‘My father struggled to express his emotions’

Attitudes towards fatherhood have changed over the years. Whereas in the past fathers were valued as hard, strong leaders with authority, today we value the softer more feminine aspects - MANJIT KAUR as she reflects on Father's Day

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Photo: RENE RAUSCHENBERGER / Pixabay

By Manjit Kaur (UK) | OPINION |

On Father’s Day, sons and daughters like me will be celebrating the contributions and sacrifices made by our fathers to our lives. Actually one should not need a special day to say thank you to people who are special in our lives; we should be saying thank you all the time to them!

A true father should be a role model, a special person who is a friend, parent, teacher and guide, who protects us in every phase of our lives. In this regard, today is not only about our fathers but to honour fatherhood more generally.

Attitudes towards fatherhood have changed over the years. Whereas in the past fathers were valued as hard, strong leaders with authority, today we value the softer more feminine aspects. So we value fathers who are sensitive, caring, good listeners and able to do domestic tasks, like cooking and cleaning.

For some people Father’s Day is a day of happiness, where they might take their dad’s out for a meal or celebrate as a family. But for others like me, whose fathers are not alive, today is a day mixed emotions, of fond memories and sadness.

Like most men of his generation, my father struggled to express his emotions, other than perhaps anger and disapproval! However, occasionally his mask would slip and he would reveal a playful nature where he would tease me and make me laugh by telling funny stories. But, I must admit, he was mostly quite a reserved person.

The truth is that fathers such as mine, were the products of tradition. My late ‘Bhapa Ji’, Swaran Singh Malhi pictured below, was born and raised in Panjab, to value traditional gender roles and masculinity. Though he was educated, when he came to the U.K. before establishing his own business, he worked in mills and factories and I know he had a really tough life. He saw his priority was to provide for and protect his children, including from ‘western influences’, which meant that I was not allowed much freedom. I did wonder, if western culture was so bad, why did so many people from India come over!

Being the eldest my dad was also under pressure from his parents (my Baba and Bebe ji) to send money back to Panjab, and to be honest he had very little spare time to spend with us, his children. He rarely hugged me and if I am honest, he struggled to show affection or love. I must admit, at the time, like I suspect most girls of my generation, I did resent my Dad’s attitudes and it was only as I got older that I was able to realise what he must have been going through and to appreciate his perspective.

I can’t recall my dad ever crying other than in two occasions. One was when I was about 11 years old when he received news from India that his dad, my Baba ji, had passed away. I remember him sitting on his bed in the early morning with his hand in his head, tears pouring from his eyes.

The second occasion, which I will never forget was after my wedding as I was about to permanently leave my prenatal home with my new husband. My dad had his head down and was visibly upset and crying. As I was full of emotion at the time, I did not fully appreciate how sad he was, but his grief was captured in the wedding video, which still brings tears to my eyes.

Today, it is much easier for fathers to express their emotions, which is a good thing for them and their children. It is only by expressing our emotion can we become sensitive to each other. Suppressing emotions can actually affect your health and relationships, and there is quite lot of evidence that many men suffer in silence as a result.

As I was growing up I wanted to avoid the mistakes of the previous generation, though I also realise each generation has their challenges. Just as mothers have had to learn to be more assertive, likewise fathers are learning that express their emotions is not a sign of weakness. So for me celebrating Father’s Day as well as giving gifts and celebrating is also about thinking of the challenges fathers face, especially in a world where traditional masculine attitudes and behaviours is no longer acceptable.

 

Manjit Kaur, a UK-based therapist and counsellor, is a presenter of the 1 Show on Akaal Channel. She can be contacted via email at manjitkaur1show@gmail.com

 

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