Dad, where are you?


By Zhang Qian
BEIJING, Jan. 12 — In traditional Chinese families, child-rearing was strictly women’s work, while fathers remained aloof. Today, fathers increasingly play a significant parenting role. Zhang Qian reports.
For both Carl Gu and his two-year-old daughter Cindy, it was a disaster when mother went on a business trip two weeks ago. Though she reminded her husband again and again of Cindy’s habits and needs and told him exactly what to do, he could barely manage.
For two days, the 34-year-old banker could not keep the girl still in her highchair for a meal; he couldn’t find her favorite animated episode in early childhood education; he couldn’t stop her crying by offering her favorite milk. He wasn’t even sure how much milk powder was needed for a bottle of water.
Somehow, he muddled through.
“It was the first time I took care of the baby all by myself. I did not know what she needed, and I could not find what I needed,” says Gu, who was exhausted after one day.
Usually, mother took charge and grandmother helped during the day, but the elderly woman caught cold, so dad had to step in.
“It is just not my thing, or it is just not a man thing,” says Gu.
He is a typical father who doesn’t do the hands-on child-rearing — feeding, cleaning up, changing diapers, dressing, bathing and playing. But increasingly fathers are stepping in and playing a larger role in their child’s upbringing, spending more quality time with their sons and daughters.
He identifies with the celebrity parenting reality TV show “Dad, Where Are We Going” that ended last month, one of the year’s most popular TV shows in China.
Five celebrity dads from different fields and their children spent a couple of days away from home and away from mother, often visiting a village or unknown town. Dad had to do everything — preparing meals, making sure children brushed their teeth, guiding them as they walked around, finding teaching moments and bonding.
Many of the fathers were just as befuddled as Gu.
The show touched viewers by showing the affection between fathers and children, and it generated considerable discussion about the father’s role in family education.
The traditional value of “nan zhu wai, nu zhu nei” (men’s work is outside, women’s work is inside the home) has dominated Chinese family culture for centuries.
The divisions were clear, man as breadwinner, woman as mother and homemaker.[db:内容2]