Feb 25, 2009

Home-Dadding The Beginning - Jack's View

Thanks for all the enquiries about the Home-Dadding - The Beginning Series mentioned a few weeks ago.

As promised, over the next few months the NDG Dads will be telling us how the idea of staying home first presented itself. What were the circumstances? Were they happy, depressed, excited or shitting themselves in the early days, how this changed as time went on and whatever else they’d like to share.

The first NDG Dad to spill his guts is Jack. He's a top bloke old Jack. Has good knowledge on just about every subject and is always the first to break a sombre mood with a good quality Dad joke. Jack was the first to complete this course and get the rest of us on to it -

Jack's View

Well, before we had our children, my wife and I had decided that the best arrangement for us would be that we both work part time, and share the care of our kids. That was easy enough for my wife, who is a high-flyer for a blue-chip type company with an enlightened attitude towards parental leave and part-time work, but we knew that it would be a hard ask in my field of work, which is not typically family-friendly.

So around the time my first daughter was one year old, I quit my job as an architect for an established design firm and set up an office of my own in a shed in our back yard - the realisation of a life-long dream, at a manageable scale (at least to begin with).

I now work part-time for the employer who has the best understanding of my children’s needs, and the most flexible attitude towards the hours I work and the time I spend with my kids - myself.

My wife and I share the care of our daughters, with a small amount of outside child care every week. When I am at work, I’m only a few steps from the back door, and well within the range of the baby monitor. I can watch the nappies swing on the clothes line from my drawing board, and stop work at any time to take my eldest to the pool or cuddle my youngest. When I turn off the computer and shut the shed door, my time is my girls’.

My earnings have dropped to chicken feed levels, but my new job has some huge advantages that a more ‘traditional’ arrangement wouldn’t have. Besides the extra time with my kids, I get to keep my skills active and grow my business slowly – a few projects at a time, with the option to devote more time to it when the girls get older.

The new routine takes some discipline – I had to learn to respect the divide between work time and child time (my first afternoon juggling a child over a keyboard taught me that). We also couldn’t have made this arrangement work without at least 2 part-days per week of good quality outside child care for our eldest – with its advantages of social interaction and broader experience, and its disadvantages of childcare bugs and occasional difficult days.

There are some times where juggling the demands of two young children and a small business can be exhausting. But would I go back? Never.

Check out Jack's energy efficiency blog - www.diagramarchitects.com.au/blog .

Feb 19, 2009

The Time Shortage Crisis - Home Dads Request Double-Blind Controlled Trial

As reported extensively in the media, it's been a big week for Home-Dads. There has been a sharp rise in reports of food fights, sleeping issues, toileting mishaps and bad smells.

Increasingly, houses are being overrun by clutter and filth. As Home-Dad Dan(FP) mentioned recently, "You just get one part of the house ship-shape and a pip-sized human pops up like a fricken geyser spraying filth and clutter as far as the eye can see. You know, I reckon these little critters actually shed crumbs."

A sharp rise in children falling to the ground with epileptic-like symptoms has also been reported. Although it has yet to be confirmed with a randomised, double-blind controlled trial, anecdotal information seems to confirm that it occurs more often when the word 'No' is mentioned in a crowded public space.

The continuing 'free-time shortage crisis' is also a major concern. Local government is considering a move to 3A time restrictions for children if they continue to use so much of Home-Dad time. The proposed restrictions will limit children to only 12 hours of Dad time from Monday to Friday, and the standard 24 hours of time every second Saturday and Sunday, depending on post code.

Home-Dads have welcomed the plan. As well as allowing more time for Home Duties it is thought that this will lead to an increase in quality time for parents and a greater opportunity for Dads to bed their wives.

With the approaching footy season, Home-Dad and energy expert Jack has also made the crucial point that this time rationing will lead to more Dads holding cold beers in their hands while sitting in front of their massive Plasmas.

Feb 17, 2009

A Post for the Embarrassment Sensitive

Remember what it feels like to be embarrassed?

I do, if I try hard enough - a funny twisting in the guts, a tightening in the skin, a desperate, pulsing need to hide.

I remember walking into a supermarket with Archie for the first time. Just thinking that he might cry or hurl or fart (even a little bit) was enough to give me such an attack of embarrassment that I felt it might turn my insides out. When Lewis came along and they started tearing down the aisles together, screaming for the (bastard) sweets (that the bastard shopping centre people stick right under their noses) I'd just about freak.

The problem was that I was embarrassment sensitive – a common affliction among new parents. As I found out, the only real cure for the embarrassment sensitive is constant exposure to humiliation. And there is no shortage of humiliation when you are responsible for tiny humans who lack empathy, social etiquette and bowel control.

After four years I’d say I am just about cured. Nowadays, with all my kids have done to me in public, I'll walk into a supermarket shoeless, with a t-shirt covered in food and so oblivious to those around me that Archie and Lewis would have to pull my pants down, push me over and spit on me before I'd feel a little sheepish.

When I was embarrassment sensitive, I would always give the same supermarket safety spiel –

Reservoir Dad (whispering desperately): Kids, stay close by. No running because you might hurt someone. No touching anything unless I say it’s okay. Don’t raise your voice and for Christ’s sake do not put snot, vomit or anything else that comes out of you on anything or anyone.

Now I give a different spiel. It goes something like this –

Reservoir Dad (yelling at the kids who are already at the end of the aisle): Kids, what is the speed a toddler must be running at in order to cause the least damage to a pensioner in the event of a collision?

Kids: 3 km/h Daddy!

Reservoir Dad: Good. What do we do when we find the lolly aisle?

Kids: Keep all the wrappers for the scanner, Daddy!

Reservoir Dad: That’s my boys. And what do you do if you happen to vomit?

Kids: Try not to slip in it, Daddy!

Reservoir Dad: Yep. And if you fart?

Kids: Move quickly but quietly to a different aisle, Daddy-Bum-Bum!

Reservoir Dad: That’s my boys.

I have been much more successful with this approach but I have to say it is only possible after years of child-induced humiliation has completely desensitised you to feeling any level of embarrassment.

Maybe for the sake of parents everywhere there could be some regular embarrassment-desensitising classes. They could go hand in hand with antenatal classes and involve several desensitising techniques over several weeks culminating in a practical exam where Mums and Dads have to perform a pants-free version of the Wiggles Doctor Knicker Bocker Song in a popular food court.

Try it. Stand up right now and give it a go. It's not easy. After that anything a toddler does to you will be a breeze.

Funny though. This embarrassment-desensitising training that parents go through in the process of rearing kids can come back to haunt the kids themselves as they move into their vulnerable teens.

I remember when I was sixteen or so. I went to a regular summer festival that all the cool kids went to. Mum dropped me off and I said something along the lines of, “Just drop me off and keep driving. Don’t embarrass me.”

Mum – being Mum – waited until I started moving into the crowds and then turned off the car, got out and ran up to me screaming, “Oh my son! My beautiful son! I love my son!” and so on. She held me in a bear hug long enough to create a three metre clearing around us. Needless to say I was mortified.

My mother would not have been capable of this kind of ruthless attention grabbing if it hadn’t been for the years of humiliation my sisters and me had put her though.

And I guess this is where parents just have to bide their time.

I’m looking forward to Archie and Lewis making their teens. I’ll be sure to take them to all their social engagements.

Feb 15, 2009

Home-Dadding - The Beginning

Thanks to Joanna Bounds for giving Reservoir Dad a mention in the 'Sunday Herald Sun Magazine' today. As the article suggests, it is true that Dads are taking a more direct role in raising their children today and this includes everything from nappy changing to nutrition to education and play. This is the case whether Dads are full time carers of the kids or the main breadwinner or a mixture of both.

I'm amazed that a large percentage or my generation were born into a room where Dad was absent. But it's often true. Just ask your father or father-in-law where he was when the children were being born. Things have changed a lot in thirty-five years. So I am even more amazed that, today, many people find it strange or noteworthy that a Dad takes a hands-on approach to baby and child-rearing.

As Jack – a Northern Dads Group regular – mentioned at last Friday's meeting, if we can accept that women are going to be working full time we have to allow for the fact that men will be taking on a more permanent role in the nitty-gritty of parenting. Families that are flexible in regard to the workload (and variety or work) shared by Mum and Dad are going to be the families that have a greater chance at happiness (in my opinion).

I've been thinking about the public perception of Home-Dadding recently. Just a month ago at Archie's introduction to four-year-old kinder I was greeted by the kindergarten teacher who said “you don't hear of that very often” when I mentioned I was the full time carer. That’s the first time I’ve had a comment like that in a while and it did make me feel like I was a little ‘on the outer’. It would be great to get to a point where Home-Dadding is seen as just another option for families and has as little eyebrow-raising potential as a woman working full time and focussing on her career.

So, over the next few weeks I’ll be inviting members of the Northern Dads Group to give us an insight into their transition into Home-Dadding. I thought this would be a good topic to help demystify the Home-Dad role because one underlying assumption that I have heard often is that Dads stay home due to lack of choice. While this may be the truth in some cases it doesn’t take into account how the role can then shift to become the most rewarding and challenging of a Dad’s life. Or that a Dad even having the option to be the primary care giver is an indication that his family are lucky enough to have more choices available to them. It also doesn’t allow for the countless other reasons that Dads stay home (and Mums go to work).

So, the NDG Dads will be telling us how the idea of staying home first presented itself. What were the circumstances? Were they happy, depressed, excited or shitting themselves in the early days and how has this changed? And whatever else they’d like to share.

I’d also be happy to include the experience of non NDG Dads. So if you have a story to share leave a comment to this post and I will include it in the coming weeks.

Feb 14, 2009

You've Gotta See This (Please?)

Here's a small insight into the Home-Dadding game for you Dads out there who haven't had the experience. Although, in my opinion, there are many highs, positives and ups in this caper, there is no escaping the fact that there are some lows, negatives and downs to deal with as well.

For me one of hardest parts of Home-Dadding is the inevitable reduction in adult interaction. I'm still lucky in that regard - the Northern Dad's Group, the powerlifting club and a weekly gym session with ex-workmates at my joint gives the chance to converse with people who have the ability to listen, understand and respond with sentences a little more involved than "Hey Daddy, how did the popcorn get in Lewis' pants?" Still, it's nowhere near the amount of adult contact I had while working full time.

The interesting thing about this reduction in adult contact is that you notice how reliant on it you are. Small titbits from your day, when not shared with someone on a similar wavelength, seem to become a lot more mentally consuming then they should be. An article in the newspaper, which would just require a 'hey, did you hear about that car crash over in...' to be released from your cranium, sits with you for a lot longer than necessary. A funny incident that could be shared or relayed to an adult immediately, instead becomes something that you have to hold on to until you can tell 'so-and-so'.

The big problem is that a day, or even a few days in some cases, without seeing a familiar adult can lead to a build up of pressure that becomes almost unmanageable. If you don't release it through unconventional means (the photo above was taken while the kids were asleep and I was alone with a clown uniform and a tripod) the minute someone of age walks through the door your head will explode like a pressured 'phoofer-valve' and release a tirade of talk detailing the most useless of past happenings.

It's funny, I used to think that women with children talked a lot because of some hormonal overload. I can tell you it has less to do with hormones and more to do with isolation and a slow build up of pressure. Case in point - a mate of mine recently told me how he gets home and his wife just doesn't stop talking for an hour. I said, 'Yeah, I do that when Reservoir Mum gets home'. He then began arbitrarily picking at a scab on his elbow.

The ironic thing is that this is exactly what Lewis and Archie do to me - follow me around talking non-stop for hours about things that I find entertaining for a maximum of five minutes. It seems that hanging out with four-year-olds turns you into a four-year-old.

So, anyway, (now that you've probably gained some insight into the rise of Mummy and Daddy blogging) I have penned this post because I received an email from a pharmaceutical company and I just have to share it with someone who 'gets it'. I'm going to pretend that I just opened it, alright? Here we go...

Hey, you, check out the title of this email. Haha! -

The Power In Your Pants Will Be Really Breath-taking.

Funny hey!

There. That's better. Now I can delete it. Where's my camera?

Feb 12, 2009

Victorian Bushfires 2009

Well we're coming off a pretty ordinary week. Horrible to turn on the TV or radio, or open the papers to see pictures of individuals, children and whole families lost to the bushfires.

It's been said a number of times since Saturday but this tragedy really puts things into perspective. Some personal issues that seemed like a big deal to me only last week have lost their impact. No matter how I look at the things in my life - things that I felt were not as good as they could be - I can only come to the conclusion that I am very very lucky.

No friends or family directly affected by the fires. Healthy, safe kids. And during the hottest day in Melbourne's history, while the fires were just gathering momentum, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law gave birth to a little cousin for Archie and Lewis. (Hi Carla!)

Like most people we don't feel like we can do much. We'll donate during the Channel Nine telethon tonight. And do our weekly shopping at Coles tomorrow (all takings for Friday are going to bushfire victims). Reservoir Mum and her business partner have opened the clinic to the fire-fighters for free physio consultations.

This is a very sad time for Australia and the only good that seems to come from a tragedy like this is the power it has to refocus us on the really important things - family and friends.

I hope for the best possible outcome for everyone affected by the fires.