Aug 19, 2008
Interview with Leroy The Emperor Penguin
RD: G'day Leroy. Thanks for your time first of all.
Leroy: No worries. Little Roy just headed out to the open sea. Bit of time on our hands now.
RD: For human families today, finding a balance between work, rest and recreation is a difficult task. You Emperor Penguins seem to have come up with a well-structured and balanced routine.
Leroy: We like to think so. The missus does the hard work, first of all, forming and laying the egg. Not much I can do to help there except talk to her, huddle a bit and share a bit of warmth. Once she pops the egg it’s my turn. She heads out for a few months of feeding and I get to work, nesting the egg in my feet.
RD: Why in your feet?
Leroy: Well I’m not going to hold it for two months with these floppy little arms am I? Who’s the smartarse with the fingers around here?
RD: Apologies. Do you have any advice for human parents who are looking to share child-rearing, or exchange roles all together?
Leroy: Far be it from me to suggest how humans should structure their lives but it does seem strange to palm off most of the child-rearing to one person. We consider this to be the most important job there is. A very difficult one best undertaken in pairs.
RD: I agree. It's very difficult for humans these days though. There just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day, you have to balance family with career and money is so crucial...
Leroy: I don't get money. I mean I’ve heard of it, but from what I see you guys tend to create a disproportionate need for money. Take me and my partner for example. I look after the egg while she eats for a few months. When the egg hatches she comes back and I head out for a couple of weeks of eating. Fair enough you have to buy food but how much do you need to eat?
RD: It's not just for food though. We've reached a point in our evolution where there as so many cool things to buy. Big houses, lots of cars, latest model mobile phones, plasma televisions…
Leroy: Plasma whaty... ?
RD: Televisions. Massive ones. You get to watch all types of things on them - sport, news, movies, documentaries. There’re even some good shows about you guys. You should get one.
Leroy: Yeah? Maybe... have to talk to the missus.
RD: Anyway, back to the child-rearing. I'm a home dad now. This is a relatively new thing in our society – I mean post agriculture, before that whole families raised kids – but what do you see as the benefits of dads rearing kids?
Leroy: Mate, I can't see any other way to do it. My wife is totally stuffed after forming and laying the egg. All she wants to do is eat. Wouldn't be fair if I told her to sit there for another 64 days while I played around. It's just about sharing the load I reckon. Look after each other, share in the experience. One of the greatest things, and something you humans seem to be missing, is that both Penguin parents have an understanding of how difficult… and rewarding… child rearing can be. There seems to be too much emphasis placed on the human partner who goes out to eat, come back and regurgitate, whereas we have a deep understanding that both roles are equally as important to the functioning of a healthy and happy family.
RD: Well said. The role of child-rearing/home maintenance is undervalued in our society.
Leroy: Yep. It’s just a crazy backward way of thinking.
RD: So you don’t eat anything while you are nesting for 64 days?
Leroy: Me? No. He-he. I gotta focus. Eating would be very selfish.
RD: So you eat shellfish...
Leroy: What? No, I don't eat at all. I just told you...
RD: Don't you get hungry?
Leroy: Shit yeah. Lose about twenty kilograms. But I get to go out for a few weeks after and do nothing but eat. Anyway, it's like I was saying, humans have their priorities screwed up. The child should always come first.
Leroy: So how do you organise the workload after your two weeks of eating?
Leroy: Back to about 50/50. I forage and regurgitate for the young-un. Then the missus heads out and does the same. We like to keep it as balanced as possible. I mean, they’re not young forever are they. Six months and their waddling off to feed themselves.
RD: It does pass quickly, yes. One last question. While nesting the egg you huddle together with hundreds of other males. Doesn’t that raise a few eyebrows?
Leroy: Here we go again. Just because I take on some home duties and look after the baby doesn’t mean I’m not as masculine as the next guy.
RD: Hey, no offence. Just curious as to whether Emperor Penguins swing both ways…
Leroy: Its fricken cold out there. Alright? You try standing in the Antarctic for 64 days. I guarantee you’ll be hugging any male who walks by.
RD: Maybe if they were wearing a little penguin suit…
Leroy: Hehe. Get out of here.
RD: Thanks for your time.
Posted by Reservoir Dad at 10:06 PM