by the husband
- too many celebrations related to child birth which is not liked by the wife
- husband wants the wife to join the duty at the earliest and put the kid into the care of child-care houses.
- the wife to join the duty at the earliest and put the kid into the care of child-care houses.
- Issues related to the kid - non-caring, more caring and carelesses etc. between both husband and wife.
- Issues arising out of relatives staying in the house
- Issues arising out of the mother or in-laws at house
- And, many more.
However, at Venu’s home, things were different. Everything was going on as usual - happily, and they started enjoying the parenthood with all its colours, and the issues arising out of it with more equanimity and understanding. How could they do so? What was the role of the father in creating such an atmosphere?
Let us learn a few lessons from Venu and hear from his about the father-hood. May be a few of them could be useful for Rajan’s and Rohit’s family.
Well, what shall I say about father-hood? It is wonderful - the feeling, the emotions, and the petty issues arising out of the parenthood. Life for me has changed a lot, after my little girl came into existence in our life. Ours was a typical family - a traditional, Indian family with lot of traditional values and customs. Both of us - myself and Jyothi - believed in most of them. However, both of us are different in our temperament, beliefs and the approach towards life. I am a straight forward, and a serious person. However, at the same time I act like a comedian in day-to-day life. I enjoy this role immensely, be with kids in kids way, and play with them as they want me. I would like to state the facts, and has a habit of rationalizing most of the communication between us. I also assume that I am the best husband, and I love my wife a lot (as if I am the only person to consider so!!). I am also stickler to details, and as a habit I used to think deep into future (be futuristic on the way how life has to be managed and bring out all complexities of life, as if the day-to-day complexities are not enough!!).
These are my perceptions about myself. I strongly feel that each one of us have an understanding of ourselves and we want to manage our life in our way rather than in a `joint’ way.
My strong values/assumptions (understanding!) about myself have created quite a lot of issues for my poor wife. As far as I am concerned, I always felt that she does not love me as I would like her to be. Coupled with my own way of behaviour, I started feeling quite uncomfortable, and started quarrelling with her.
Let us have a pause, and listen to my wife now.
Ho! No, not me. Okay, since you are insisting on sharing my views, let me try to articulate. I think it is better to know a little about my family back-ground. I come from a poor family of three daughters. Life was quite easy till I was 15 years old. Things started changing at my end. I had to look after studies of my sisters and myself, and the life was never the same again. After completion of my ICWA, I got a job as an Accountant. Life started slowly becoming more meaningful. It was at this time, the wonderful thing happened in my life – getting married to Venu.
I believe that I am a calm and quite lady. I love my husband quite a lot. I thought I am capable of living up to his expectations. I am very happy and feel lucky that I got such a wonderful husband. He is really good. However, I started fearing the life with him soon after our marriage. Reasons were his high expectations, my feeling that I am not living up to his expectations, and thereby a miserable feeling, a feeling of void. These issues started questioning my own beliefs on me. This has weighed me down quite a lot, and I started defending my actions. This in turn was irritating to my husband. My back-ground, and the age-old saying of not-to-reveal everything to one’s husband has created quite a lot of pressure on me and my relationship with my Venu. I was also not ready to accept that I am strong-headed, and I very rarely accepted my mistakes.
When I came to know that I am pregnant, both of us felt quite joyful. However, my feelings about my life has started nagging me, and I started feeling that the child-birth could be a burden. This made me to make up my mind and confront the issues with my husband.
In one of our arguments, I stated my state-of-mind to Venu. This made him feel very bad. After a few days, he said that he would like to talk to me frankly, and it is this interaction and the commitment we made to ourselves that made our life as enjoyable and enriching as it is today.
I think it is better to now hear from Venu.
Thanks Jyothi, for sharing your views and the issues in your own way. It was quite agonising for me when she spoke to me like that. I felt helpless. I started feeling that the whole life is going apart. At this juncture, I started thinking a lot, and decided that I have to do something, and I confided my issues to one of my best friends. Since it was something new for him, he could not do much, but to listen and be with me in my thoughts and feelings. He also helped to search for the real issues which are creating problems at home-front by his innocent like (but highly explorative) questions, and arguments.
The thoughts and interaction with my friends helped me to learn a few fundamental values and principles of family management and more about Parent-hood. Let me share my 7 most important realizations with you. These realizations are not newly found, or exceptionally different. However, my own experience is that we seldom `really understand’ these factors affecting our life. It is the `we-know-but-do-not-want-to-feel syndrome’.
I felt strongly that we have to understand, in the real sense, what is binding us together- the act of love and affection or true love and affection and thereby the concern for the other person? I also strongly felt that the only thing which can bind us together for the whole life with happiness is self-less love towards each other – the feeling of `I-am-here-for-you, and You-are-there-for-me’.
- Assumptions rule / control our mind, rather than the mind controlling our assumptions. (The best way to lead a harmonious life is to believe in your relationship positively, and work towards it rather than fighting. The other partner too want to lead a harmonious and happy life, and do not know how to go about it).
- We are afraid of reality. We are comfortable in hiding behind the reality. (There is a need to find the true reasons behind our issues. The need is mutual, and the pain of fighting is not going to lead us anywhere.)
- We do not accept the qualities/virtues of the other person (There is a need to respect other’s views/culture/experience. It is the life of two individuals with all diversity. Therefore, differences/cultural shocks are bound to happen)
- We lead an illusionary life. (We always believe that we are right, and whatever we are doing is best for all concerned. However, many times I found that the others never consider so!!).
- Our influence is parental/ancestral, and we are influenced by peer pressure.
- Our life is spoiled by `demonstration effect’ - living our life for others, rather than living our life in our way (we are much bothered about what the others will think, rather than thinking how does this thinking affect our lives).
- The stakes for both individuals and the kid around us are very high. We, husband and wife do not have any authority to jeopardize the life of another person – our own kid- in whatsoever manner. (Life is nothing but sharing whatever we have with each other. This brings out the best in us. There is lot of good years ahead to lead meaningfully).
How did I go about it? I decided that one of us have to take the lead in bringing harmony. In a relationship of couple-hood and parent-hood, the question of win-lose situation does not arise. I have to lead the talk, and talk with a purpose.
Tell you frankly, with all this realisations and understanding, I was skeptical. I decided that if I have to go ahead with the basic purpose of `bringing-life-into-my-life’, I have to take a few basic steps. Let me share the basic steps I followed in this manner.
These steps have made it relatively easy for me to be more objective and listen to her very empathetically.
- To tell her frankly that I am upset, and worried about our relationship.
- To tell her that I would like to listen to her without interrupting her.
- To give her time to understand my feelings, and post-pone the discussion to another day (s) if need be
- To express that I want our relationship to be more meaningful and enjoyable.
- To request her to listen to me and my way of handling the issues.
- To inform her that her suggestions and opinions and how she feels about the whole things is very important
- To request her to provide feedback on whatever information she provides.
I think I was talking for a long time.
Please listen to Jyothi’s side of anguish.
Well, I do not know how all this is going to help your family. However, I would like to state that Venu’s approach in our case was immensely helpful to us, and brought back the life we craved for. I was not so sure when Venu told me that he wants to talk to me frankly, and seriously. I was also upset. The first thought which crossed my mind was that all is over, he may be going to talk to me about the divorce, and the kid etc. (Well, all this took one more year, and it is in midst of all this things I gave birth our boy- Amruth. Venu in his excitement to share with you has forgotten this). I was petrified.
However, after a few minutes with him on the subject made me to relax. I liked the tone with he talked to me. I expected him to talk in a threatening tone, and I was `ready’ for him. But his approach made me to take a more positive stand. He was quite calm. His voice quite assuring, and had a seriousness in it. I could sense a genuine feeling, and both of us, while in the process of interaction started crying. It was like a mental release for me. Since, my belief in myself was shaken. I too kept so many things `up in my mind’, I never could take that step which Venu has taken.
We discussed many aspects of our life. Why we married? What is our dream? How our bickering is going to impact our child? Before marriage, during courtship, we were different, what made us to behave like two matured children? Aren’t we hurting each other? Don’t we think that we can ever be happy in the real terms? Why should be bothered about others? How others affect our life? Etc. etc. and How to proceed now, since we talked many things over?
For me, it was a revealing moment. I never knew what my husband ever thought of me, and I always assumed many things which I found to be wrong. This realisation was my own, and was not forced upon me. And I strongly feel that I could have this realisation only because of the genuinity of interaction.
This process has helped me to have a few learning in human relationships, which I presume are critical in tomorrow’s world.
I strongly feel that Couple-hood and Parent-hood is worth living for, and there is no harm in trying to understand the other side of the story. Talking out our intimate issues with a matured friend, of any sex, could be of much benefit. However, s/he must be a person whom we respect in the real sense – on his / her objectivity, and the genuine concern to help us.
- Many times we do have our perceptional values about other person’s behaviour, and attribute them to the person. It could be grossly wrong.
- Many times, our ego and the psychological influence of our `well-intended’ family friends and kith and kin do not help us to make the real efforts to solve issues.
- Many times, we carry our past to the present. It is better to learn from the past, live the present, and create a happy future.
- Everything is in our hand. One individual alone could not achieve anything in a strong dyadic relationship like ours.
- There is a need to create a platform of open communication to air our feelings, and understand the same.
These realizations have helped us also to steer away from the controversies arising out of managing the parent-hood. My mental-make up may be different from others, or Venu’s approach may not be taken by many. However, we feel that the issues are common, and we have to be realistic / adaptable in our approach to solve these issues.
The world is changing – the technology and its pace, the society and its culture, the systems and its processes, and the people and their relationship. In this volatile environment we can be highly stressful and our life could be like the `majestic Titanic’. Afront, everything may seem to be okay. But nothing will be the same, once it cracks. The whirlpool is going to be there, the calamity is going to struck, and the occean could play havoc – all these are real. The only way we can fight all these realities in life is being together – swimming alongside in sadness and happyness.
Myself and my beloved wife and the little Amruth believes that life is worth living for with all its diversity and complexity. We, fervently, hope that the learning from our life could be an eye-opener for many families around us.
Previously published in Deccan Chronicle.