Hands On South Asian Fathers Have Healthier Marriages

Five year old Meena had fallen down two steps and bumped her head on the floor. Shaan immediately jumped from the sofa and ran to the wailing Meena. Little Mohit toddled behind him to see what all the noise was about.

Shaan scooped up Meena, sat her on his knee and checked her head to find any bumps, scratches or bruises. Mohit watched on quietly, knowing something bad had happened but feeling safe that his father was handling the situation.

“Shaan is very hands on with the children,” commented Sudha. Nandini nodded with a smile on her face. She could watch her husband interacting with their children for hours. There was nothing that made her happier.

“Papa wasn’t like this,” Sudha added as she watched Shaan put a Barbie bandaid on Meena’s head. Her sobbing had quieted but she still wanted some attention. “Don’t get me wrong, he loved you very much. But at that time, raising children was the woman’s job. The men bmostly disciplined.”

“I remember that. When Papa got mad, we knew we were in big trouble,” Nandini reminisced.

“Times have really changed,” Sudha said with a sigh. “I wish Papa were here to see Shaan with the children.”

Nandini laughed. “He would have said ‘Shaan leave it be. Nandini will handle it. Come sit with me and tell me what’s new in politics’.” The two laughed, agreeing that Nandini’s father would have disapproved of Shaan’s hands on approach to fatherhood.

Inside, though, Nandini was grateful for her husband and how involved he was with their children. She loved how well he knew both of them and how his face lit up every time he had an opportunity feed, bathe or change them. He wasn’t one of those fathers that just wanted to play with children and then scream at them if they misbehaved. No, he was a new kind of father. One that truly valued the importance of parenting and held no gender bias regarding parenting roles. Nandini did not share this with her mother for fear she would make Sudha feel bad, but she was secretly glad Shaan was so different from her Papa.

“It must make it easier on you,” Sudha added as the two of them watched Shaan teach Mohit how to help Meena feel better.

Nandini spoke carefully so as not to insult her father or her parents’ marriage. “Yes, it really does. It helps me on the practical level because I know I can share the responsibilities. My stress level is much less every day.” Nandini paused to watch as Shaan told Meena and Mohit a story to pass the time as he iced Meena’s head.

“Moreso though, I’m happier with Shaan because he’s involved. We argue less and seem to get along so much better. And it’s not because I’m less stressed. I’m happier when I see him taking an interest in our children,” Nandini said.

Sudha nodded her head in full agreement. “Of course. He’s the father of your children. It makes you love him more when you see him being so involved.” Nandini was taken aback by her mother’s candid talk about love and marriage, something she was very close-lipped about.

“Many of us when we were your age wished our husbands would be like that. But we grew up with our fathers being uninvolved so we weren’t surprised our husbands were either. We still wished though,” Sudha said wistfully. “We also had more  help. Being in India, there were always aunts, grandmothers and neighbors around. Over here you are alone. Without each other, who is there to help you?”

Nandini knew she brought up a good point. Even if uninvolved fathers existed back home, other relatives made up for that. Here, Shaan becomes even more precious and essential for their children.

Once the Meena was feeling better and had begun coloring with Mohit, Shaan returned to the living room. Sitting next to his mother in law, he noticed her and his wife staring at him with a strange look.

“What?” he asked completely confused.

Sudha smiled and tapped his knee. “You are a great father and an even better husband,” she said.

father with sonInvolved fathers play a very strong role in the healthy development of their children, intellectually, emotionally and socially. In fact, research is saying that in some realms the father’s involved presence is more important than the mothers!

However, involved fathers also play an equally large role in the maintenance of a healthy marriage. When fathers are hands on and involved, research has shown a significant decline in maternal stress and marital stress, both essential for a healthy relationship. In addition, when fathers were closely involved in childcare responsibilities, both partners expressed feeling more satisfied in their marriage. Resentment and hostility is also much lower in couples where both partners are hands on with day to day tasks of child care.

Also, being married to a father who is hands on with the children protects the mother from developing postpartum depression and helps ease a new mother’s anxiety. This is also essential in maintaining a healthy relationship and helps the marriage cope with the new stressors of being a parent. Fathers who remain involved are also more likely to also be good friends with their partners, a crucial factor in maintaining a healthy marriage.

When a marriage is healthy and parents are happy with their relationship with each other, children tend to thrive emotionally, socially and academically. In addition, when the children grow up, they are more likely to find a partner that helps them perpetuate the cycle of healthy relationships. Boys of involved fathers also tend to grow up and be hands on fathers themselves.

How does having an involved father affect you? Please leave your comments below.

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