As a teacher and a mentor, every once in a while, I come across young students in dire need of emotional support.
They hardly ever come forward and acknowledge the fact, but the attendance and performance, or rather the lack of these suggest we teachers inform the parents, and at times, recommend a counselling session.
This one episode with a mentee opened a can of worms of sorts.
Not only was the child cutting classes, but he was missing out on assignments and compulsory projects. He paid no heed to deadlines or warnings, and I summoned the parents.
It’s always the mother’s responsibility
As always, the mother turned up the next day. It’s a pattern I observe, the students always get their mothers to meet the teachers, citing that the father is on an ‘official tour’. I generally don’t push too much, for the simple reason that the theory is supported by mothers too. This case was no different.
It is disheartening to see parents breaking down before me. This mother claimed that her son would leave home for college every day. So she was shocked to know that he wasn’t in the classroom. She confided he was having temper issues at home, so I recommended our in-house counsellor’s help. Now many parents refuse the session thanks to the needless stigma around mental health issues. But this mother readily agreed, and I introduced the child and the mother to the psychologist.
The counsellor called me two days later to inform me that she needed to meet both parents before preparing a report. She had conveyed this to the student and his mother, but they had stopped the sessions then. She was particular that she meet both parents.
“What do I do, Ma’am? My husband is a very busy person. And you know what, my son told the counsellor that I, his mother, am the reason for his behaviour. I guess I will just stop nagging him and things will be fine.” The student’s mother lamented on the phone.
It took me a lot of coaxing and phone calls to finally get both parents to meet the counsellor, and being the mentor at college, I sat too.
“Your son says he is fed up with being nagged by his mother, be it academics or extracurricular activities. What do you have to say about it?” The counsellor asked the father first.
“Madam, our son wasn’t keen to pursue engineering at all. My wife reasoned that it meant better employment opportunities, and to avoid a scene, I agreed to pay the fees. He is a teenager with raging hormones, I keep telling her to give him some space, but she frets a lot. I iterate, if she lets him be, our son will be alright. If he wishes to drop a year, it’s fine by me, I can afford it.” Quipped the father.
“Sure, sir. But ever wondered why she frets? It’s reasonable to worry about your child’s health, education, and employment. Why did it have to get to this? Were you ever a part of these arguments or discussions, maybe just to support her, or advise her?”
Fathers are always ‘busy’
There was dead silence in the room. I guess none of us had anticipated this.
The father was visibly at a loss of words, “Madam, rozi roti ka sawaal hai. I don’t have the time. She has been handling all academics since childhood. I respect her for having sacrificed her career to bring him up, but in a city like Mumbai, I can’t do the same. I do spend time with him, we travel during vacations, I drop him off to his tennis classes ….”
He drifted off, and I could see he was in distress too. The counsellor went on to recommend more father-son time and sessions, etc, but the whole incident got me thinking.
Is the mother at fault if all the responsibility falls on her alone?
As a mother and a teacher, I have forever heard terms like Emotional, Helicopter or Clingy Moms, but ever heard of these terms being attached to fathers?
In the case of working mothers, some women take a year/ half-year break when their children appear for boards, to just be there to help. It’s a nice gesture, but ever heard of a father doing that?
Be it my own family, my kid would vouch for his Dad being cool and me being Hitler. Why?
Because in most households, the onus of being the caregiver and nurturer falls on the mother invariably. And in modern times, that’s not limited to cooking food. A teenager’s routine involves a myriad of activities that they might not handle by themselves. Lo and behold, the mother appears everywhere. So do the disagreements.
Soon, as the kid starts displaying signs of tantrums or depression, there are a whole lot of people to help the child. But who helps the mother? She is supposed to fend for herself, keep calm, be brave, and not disturb the kid too much…Phew, how pressurizing is that?
The story of every mother is mine too
My own story isn’t very different. When my son was in 10th, I had a rough run too. I was advised yoga, self-help tips, and whatnot. My husband was away for work most of the time. His words of solace, “Don’t worry. If he scores less, we will secure a capitation seat. We can afford it, take it easy.”
How about sharing my fears, mister? How about taking responsibility for one course at least, rather than brushing the whole thing away?
I wouldn’t generalize, but in my experience, the majority of fathers believe that their primary duty is to bring food to the table. When the wife complains about the kid acting up too much, discipline him (read shout or scold). If both the wife and the child complain about the other, bring peace into the household with some pearls of wisdom, and then, flee to work terming yourself a workaholic. And if none of this works, play the blame game – of their wives being too strict or too lenient.
Fathers need to step up and be more than just a breadwinner
You might say, our men are conditioned like that. Isn’t it time they change, and realize that fatherhood isn’t only about paying fees?
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