Something I’ve not really touched on too much before is my experience of being a stay-at-home dad, house-spouse or as I recently read somewhere, and very much my favourite, ‘Domestic Engineer’. This job is a generational phenomenon, one which our parents and grandparents would have not understood or approved of as little as 25 years ago.
I can’t say it was a burning ambition when I was growing up, I think it chronologically went more along these lines: spaceman (6), fireman (8), policeman (10), spy (12), football player (14), rock star (16), and then millionaire (18). So, I was a bit out of my depth and shocked when in April 2004 I found myself being, to use the technical term, the primary carer. The reason for my successful application for this job was: I had provided the sperm, I had no career to speak of, my wife had quite a serious career to speak of and I had nothing better to do with my time.
And with that, the adventure began. I took the job very seriously. At that time in place I was very much in the minority and I didn’t want to give anyone ammunition that Dad’s weren’t up to the job. We lived in a progressive seaside city on the south coast of England but that didn’t stop the mother coven from looking at me with suspicion and perhaps, a little bit of hate. Here was this guy, encroaching into a world very much carved out by Mums for mums. Now I’m a bit of an introvert (that’s a bloody understatement my wife screams in my head), so making small talk and sidling my way into mother’s groups was never going to be easy. Still, a mantra I kept repeating to myself then (as I do now), was ‘it’s not about you, it’s about your son(s)’ and with that I would load us up with all the baby essentials required for the day ( a shit load as it turns out) and head off to gymberoo, swimming and sing and sign classes. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all unpleasant, my son and I did some serious bonding, travelled to every building site in the city to look at diggers (we had a big Bob the Builder thing going then) and I met some really nice people, but I still felt very much the outsider, wheedling my way into a secret society. Also, I didn’t do a lot for my self-esteem and that created problems with life-style choices and mental-health.
Coming to Australia, was very much a re-start, a re-fresh, a new beginning. I instantly felt that my role in life was more accepted. Now, whether this is because of the more relaxed approach to life we enjoy here or that people just judged you on who you are not what you do. I can’t honestly say. The other option, it could have also been that by now, after doing the job for a few years and with another son on the way that I really didn’t give a shit anymore what people thought. This was what I did: cared for my boys and supported my wife with her own endeavours. I had a purpose, I could be proud of the work I was doing. I do definitely think that having two sporty boys helped. I’ve got no idea how girls work. Being around after school to take the lads to assorted sporting practices, getting involved in the clubs and trying not to shout too much on the sideline at weekend fixtures was and is one of my great pleasures.
When I look around the school playground now, I can see at least four other chaps doing the house-spouse thing. It’s not a lot when you crunch the numbers, but it’s a start. The same can be said when I go to the boy’s matches. The amount of beers I could have bought if I tallied up how many working men have said to me that they are either jealous, wish they could go part-time or even go the whole hog and be a full-time dad, would have afforded me my own pub. Come on Dads, man-up, they don’t bite you know – well my don’t anyway.
Of course, it’s not easy. It can be boring and very very tiring. Being a not very patient person, I can reach for the last resort sometimes instead of thinking about why they are doing that and what’s the best way to deal with the situation. Shouting never helps (but can feel bloody good). This is all outweighed by laughing at farts – yes, they are funny, enjoying their successes, burping the alphabet and watching as your child develops into the person you hope they may become. It also helps if you have a righteous mother in your corner to sort out all the crap you’ve created.
I have now held this position for 12 years (yet to be promoted) and for all its frustrations, I wouldn’t have it any other way. My wife and I enjoy a work/life balance which is the envy of many. We are a happy and close family who have been through a lot but have always had each other to get us through. My kids fill me with pride and I can’t wait to see what surprises the little shits have got in store over the forthcoming years.