Aug 11, 2008

Northern Dads Group Guest Blogger #2 – Dan

Ayup all. My name is Dan, father of Liam (11) and Mikey (4). I became primary carer/stay home dad/house-slave when Mikey was 5 months old, and ‘by jiminy’ how long ago does that seem?

Me and Mikey joined the Northern Dads Playgroup when he was about 8 months I think. It’s a relaxed affair, with the emphasis on stress minimisation. e.g. last week – ‘Uh-oh, has Josie just been sick? Oh no, it’s all right, she’s just been eating sand’. Last week I also lost my marbles (ha ha!); hope Josie didn't eat them too!

Thanks Reservoir Dad for the invite. There’s so many things to say about being at home with kids, and what a great forum for saying them. I've put this post in two parts – perplexed/frustrated and joyful/contemplative, cos they don’t seem to slot together too well. So……..

Some things that have perplexed/frustrated me as a stay-at-home Dad. I’ve always liked the saying ‘credit where it’s due’ and while you’re not looking for any medals as a primary carer, not being given some credit for the job really irks. You do the hard work day in day out, getting up in the night, making the meals, slogging through the housework, scooping up the ‘huey greens’ and generally taking care of baby/s. You know ‘your baby’ as well as anyone but even so, it will still be assumed by many you meet day to day, that Mum is really the one ‘in charge‘.

Sometimes this is really blatant, especially with services that are used to dealing primarily with mothers. For example I made all the arrangements when Mikey was younger to check out the Pre-School Dentist, the Sleep-Settling Centre (they were good btw) and the Kinder rego. Each time, despite me having made all the phone calls, filled in the forms and even visited the places, the correspondence was sent out addressed only to my partner. Not only was I not acknowledged as primary carer, I wasn’t even acknowledged as a parent!

Often it’s more subtle though, and I often feel I am treated like an ‘amateur’ by many people (health professionals, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, shop staff); as if if I was just ‘filling in’ until the full time professional was back on the job. You can tell stay-at-home-Dads – especially with babies in their first year – are still a big deal for many people, because they ask questions they would never ask of a mother, and pass comments they wouldn't dare say to a Mum. For example;

- “babysitting today are we?” (asked on many occasions by people in the street, at the shops etc. No, I’m his Dad stupid!)

- “and do you do everything in the house” (translation: so do you do the cooking, washing, clean the toilet, get the groceries as well as look after the kids??)

- while having a coffee with baby in the pram….“good of you to be looking after him while Mum does the groceries” (no, Mum’s not doing the groceries, she’s not even in the shopping centre.)

- (at the clothes shop)……“well done, fancy a man buying clothes for his kids. Most men who buy clothes in here have to bring them back cos they don’t know the right size”. (That would be the Dads who can’t read the labels then.)

- at the ice cream parlor…..“Better take a serviette love. Your wife will kill you if he gets all mucky” (thanks, won’t need to use the wipes I carry round everywhere then!)

- at the chemist… “oh, got your day off today eh?” (er, no)

- the fruit and veg shop….“Ahh, day with Daddy today eh? Have a lovely day!” (see above)

These attitudes will change over time, I guess, as more and more fathers take up the role. In the meantime, it’s good to ‘vent’ every so often!

Things that have made me joyful/contemplative…

One of the things about having watched our older child in his progression through toddlerdom, to primary school, and now approaching high school is that I’ve been conscious of how the really cute stuff of the pre-school years fades over time (to be replaced by equally moving, but slightly different, stuff). So I’ve been trying to treasure every innocent moment with our youngest. Some of my recent favourites:

- Mikey wanted to take Panda, Lion and Giraffe along to swimming lesson last Friday, and all three fluffy animals seemed happy to go along with this. I managed to convince Mikey that they shouldn’t go in the water cos none of them could swim. So there they sat, propped on a chair by the poolside, Lion leaning on Panda, leaning on Giraffe (who was missing the action cos he was looking straight down. Maybe it was the lack of vertebrae in his neck). Halfway through the lesson while I was looking the other way one of the Mums turned to me, smiling, and told me Mikey had managed to sneak in a wave to his teddies as he swam by. Beautiful.

- We were choosing some gumboots for a trip to the snow a few weeks ago. Mikey decided that the pink ones with Bratz Girls on the side were ‘awesome’ and he proudly wore them all day (had to pre-warn big brother not to pass judgment on them).

- Dr Seuss books really get on my goat if I‘m honest but, nevertheless, I had to laugh when we were reading Green Eggs and Ham the other day.

Me: Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat it with a… ? (pause for Mikey to add the missing word, fox.)

Mikey: Dog.

(To be fair, it did look a lot like a dog.)

- Surreal games of I-spy.

Me: I spy with my little eye something beginning with… W.
Mikey: (after a long think): “…………tree?”

It’s being able to be ‘in the moment’ so often that is one of the best things about being a stay-at-home Dad, I reckon.

News flash. Just got a text from Jack that he’s found my lost marbles, or at least some of them. Don’t dare ask him where he found them, just glad they’re safe.

No comments: