I’ve been toying with the idea of starting this blog for a little while but have consistently found a reason to procrastinate. Sleep deprivation (child one). Lack of time (as if that’s an excuse, really). Lack of actual parenting insight (still an issue). And sleep deprivation again (child two).
But this month I finally got the prod I needed. It wasn’t the literal prod I received in the groin at 6am from my 4 year old son Dylan accompanied by the bellowed words “there’s more where that came from you salty scallywag!” Thanks Octonauts. Nor was it the moment my other son, 1 ½ year old Nathan, got caught in the crossfire of yet another ‘potty trained’ child’s dramatic Code Brown in a soft play.
It was the sudden (but overdue) attention afforded to Al Ferguson and his mission to challenge the archaic notion that dads, even stay-at-home ones, simply babysit while mum is away.
Now, I’ve never been one for novelty T-Shirts but aside from the questionable attire, Al’s point is very well made. And he’s been making it for a while too, on his excellent website The Dad Network. Shame on me for not having noticed sooner.
Although calling me a stay-at-home dad would be stretching the truth, I am lucky enough to work part-time, sharing parenting and fiscal duties with my wife Laura. So, every Wednesday, it’s me and the kids, something I’ve been doing ever since Dylan was 1 and wouldn’t change for the world. What I would change though is the regular stream of comments I still receive almost every week.
“Oh, mum having a day off is she?” “Ooo, Dad’s got his hands full today!” Even “It’s SOOOOO nice to see a Dad here with his children.” That last one usually rears its head if I have the temerity to attend a local ‘Mother & Toddler’ play group.
In every case, the comment invariably comes from a woman and is almost always accompanied by a certain look. A kind of sympathetic ah-look-at-that-poor-befuddled-creature-doing-his-best-but-clearly-out-of-his-depth look. It’s also particularly common near roads, presumably because a father is far more relaxed than a mother about the prospect of his offspring being mown down by a passing juggernaut.
And yes, I know all of the above is normally intended in a helpful, well-meaning sort of way but rest assured, that’s not how it comes across – nor how it is taken.
I mean, imagine if I strolled into the office one day, marched up to the nearest working mother, tilted my head just a little patronisingly and said: “Ooo, you look like you’ve got your work cut out today. Is Dad having a day off? Well done you for having a go, though!”
Put it this way, I probably wouldn’t be having any more children. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing…more on that another time.
For now, I guess I’ll sign off with a pledge of support for Al and all those other dads who can relate to what I’m talking about. Being a dad is fun and it’s a privilege – but I promise we can be trusted to do it properly. In other words, Al is absolutely right: dads don’t just babysit.
For a start, babysitters get paid.