Jul 31, 2008

The Invisible Man

At the Northern Dad's Group a few weeks ago, one of the Dad's, Dan, brought up the issue of The Invisible Man - quite a common occurrence in the land of home Dad's. He and his wife had been down at the local council sorting out some paperwork relating to their son. During the interview the council worker addressed all questions to Dan's wife without as much as a sideways glance at the humbled Dad.

This story led to several similar stories from other Dad's who had faced a social shunning when discussing their kids with their wives present. Mick even gave us an example of becoming The Invisible Man without his wife present. He was waiting to register his youngest for his immunisation only to find several mothers ushered to the sign-in desk ahead of him. When he pointed out he'd been waiting longer than some of those being called through the nurse apologised and thought he was simply there with one of the other Mum's. I guess a Dad couldn't possibly handle baby stuff on his own...

A few other examples that were mentioned –

Dad was at the checkout of a local supermarket when a middle-aged employee tickled his boy under the chin and said, “Spending some time with Daddy, are we?” Daddy smiled, extended his middle finger inside his jacket pocket and thought – yes, twenty-four hours, seven days a week.

Another Dad was in the aisles of the supermarket (supermarket stories are common) doing his best to control two screaming kids when an employee says loudly, “Don’t worry, you’ll be home with Mummy soon.”

I’ve had my share of those experiences too of course. Just this week I was at KindaGym with Lewis while Archie was at three-year-old Kindergarten. The instructor addressed the group several times as Mothers. I looked at myself in the floor-to-ceiling mirror just to make sure I was still noticeably masculine. I was.

Now, I may be taking on a role that is traditionally a female-dominated one, but that doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly become a woman or need to become more ‘feminine’ to do it competently. It’s also true that Reservoir Mum is as womanly (and sexy) as she’s always been. Despite working fulltime and earning the cash she has managed to avoid growing a beard or an Adam’s apple.

The instructor did manage to correct herself at the end of the session. As we were preparing ourselves for a hearty rendition of Pattycake, Pattycake, Baker’s Man she asked the children, “Do you cook biscuits and cakes at home with your Mummy?’ before shaking her head and saying, ‘Sorry, I’m being terribly sexist – Mummy or Daddy…”

There is some humour involved in those stories of course – the other Dad’s and I managed to have a laugh while expressing a bit of frustration – and you can understand it in the context that the majority of full-time caregivers are generally women, but assumptions and stereotypes don't do much for promoting options for families.

And it’s always been my opinion that the more options and choices families have the greater the chances that all family members will be happy.

Jul 30, 2008

Welcome to Reservoir Dad

Reservoir Mum has always been the career orientated one. She sits at the front whipping the horses and I sit in the cart, smoking a pipe and wondering how she does it. Or maybe I should say that I USED to wonder how she does it. Truth is she loves what she does, she's very good at it and - biggest bonus of all - she gets paid to do it.

I, on the other hand, worked in the same career for 10 years but changed jobs, sites and roles dozens of times because I just wasn't into it and was trying to keep myself from going crazy with the monotony. The sound of that whip cracking...

So it wasn't a very difficult decision to make when we sat down to decide how we'd structure our lives once the second child - Lewis - came along. Reservoir Mum loves to work and makes a lot of money doing it. Reservoir Dad doesn't like work very much at all and makes a lot less money. We assumed the kids would be happier at home with us than at child care.

I remember holding on to six month old Lewis with two-year-old Archie standing beside me, as we waved Reservoir Mum goodbye and I started my first official day as a stay-at-home Dad. We went back inside, the door clicked behind us and we waited for a moment. Nothing happened. Looking back now, I get the feeling that I was standing in a bomb shelter without realising that I was actually holding on to the bomb.

In all my other roles, there was always someone around to show me how to get started, what to do, who to report to if I had questions. But it wasn't long before I realised who my new bosses were. Lewis started crying, Archie started raiding cupboards and I started patting bums, talking in a language that relied more on facial expressions than words and cleaning and cleaning and cleaning. Since then (and a lot of ups and downs) the two terrors (the best kids in the world) have been structuring my day for me and I am slowly starting to learn to go with the flow.

This blog will mainly focus on my role as a stay-at-home Dad but I won't limit it to just that. Hello to family and friends, and anyone else who drops by.