On being a new dad, work, and everything in between

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“Fi is growing faster than my baby”, laughed Surendra when asked how the fatherhood ride was going.

Surendra was a new dad when he interviewed at Fi. “I didn’t know if I’d get any paternity leaves. I was in an in-between stage. I served my notice period in my previous organisation when my son was born. I couldn’t take paternity leaves then, and then I joined Fi as a new dad and was unsure if I could take some time off to be with him.”

The notions around the working father are finally changing. For decades we’ve held a black and white picture of the working dad - he’s either the providing man who works day in and day out, or he’s the involved father who spends time with the family. Both figures have been two-dimensional and oppositional, portraying that working dads can either fulfil emotional or financial needs, never both at once. 

As conversations around subverting traditional masculinity have been happening, fair paternity leaves are an increasing demand for working dads. New-age dads are open about how they want to be of help at home and want to be involved in the life of their children. As simple as these demands sound, they’re quite revolutionary. 

“My wife’s world turned upside down, her life changed in so many ways, and the least I could do was be of help and comfort at home. I spoke about being a new dad at my interview, and to my delight, Arvind insisted that I take paternity leaves and spend time at home.” 

While many Indian companies offer a minimum of two weeks of paternity leaves, it’s still seen as an option rather than a necessity. While an increasing number of Indian dads are opting to take time off in the first few months of their children’s lives, equality around this is yet another journey to get on. 

Paternity breaks are essential, here’s why - 

Multiple research sources over the last few years have shown how fathers who were home in the initial months of parenthood experienced better relationships with their newborns and their spouses. Social Researchers Dr Petts and Dr Knoester also found that children whose fathers took a paternity break reported feeling closer to their fathers, even nine years later. Another study reveals that new moms who had husbands on paternity leave were less likely to be on stress and anxiety medication.

“I want to see a daycare facility for new parents at work. I know my wife and I will get anxious about how our son is doing once we’re back at work. An attached daycare where we could check in on our son would be relieving. But, I’m still surprised at how accommodating Fi is of new parents”, Surendra adds. 

What does a new dad need?

To start with, a support system at work where new dads can relate and express themselves goes a long way. Secondly, being an active part of the developmental milestones of their newborn increases how enriching being a new parent is.

Lastly, flexibility and understanding that, like new moms, new dads are also going through significant changes and need emotional and mental support help in feeling validated and seen. 

“The one thing I always appreciate is that Fi is super flexible to new parents. Apart from the Secondary Caregiver leaves they offer, work timings are flexible. Your team understands when you must be Out of Office or come in later. Everyone understands that you're trying a new balancing act and they let you be. It’s also great to see other new dads at work; you know you aren’t alone.”

Surendra’s son has grown an impeccable memory. The moment he sees his dad put on his morning clothes, he knows exactly what to do. 

“One morning, I took him on a bike ride before leaving for work. He loved it so much that he refuses to forget it. Each morning, when he sees me getting ready, he very firmly demands a bike ride. One of these days, I couldn’t take him for it, and my wife had to step in to oblige. He’s quick to pick things up; every day is a revelation for us.” 

Despite his anxiety around taking a plunge during a time which needed more responsibility from him, Surendra’s happiness around how parenthood and Fi have been can’t go unnoticed.

“I was conscious of leaving Google right around the same time my son was due. I didn’t know how the decision would pan out, especially with a baby on the way. But it’s all been wonderful. Being a father has been extremely rewarding. The moment I return home from work, my wife is drained of energy, and my son is full of it. He’s so excited to see me and to play with me. I mean, who would give that up? Sure, I can’t go out with my friends the way I used to, and I’ve had to sacrifice things I wanted to do, but I’d rather choose this. This is the most important and fulfilling part of my life”, he added as a smiling ending note.

Fi currently has a Primary and Secondary caregiver policy for new parents. The policy doesn’t restrict maternal or paternal figures as primary or secondary caregivers keeping in mind single parents, a parent/parents who adopt, and parents from the LGBTQIA+ community. Primary caregivers are given 6 months of parental leave, followed by 3 months of ramp back. Secondary caregivers get around 4 weeks of parental leave, which is used at discretion. From hiring an expecting mother and a new dad to ensuring maternity and career growth goes smoothly, Fi aims to ensure equality at all levels. 

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