By Ruhaifa Samir – Freelance journalist and staff blogger at yello.pk and perceptions.org.pk
Fathers find it challenging to earn a decent living, while attending to the social and emotional needs of the family. The fact remains that mothers, in general, still spend more time with the children and have more responsibility for their day-to-day care, while fathers have more responsibility for earning money.
Studies have shown that when fathers play an active role in the lives of their children, the results produce confident and secure individuals. A noted sociologist, Dr. David Popenoe, one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fathers and fatherhood, says: “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”
Though the game is changing ever so slowly, Alhumdulillah, many fathers have been making efforts to be there for their children. This writer questioned some of these fathers on how their increased role and contribution in the family had affected their children, and also, what was the one thing they had done that had improved their relationship with their children and brought promising results, if not absolute success.
Azeem Pirani is a homeschooling father of eight children. His wife and children chose to answer this question on his behalf, defining the one single thing that he has done as: “Giving each of us TIME”. Due to the varied ages of his children, he gives each of them time the way they need it. In the words of his wife: “Once in a while, he takes the older ones out for a snack, where he can discuss growing up issues and their lives with them; he does the same for our ten and eight year-old boys, too. He also gives undivided time to the little ones to listen to them and talk to them.” He makes time for his wife by being her advisor, counselor and staying with the children, so she can take an uninterrupted nap when she asks for it.
Dr. Khalid Bhamba, a homeschooling father for his 11-year-old son and a very busy doctor, is involved in many charitable and social projects. However, he ensures that he keeps his Saturday and Sunday evenings free to spend time with his children and Monday mornings for his wife. Taking time out from his busy schedule has been instrumental in the positive upbringing of their children.
Shehryar Mohsin said that spending time with his family enabled him to teach his three-year-old daughter to take decisions for herself, seeking guidance only when needed, even though she was very young. He says: “My strategy is to teach her how to make proper decisions and get rid of the ‘fear’ that makes you a poor decision-maker in your life.” The effect of this has been improved faith and trust in her parents because “she feels more secure and protected knowing that even if she makes a wrong choice or takes an inappropriate step ahead, she’ll always have her father’s hand to guide her.”
Another father, Abu Muaz, is homeschooling his one-year-old son. He says that since his son is very young, simply giving him time in the evening and playing with him keeps him happy. But the one thing he has done that he feels will give him promising results in the near future and is already impacting his son indirectly is that he and his wife regularly discuss what their vision for him should be. He says: “We talk about where we want to see him when he grows up, and come up with routines and activities (not only for him, but for us, too, being his role models), which we then try to implement. Things like how often we should take him out, what we should be reading to him, how we need to increase our Dhikr of Allah (swt), so that he learns about this, too.”
Abu Shaheer was yet another person who offered his insights on this question. He said: “The one thing I have done as a dad in our family is to revive the Sunnah of ‘Shura’ or ‘Mushwara’ – that is mutual consultation. We have a weekly Shura about family affairs, sitting on the ground in a circle, going one by one with each kid and their mother; even if it’s choosing which restaurant to go out for dinner.” The Shura system in their house has not only provided quality time for interaction between them, but has also given an opportunity to their children to make valuable suggestions and feel important. This has had great results because not only has it inculcated responsibility in the children, but there are also no complaints with the outcome of the decision, since it was collectively made and not forced upon anyone. Abu Shaheer claims: “It has made the kids more mature for their age.”
Dr. Muhammad Abid Ali, a Master Mariner by profession, is also a holder of PhD in education, MBA in HR and Finance, and the initiator and founding member of two education research institutes. He is also the father of four grown-up children, who are, Masha’Allah, serving the Deen in their own capacity. When asked about his role as a father, Dr. Abid replied: “At times, I have tried to recollect what I exceptionally did to raise my children from the Islamic perspective, and all that I could remember was what I did not do and could have done better as a father. Later in life, I realize there were a lot of deficiencies in our upbringing of our four children. May Allah (swt) forgive us for that. People keep on learning in life and many will realize later the weaknesses in their obligations towards Allah (swt) in taking care of His trusts that we have been given as a test. Were it not for his mitigation of the harmful effects of our actions, the humanity would have long been done with. The little positive thing that I may have done is not to force them into any set of belief except that of basic Islam, and the freedom to think and express what ever they thought is correct. I believe I did not superimpose my ideas or beliefs upon their inexperienced but intelligent minds. Since my childhood, I have tried to remain strictly Allah-centred. If you put it in a slogan, it will be ‘All for Allah (swt) alone’. With the exception of Allah’s (swt) pleasure, nothing is of any avail in this life logically. I encouraged them to dedicate their lives to the service of Allah (swt), for that is the safest way of conducting life in this earthly sojourn. Alhumdulillah, I see them realizing this. On my part, I have tried to maintain an effective communication with my children, though I was frequenting the ship as my profession. However, I remember I maintained effective communication with them through letters and later, through e-mails.”
Indeed, the increased role and contribution of the fathers in their respective families has had a profound effect on them. The children learn, grow and thrive under the firm, loving and supportive hands of their fathers, enabling them to become well-rounded personalities in all respects.
However, sometimes, initiatives don’t bring about results that were expected, in which case the fathers try out new ways to impact their children. Abu Muaz puts it aptly: “Of course, there are times when some things don’t work out in which case we try to figure out where we went wrong and how to correct them in the future.”