Russell Brand’s parenting style of letting his partner do all the heavy lifting is being called “sexist” by many, and rightly so. However, is it untrue that mothers do perform more parental duties than fathers in our society? Do we find Brand’s latest interview offensive because he barely contributes to caring for his children or is he receiving so much flak simply because he is a celebrity? At least in the Indian context, it feels that the outrage against him is misplaced. Yes, modern dads contribute so much more to child care today, but collectively, it is the mothers who shoulder majority of the burden of caring for young children.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • Russell Brand has admitted that he has never spent 24 hours being the sole in-charge of his kids.
  • He also said that he is “not so good” when it comes to basic parental duties, like changing nappies.
  • Is Brand receiving so much flak simply because he is a celebrity?
  • That men are clumsy at performing parenting duties is, in fact, an excuse for many dads to not parent at all.

Speaking to The Sunday Times Magazine, Brand admitted that he has never spent 24 hours being the sole in-charge of his children. He also confessed he is “not so good” when it comes to basic parental duties, such as changing nappies and being in-charge at mealtimes. “When I looked after Mabel on her own, she dropped two social classes in an hour. In no time at all, we’re in a coffee shop, she’s just got a nappy on and she’s covered in stuff because I’m not willing to fight any of the battles,” he said, only to add, “I’m sensitive and awake and aware, so I have to dial a lot of s**t down to go through normal life.”

So, apparently there is no better way to dial down s**t in your life than to wash your hands off your little kids. How wonderful it would be, if every mum could claim once in a while that she needed to dial s**t down in her life and run off to some Himalayan retreat, while the father of the kids could fill in. But alas, only dads have the luxury of claiming that parenting is overwhelming. Us women just roll up our sleeves and get on with it.

Call it a catastrophe or the S-word, most of us can’t even afford to stop for a minute to think of a word that would fittingly describe our parenting struggles.

So yes, on those grounds, Brand’s statement seems irresponsible. Though we don’t go around calling our partners sexists, if they can only perform a certain amount of parenting duties. But Brand is a celebrity, thus whatever comes out of his mouth begets him consequences. We can criticise him all we want, but the truth remains that parenting among most men is an evolving skill. While women have never been given a choice in this matter, men are opting to be better parents today, and that is something we need to appreciate and encourage. I’ve known fathers to not even pick up a crying child, and demand that the mother stops whatever she is doing (having a bath, cooking or cleaning) to take care of the “nuisance”.

That men are clumsy at performing parenting duties is, in fact, an excuse for many dads play, to not parent at all.

Sons of such men today change nappies or rock their babies to sleep. They push swings, attend PTMs and even clean up, vomits and poop. I think most millennial Indian mums cannot still vouch that their partners have parented on their own for 24 hours straight or more because it is hard to resist the gender card and get out of the situation. That men are clumsy at performing parenting duties is, in fact, an excuse for many dads play, to not parent at all. But criticising men won’t change that. Our criticism only discourages them from embracing parenthood full on. They feel they are set up to fail because of their gender, and thus tap out. So instead mommies should entrust dads with more responsibilities. We need to put across the point that we were not born with a genetic code to parent kids. We learn it from scratch, making mistakes all along the way and so can they.

We need to put across the point that we were not born with a genetic code to parent kids. We learn it from scratch, making mistakes all along the way and so can they.

Today’s dads are showing signs of a growing commitment to raising kids. They may be taking baby steps, but we must keep encouraging them. Because when you see it in the context of centuries of patriarchal conditioning, these small steps are quite significant.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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