Dear Dave

Monday 17 August 2009

Porridge stains aren't sexy on anybody

Dear Dave,

The holidays have gone by rapidly and it's only another couple of days until the new term starts here in Scotland. I'm going to miss the laid-back schedule of the summer but it will be nice to return to routine again.

We've stocked up on all the necessary equipment - gym shoes, uniform, stationery, etc - and we're nearly ready to go, despite being slowed by Lewis' resistance to change. He had a meltdown when he learnt the trousers he's had for the last two years are now too small. He promised to stop growing at once if allowed to keep wearing them, and he assured us that the hole in the knee isn't a problem (even though it's so big that a passing family of rabbits have taken up residence). We've insisted the trousers are replaced, however. Now he just wants to erect a shrine to them in his room... Ho well, doubtless he'll become equally attached to new leg-wear in a few days and I can sneak the old pair to the recycling centre. I'll tell him they've gone to live on a farm.

Marie is still excited about starting school. I made the mistake of reading the reassuring pamphlet for parents of new pupils that we were sent, though. It lists all the concerns I might have about my daughter's primary school experience, describes them in detail and then briefly attempts to quell them. Somehow, it wasn't entirely soothing. Despite having had no qualms about shoving my boys through the playground gate on their first days, I'm now a bit nervous about how Marie may fare during her introduction to formal education. What if she gets bullied or forgets to go to the toilet or gets mistaken for being English? What if she joins a gang or is allergic to the class hamster? The stress is beginning to get to me.

Deep breaths.



I'm sure she'll be fine, really. She's bright and she's good at making friends. She'll only have problems if when she argues with her teacher:

Teacher: Look at this picture of a dog.
Marie: Don't be silly. That's not a dog, it's a puppy.

Fortunately, thanks to her two brothers, the majority of the teachers in the school are all too familiar with this kind of behaviour by now and should be able to counteract it quickly and efficiently without the surreptitious use of blunt instruments.

Yep, she'll be OK. I suspect I'm merely channeling some of my own angst in her direction. She has five weeks of half days before she's in full-time and then I'll have reached another housedad milestone. With all my kids at school, I'll have to re-evaluate my purpose and my position in society. Given the grief it's possible to get sometimes for being a housedad, I'm kind of wondering what becoming a part-time housedad will be like.

We had a salesman round the other day to give us a quote for a new front door. As he talked at length about security hinges and neoprene seals, Marie sat quietly at the kitchen table, threading beads and smiling sweetly. Then the man needed all our details for some reason. (I suspect he may have been gathering ammunition for a later attempt to sell us windows as well.) When he learnt that I'm a housedad, he seemed quite taken with the concept, affirming me with the apparently genuine assertion that he wouldn't mind being a housedad too. Sadly, his grin suggested that he was envisioning a tranquil life of supervising some gentle bead-threading while his wife was banished down a coal pit.

I felt the need to summon the boys to view the guy's product samples at that point. A quick whistle brought the sound of stampeding elephants from upstairs, closely followed by a tangled blur of flailing limbs surrounded by a cloud of dust and body odour. There was some arguing and hinge juggling and then they were gone again.

The man went a slightly odd colour and his grin wavered somewhat. I'm not sure if he got the full picture of my life but the conversation rapidly returned to the subject of nine-point locking mechanisms. I felt I'd won another small victory for our housedad revolution.

Just as well really. Housedads have had more bad press recently. The Daily Mail ran an article about how lots of career women are dumping their stay-at-home partners. Mixed in with the dubious statistics, there are even quotes from an expert to explain that it's all down to a loss of respect brought about by the wives feeling a lack of support because their men aren't pulling their weight financially. The essence of the piece is summed up by the line, "In short, having a man whose primary function is not as alpha male breadwinner, but domestic drudge, just ain't sexy."

Cheers for that.

It would be easy to dismiss the whole thing simply on the basis that, rather than being a psychologist, the expert in question is a divorce lawyer but... erm... No, actually, that's a pretty compelling reason.

The only really valid point in the article is that, when it comes to custody, divorce courts in the UK are weighted heavily in favour of the mum - even if the dad has been the primary carer for years, it can have no bearing on how often he has access to his children after a break up. Apart from that, there's nothing much to the article but scare-mongering. In reality, relationships where the man looks after the kids aren't under any kind of unique stress. The accusation of being a financial lightweight could be levelled in any situation where one partner is earning less, whether they stay home or not. Loss of respect can (and does) happen in families where the roles are 'normal'.

Being dropped on from a great height is nothing new for stay-at-home parents. It's just that in the past they've all been female. Housedads aren't particularly asking for trouble by defying the perceived natural order, it's simply that when any relationship goes south, the partner with control of the money is bound to be at an advantage. It turns out that given the security of being the one with the income, women can be as sneaky, underhand, self-centred and ungrateful as men.

I suppose this is equality but it's not a very happy situation. The Daily Mail may not approve of housedads but I'm fairly sure they're in favour of mothers spending more time with their kids and, oddly, the only way for things to improve for stay-at-home mums is for there to be more stay-at-home dads. The Mail really should be on our side. You see, sexual equality is usually portrayed as being achievable by getting plenty of females into high-powered jobs. Traditionally female roles will only gain the respect they truly deserve, however, when they're also seen as perfectly legitimate avenues for men. We don't just need women in board rooms, we need men at toddler group and the school gate.

Then there's... Oh, hang on, that reminds me - I need to go and collect the navy pinafores and knee-length socks I ordered for Marie. She looks so sweet in her uniform. I can't believe she's going to be in Primary 1 already! I... I...

I'd better go. Remember: Being a housedad - it's a public service.

(For my part, I'll try and remember not to cry when my baby skips into the playground on Wednesday.)

Yours in a woman's world,


1 comment:

DadsDinner said...

PS Just in case you're concerned, the talk of down-trodden housedads and divorce lawyers is merely reflecting what's in the Daily Mail article, nothing more. :-)