Meet the dads who quit jobs to be with their kids and their wives are backing them
Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30

Clockwise from the right: Mohit Satyanand, Samar Halarnkar and Gautam John

Monalisa Das | February 5, 2015 | 12:16 pm IST

Thirty-five-year-old Gautam John's day begins around 6 am - he walks his dogs, returns and prepares breakfast for his wife and him and once she leaves for work, he takes care of their daughter for the rest of the day. 

A father of an eight-month-old girl, John is a stay-at-home dad.

At a time when relationship equations are constantly evolving and gender roles being challenged, John's decision to not stick to traditional roles is perhaps, if not too common, more acceptable in the society today.

"I am just two months into it and I am thoroughly enjoying this experience," says John.

John, who had been working in the non-profit education sector, quit his job in December last year. "My wife took a maternity leave for six months. In December, she had to get back to work and that is when I decided to quit mine. I wanted to stay at home and look after our daughter," he says.

The day usually proceeds with John taking his daughter for walks, and sometimes to her grandparents' place, making sure she gets her bath, eats and naps at the right time and has enough play before winding up for the night. He makes sure he is up to date with his work when he can and reads when he does get some free time to himself.

"I also instruct the domestic help. And since I love cooking, I mostly prepare the breakfast myself," he says.

Barring a few, everyone in John's family and friend circle thought his idea was "fantastic".

"Have they done the same thing or do they know of people who have done the same thing? I don't know," he states.

John feels that as a society, we are stuck with gender roles. "I don't see why we need to stick to the predefined roles that society has given us. Of course there are certain things only a mother can do, but fathers also have an important role to play and their input is as important. Being a stay-at-home dad may seem odd to some, but that is definitely not a reason to not do it," he says.

According to him, it is totally understandable that some people would like to focus on their careers. "We however should also not elevate men who choose to be stay-at-home dads," he says. It is a personal choice, he feels.

A lot of men could want to become stay-at-home dads but may not have the choice to do so. It worked out for John and his wife and he is happy to have grabbed the opportunity, he states. He adds that when he decided to quit, he certainly did not see it as a break. "It was a choice I made. The goal behind this is not staying at home, but is to spend quality time with my daughter."

The work is exhausting- both physically and mentally- because one needs to be alert all the time. Doing a full time job is perhaps easier, he says. The satisfaction from the experience however, makes all of it worthwhile for the doting father. "Perhaps my only concern, when I took the decision to be a stay-at-home dad, was whether all of this would boil down to just a series of chores- feeding the baby, bathing her, putting her to sleep, etc.," he asserts.

"But what I didn,t count was that it would be a delightful and joyous experience," he adds.

Apart from the bond he has established with his daughter during the past two months, he also has become a lot more patient now. "I suppose there is no other way around it," he says.

He also admits that he is a control freak but is now learning to let go a little bit. For John and his wife, his decision has not changed much in their lives. They go out as usual, although he says they went out less before their daughter was born.

Their journey only seems to have begun. "Since this our first baby, every moment has been a memorable one-the first time we fed her solid food to the first time she crawled- all of it has been fantastic," he states.

Would John do it again if he had another baby? "Without a doubt," pat comes his reply.

For Mohit Satyanand, the decision to be a stay-at-home dad came as easily, though for him it was over a decade ago.

A former media professional and a financial consultant now, Satyanand knew what he wanted in life and achieved most of it. He wanted an early retirement and so he retired when he was 40. He got married around the same time and both he and his wife took a break and went to stay in a village in the Himalayas for a while.

It is when they had their son that they decided to return to the city life- for the sake of his education and because Satyanand's wife wanted to get back to work.

When his son was four-years-old, Satyanand took a conscious decision to become a stay-at-home dad. "I did not want my son to come home, from school, to a nanny. And since my wife was working, I did not take up a job," he says.

That was in 2003. Today, Satyanand's son is a sixteen-year-old. "We actually have very little time with our children. By the time they reach 15, they aren't kids any more. And today parents hardly get time to interact with their children due to busy schedules," he states.

"For me, it has been an incredible privilege to enjoy the time with my son to the fullest", he adds.

For Satyanand, the beginning of his journey as a stay-at-home dad was a little odd, but only occasionally. Like the times when his son was invited to birthday parties and it was usually the mothers of the other kids who'd come to drop them. "And I happened to be the only father. Also most of the parents were a lot younger than me," he asserts adding that his son has always been happy about the way things are.

Satyanand feels that though the concept of a stay-at-home dad would raise eyebrows even now, in general, today people are more open to people being different. "We now also have more women in the workforce (which to an extent helps men who'd like to stay at home with their children," he says.

However, being a stay-at-home does not confine one to just household chores. With evolving technology, work-from-home options are today not just in demand but also quite easily available.

Samar Halarnkar also did that. Halarnkar quit his job as Managing Editor of Hindustan Times in Delhi a few years ago to take care of his daughter. "My child was under a year old when we decided we did not want a nanny to take care of her. It is what prompted me to quit my job. It was more like an excuse to quit and I decided to become a stay-at-home dad," says the editor of India Spend.

Halarnkar, who is also a columnist with Hindustan Times and Mint, now works from home. He does the cooking in the morning and then drops and picks up his daughter from school apart from also organising her entire day.

Though over the years he has gradually increased his work, he says his life still revolves around his daughter. "Earlier, when I used to take her to play in the park, I mostly saw nannies accompanying other kids. Now-a-days I notice some parents do take out their kids to play," he states.

He is also a member of a WhatsApp school group, which includes parents of his daughter's classmates. "We discuss issues regarding our children and the school. What's not to like about it? The group, which initially only had mothers as members, had a name which included the word 'mumm'," says Halarnkar adding he doesn't remember the full name of the earlier group. So when he joined the group, he was the only father there. "So they changed the name of the group to include me," he asserts.

What was a bit odd initially, has now become completely normal for them."Except that the school sends emails to my wife," he laughs.

Halarnkar likes cooking and his daughter is never short of praises for him. "My daughter loves my food. She often boasts, 'My appa made this'," he says.

For Halarnkar, it was a conscious decision. He knew he would be giving up a regular salary and so he was mentally prepared for it. "You need to have a back-up and for me it was my wife," he states.

Life has changed for him. He feels many people still cannot think of it in serious terms. But he is happy. "It is a nice feeling. I never had a problem taking care of my daughter. My daughter is also happy," says the proud father.

The role these men have chose to don may not be a part of any trend and yet in a way it manages to successfully break the stereotypes of what is "normal" and what is not.