‘‘It is a blessing for me to be a father of three daughters,” says Sanaul Haq, who works at a private company in Karachi. “I try to be a friend to my daughters whenever need be. It is a perfect balance between being a stern father and being a friend with whom they can share everything.”
Haq believes that there has been a marked shift in our cultural norms, and many women are now joining the workforce to play an important role in running the household. “The notion that only a man will earn for a household is being challenged and it is being done rightly so! Previously, parents wouldn’t pay attention to girls’ education mostly because they thought that their daughters wouldn’t ‘need’ a degree to excel in life. The modern family has a working woman who knows how to confidently and intelligently play her part in society. It is now essential to raise strong and bold daughters so that they can run their houses independently.”
Parenting has never been the same for every era. What worked for a certain generation doesn’t have to work for the next. This notion is not something that would sit well with most parents, especially fathers. Brought up in different values (mostly patriarchal), parents, especially fathers, are now adjusting to the challenges and opportunities in a new culture.
“Girls should be taught how to navigate the outside world with confidence,” exerts Haq. However, he believes that being ‘bold’ should not be confused with being ‘overconfident’. He also sheds light on the significant differences in his parent approach and that of his father. “I am part of the generation that saw the transition between the ‘old school’ and the modern, technologically advanced era. Our worldview was heavily influenced by the perception of our parents. In our times, we used to blindly trust our parents’ judgements. The children of today have more access to information, and they prefer to build opinions on different matters on their own.”
Haq also believes that a good thing about parenting in recent times is that the distance between a father and his daughters is shrinking. “Previously, children wouldn’t question their father’s decision, but now they second guess. It is nice to see that fathers are building friendly relations with their daughters to encourage them to discuss various matters with them.”
Similarly, Khalid Ahfaz, the head of a quality control department at a Karachi-based company, defines himself as a ‘liberal’ father who has allowed his daughters to explore the world in whatever way they please. He thinks that “ensuring that girls have access to high-quality education is quite important in today’s world.” Ahfaz has had a difficult life where he built everything from scratch. But when it comes to his daughters, he ensures that they have the best of everything in life. “Raising bold and confident daughters is now a necessity,” he adds.
Millennial father Abdullah Asif, who is an Islamabad-based marketing and sales specialist, has adopted a ‘warm and accepting’ parenting approach to raise his daughter. “I always try to listen to what my children are saying. Kids have a strong learning sense, and this is why they ask so many questions. Ever`ything in this world is new for them, so for parents, it is important to be good listeners.”
Abdullah thinks that “it is important to raise bold and confident daughters so that they can develop strong decision-making skills and take decisions without relying on anyone else.” Such skills will help our girls “develop a positive attitude towards life, and she will be able to speak in public.”
Sharing his opinion on the difference between his parenting style and his father’s, Abdullah quickly adds, “I always try to teach my daughter in a friendly manner. I also try teaching her the norms and values of our society and culture. I am quite surprised that many fathers don’t pay attention to bringing up their children close to their culture. Above all, I spend quality time with my daughter. I strongly believe that it is better to make your daughter your best friend instead of ignoring them or being too strict with them.”
Parenting is not an easy job already, but when one parent is removed from the equation for whatever reason, the full burden falls on the other. The partner who is left behind not only has to deal with the grief of losing their loved one but also has to be strong for their kids. “My wife left me almost 25 years ago.” Saeed Ahmed Khan says in a tone that highlighted the grief he carries with him after all these years. “At the time of my wife’s death, my youngest daughter was a toddler. I was left with the responsibility of raising our eight children.” Originally from Bahawalpur, Saeed had to struggle a lot to climb up the ladder of success. Now 80, Saeed spends a life of retirement at his home. “I come from a place where education wasn’t paid much attention, but I have seen how lack of education wreaks havoc in your life. I made sure to educate my daughters and make them independent.”
For his children, there were no mountains too great for Saeed who worked day and night for a better future of his children. “I would set out at the dawn and come back late at night. My focus was to earn a decent living for my children to make sure that they have access to every facility.”
Asim Aizaz Alam, a businessperson, is a proud father of two daughters and believes that fathers and daughters should always have a friendly relationship. He advises his daughters to be always open with him and has made an environment where his girls can trust their parents. “We are human beings, and we can make mistakes or take wrong decisions. But they should not consider hiding anything from their parents.”
Asim handles his daughters as friends without compromising on his role as a parent. “I listen to them and try to know what they are thinking about their studies, what clothes they want to buy or whether or not they want to dine out. It is important for me to remain connected with my daughters, and it doesn’t matter if I am with them or out of station.” Asim believes that communication gaps make things difficult. “My idea is to ensure that my daughters are able to talk to me and their mother, and that there is no hesitation. I want to give them the confidence to live in this ever-challenging society where you cannot trust anyone.”
For their studies, Asim shares, “I think it is better to allow them to choose any subject which could be the best for them. The current times require us to give our daughters more confidence. When we were their age, we were afraid to talk to our parents, especially our father, about what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go. The only decision we made was regarding our studies, but it was because our parents had spent their entire lives in fulfilling our needs, and they didn’t have time to ask us about our interests.”
“This has made me realise that I should give my daughters my full attention and provide counselling on what is right or wrong or how to make things easier for them. They should take decisions with consideration, and they have the right to take any decision within their limits while ensuring that their decision isn’t harmful in any way. They should also be confident that they won’t regret their decision.
As a father, one always wants to protect his daughters from any harm. Asim belives that best way to protect his girls is to equip them with skills so that they can protect themselves. “I also want to ensure that they know how to defend themselves. If anybody tries to talk to them inappropriately or touch them, they can stop them there and then.”
Journalists often have to show restraint when covering stories to ensure that the story is not stuffed with their voice. The general rule of not reporting about people close to them to avoid any conflict of interest at times feels like a blessing. But there is no harm in breaking the metaphorical ‘fourth wall’ and talking to the readers.
This Father’s Day, I would like to pay tribute to my late maternal uncle who left the world in 2012, at a young age of 50, after a month-long battle with a life-threatening condition.
Various official documents will show that he was a father of four children, but people around him know that he treated all the children of his family like his own. From giving relationship advice to silently registering his protest against the conservative parenting style of his siblings, he made sure that every child had someone to reach out to in need.
His death does not seem a distant memory of the past. Memories of the constant phone calls for updates and the terrible idea of losing someone whom you had just met will not possibly go away. Happy Father’s Day, Chotay Mama! I hope you are having the best time in the Heaven.