Like all other dads, Peter Kotikalapudi saw that after the birth of his son, his wife was the one towards whom all advice was directed. She was the one added to WhatsApp and Facebook groups about parenting and such, which were, of course, densely populated by moms. He attended a pop-up event hosted by a Mommy Network where he spotted only a few dads - only carrying the bags or pushing the strollers around. Back at work, Peter knew Nadir Kanthawala, who had been actively involved in the formative years of his daughter’s upbringing. Both worked at the same digital marketing agency and Nadir was the only dad who Peter could turn to for advice and conversation about parenting.
Nadir, who had been in between jobs when his daughter was born did not rush back to work - he instead became actively involved in parenting and had started documenting his parenting journey on a blog. In his own words, “The more I got involved in parenting, I realised that at each stage, there were so many moments to remember! I wanted to chronicle every single milestone right from the delivery to vaccinations, crawling, sitting, walking, teething, all of it.”
Meeting frequently at work, they realized that there was a need to build a community of dads. They thought about chronicling the journeys of fathers like themselves and building a space where fathers could learn from each other and feel supported. And that's what led to establishing the podcast Pops In A Pod, back in 2020, which has been curating and releasing exclusive and insightful content on parenting. As Nadir puts it, “Pops In A Pod is a platform where we have a great chat with other dads and ask each other about shared experiences such as schooling or parenting during the pandemic. We feel that Pops in A Pod has become a great place for moms and dads to listen to stories of other parents.”
Edited extracts of an interview
Why do you think moms dominate the parenting space? Why do dads have a passive role? Is it a cultural convention or just a choice most dads make?
Peter: The reason that we started the podcast is not that we thought that dads did not want to be involved. We realised that there were many other dads out there and that this was a great way to connect with them. One insight Nadir gave me when he was talking about his blog was that mothers mostly were reading it. We needed to reach out to dads. And two factors impact this - one is dads not wanting to be involved because of existing cultural conventions, and the second is that even when a dad wants to be involved, he doesn't have support. For example, when schools start WhatsApp groups, they never ask if both parents want to be added. It's automatically assumed that only the mother will be involved. I found it very strange when it happened to me at my son's school. Honestly, dads aren't welcomed in parenting initiatives.
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What research did you do to build Pops In A Pod?
Nadir: For women, it's like a harbour - where you can come together and share your stories and experiences. They trade tips and advise each other on all situations. There is no such community or platform for dads. I've been involved in parenting as a dad for over three years now. I spent a whole year just researching because I can't just start a community as a parent alone. I went through other communities and platforms to see what they were doing and the content they were curating. Peter and I spent a lot of time understanding the parenting space, which was mostly centred around moms. But, in today's day and age, many dads are actually involved.. That's when we realised that there was a need for a portal, a community that acknowledged and appreciated fathers who went above and beyond the norms of parenting. We then decided that we wanted to share perspectives about being contemporary fathers, the pleasure of being a parent and bond with other fathers.
What insights did you get about parenting while researching for Pops In A Pod?
Nadir: One of the most interesting things that happened to us when we started our research. We just googled dads/fathers in India and noticed the ridiculous links that came up - you'll get results for the father of the nation or other random stuff. We found it really hilarious - there was no helpful content at the top level of search pages for fathers in India. We had just discovered the biggest gap in the Indian parenting scene. The deeper we researched along these lines, we found that all content was mother centric. It's so skewed towards one parent's perspective that the other parent's perspective is completely lost. This made our decision to fill up this void easier. Even after three years, there isn't a lot of content aimed at fathers. We recently came across a few dad groups and were very happy to acquaint ourselves with them. It really gave us hope that things are finally picking up.
Peter: Also, we didn't find any podcasts in India for fathers; most of them were US-based. We decided that we wanted to talk about real-life experiences. We don't narrate someone else's story; we try to get guests who are far more experienced than us and are experts across domains. We have profiled our listeners and tried to understand what information and topics they're interested in. Nadir and I had recorded our pilot episode in June 2019 but ended up launching in January 2020. We've spent so much time researching that today we're sitting on many data points about parenting in itself.
What is the response you have received from listeners? Are there any interesting anecdotes you can share?
Peter: The first listener feedback that we received, which we both will never forget, was from a stay-at-home dad. We believe he is a trend-setter as he decided to take a work-from-home job to spend more time with his child. He's also an endurance/long-distance runner. He wrote to us saying that he listened to us while running at night. He connected us to Ankit, a visually impaired father who shared his entire journey with our listeners and us, highlighting his challenges.
Nadir: The network has been built and continues to grow and acts as a positive feedback loop for itself. We just keep getting such amazing references from our listeners. A lot of our guests are really happy talking about their journey and sharing things as there is no other platform where this happens. Pops In A Pod has created a lot of common ground for parents over the years, and there are always unique experiences that come out through this medium.
What are your plans for the future with the podcast?
Peter: We have managed to build an even ratio of moms and dads as listeners over the past few years. We plan to cover topics like entrepreneurs' parents, parenting in the media, etc. We want to widen our scope to also appeal to people who want to be parents, newlywed couples or even single people. We're also going to focus on relationships as there is almost no content that focuses on relationships in the parenting space. We also want to cover father's day better this year. We've become the defacto dads that talk about all these things.
Nadir: The idea is to build a platform and not be the spokesperson for dads. We talk about dads as an overview and not just ourselves. We might even do dad meet-ups. A Pops In A Pod listeners meet-up could just be the next party for parents. And we maybe even do Pops In A Pod playdates!
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Divya Naik is a Mumbai based psychotherapist.