There are impressive bags of startling hues under my eyes – I think they’re here to stay.
I have some unidentifiable stains on my shirt, the same shirt that I might have worn yesterday – I’m not sure.
There’s a saccharine sing-song tone to my voice that was never there when I worked in a fraught newsroom.
Most times I’m humming to myself. But it’s not the soulfully poignant tunes of days gone by, not songs of love lost or gained, no angry young men’s calls for a revolution, no great classics. Now, instead it’s “Bananaphone” or a contemporary reworking of “Little Bo Peep” that soundtracks my days. I am the stay home dad.
Rifling my pockets for change at the shop counter, I’m more likely to produce and hand over: a crayon, two (unmatched) hair bobbins, and a single tiny sock, than any legal tender.
Socially, I have some trouble talking to adults these days – they just don’t seem to care what it is that teddy has done now, or that the car is blue. And they just stare at me funny when I say ‘OOOH, look, HORSEY!!!’
I am the exception rather than the rule, and that’s not intended as a boast – I am the stay home dad.
You might have seen me in the park, getting rather too excited about her (frankly substandard) constructions in the sandpit. Or perhaps it was when I was wheeling an overtired toddler around the supermarket, singing interminable verses of “Down by the Bay” as it was the only thing staving off a confrontation that I would inevitably lose.
Maybe it was in the doctor’s waiting room (again), and at those times you might have given me kudos for being a dad who does his bit, steps in when needed. But in fact I’m here, on duty, five days a week or more.
While my more-qualified wife has her shoulder to the wheel and her nose to the grindstone so as to bring home the bacon and put bread on the table, (obviously she works in the idiom manufacturing industry), I’m at home doing the fun stuff, watching our beautiful girl learn how to walk, how to talk.. and how to pour a full bowl of cereal into Dada’s lap.
I’m not expecting awards or plaudits here, not for raising my own offspring, surely it’s the least I can do. But doing the job that generations of mothers have unassumingly taken on (and was automatically expected of them) has given me a new respect and appreciation for the role and for the work involved.
I know there are more like me out there, we’ve exchanged knowing nods as we passed at the swing set, devotees to the next generation who are ever so slightly discomfited by our roles bucking the gender norms.
But let’s get this straight. I’m not emasculated, every day I’m a little more liberated, more educated, and compensated in ways beyond measure. I might look frazzled and exhausted, I may not know what day of the week it is, but by Jeebus I’ve never been happier.
I am the stay home dad – I’ll do my best.