About six months back, my wife and I had some friends over one night, and when we told them about my decision to be a househusband so that we can look after our son better, an awkward silence was all we got. An awkward silence and a hasty switch of topics. Later the male half of the couple who visited us cornered me and asked if I was out of my mind. My wife reported later that night that his wife had asked her the same question.
Six months later, here I am, still sane, still a househusband. While I admit I have occasional bouts of self-doubt about whether I am missing out on seeing the world through my work, on most days I am quite contented. And yes, there were times during the first week or so where I half-jokingly questioned my manhood. When I told that to my wife she said, ‘Of course you did. How miserable do you think I felt on my first day at work?’
That got me thinking about gender roles in general, and how we unwittingly project to society the image it wants to see. We spoke about it a lot before taking this step, my wife and I, and it made logical sense for one of us to quit and look after our little one. (He was six months old then.) It had to be either her or me, but since I’ve been on the road for almost ten years now, we decided to go with me.
But with all the cold logic that went into our decision-making, both of us had to consciously shut out the disquieting sounds. There is always some distant relative on the phone who would click her tongue in that knowing way. There is always that curious frown that people would give when I tell them I don’t work. No matter how much you repeat to yourself that you’re just fine, it becomes hard when the world around you insists on letting you know that you’re not.
When my wife had been a stay-at-home mother – through her pregnancy and during the first six months of the baby – no one had making clucking noises, no one had frowned, no one had endured awkward silences. If it was true that contribution to a family could not be measured purely by the amount of money you bring in – and the money I was earning really did seem insignificant, given that my wife gave birth to our son – then surely it had to apply equally to me too, didn’t it? The value of washing dishes and clothes, changing the diapers, watching my son gurgle when I tickle his feet, and other such ‘househusbandy’ things cannot be measured in tangible terms, but surely they’re as important as bringing in the dough?
At least I used to think so when I was the sole breadwinner. But now people look at me as though I was a diabolical criminal for separating mother and child, among other things.
These things used to bother us in the first few weeks, but now we’re coping with them better. We still feel guilty now and then – for abdicating our respective responsibilities – but then we talk it out and the feeling subsides. In the meantime I’ve grown to love doing the washing, watching daytime television, listening out for my son’s first words, baking chocolate cake, cleaning, and paying the library a few unannounced visits a week.
Do I miss work? Not much. There are some people I used to know at work that I miss, but you meet new people elsewhere. I have a lot of time on my hands, and I figure that growing up with his old man around would be a good thing for my son. So on the whole, I am loving being a housewife. Er, a househusband.

Mitali Sardesai

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