"Things are starting to break down...Though we are embarrassingly indulgent of self-care, neither of us feels as if we are doing anything other than failing at everything, every day," says New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo while writing about balancing work and life.
I always held the belief that the role of a father is really a tough job. But I never knew it would be more than “tough” when I become a father. I was born in a family of rules and values and any deviation necessarily meant severe punishment. When my son reached Delhi for the first time, it was the time when COVID-19 started spreading out and my disquiet was about what I can do as a dad to maintain focus, strength, and sanity during a tough season especially about balancing both work and family. The worst of crisis requires the best of humanity. But, we saw racial discrimination and religious intolerance at its peak at a time when COVID-19 was engulfing the world. I was devastated.
The first-15 day was one of the best times for me and my wife – we fought, we complained, we hugged, we showed our love for each other. But guess the topic we ended up discussing after those days. I was only thinking about my parents especially my mom (who is no more) who took care of four children at a time when we had almost nothing – toys, special foods for kids, ACs, Internet, electricity, and more.
The hardest part was the lockdown (and the concomitant fear and anxiety). Work from home always seems idyllic to me but the pandemic dejected the bliss altogether. Our office work almost doubled; the care, time, and attention that my son needed almost trebled. For almost a week, it was a sheer muddle. My eyes are constantly on my laptop screen and my son pulling my shirt to look at him. And he failed to get the kind of heed and warmth he probably expected.
I didn’t realize I love my Atif (much) until the episode when he hit his head against the floor because I was on the phone. It was the first time, I cried for him.
Honestly, I feel I am yet to start playing the role of a father the way I planned – taking him out, understand what excites him and what does not. Unfortunately, he is more than home-quarantined for over three months. Like I said before about rules and values – the way I want to talk to him, the way I want to explain things to him, the way I talk to my wife in front of him, the way I present the world to him – much of it is not happening because of office work – and the fear, rising unease, given the sorry state of affairs we all are in amid the pandemic.
The reality of having to juggle work commitments and hectic family life simultaneously has been daunting. The exact time slot I want to go to bed is the time when he is most energetic and high-spirited. Sounds annoying! But I love it.
I am lucky enough to be able to manage my workload so far even in this uncertainty, but I am still learning to be a good father. I hope there is light at the end of the tunnel.
And finally my wife, you must have noticed a lot of gaps as you read through my story, she is the one who fills all those gaps.
While no one knows when the outbreak will end and life gets back to normal, I believe, together we can build a better post-pandemic world.