… being a house-husband? Or stay-at-home Dad? And why can’t you have a title without hyphens in it?
I’ve been the full time carer for my children since 2006 and this has meant looking after them from the age of 5 months up to year 8 in secondary school, so I thought I’d tackle this post chronologically.
Being the dad of a baby was great. I was actually nagged by my Health Visitor to go to the local Mother and Baby (sorry, parent and baby, see how difficult this is!) group. She knew fathers who didn’t want to go sit in a room full of women and have a gossip. She chose me to be the first man in there to tempt the others in.
Admittedly, I was a good choice as I don’t enjoy two of the main male bonding activities. Football leaves me completely cold and while I will go to a pub for a classic car meet, or other event, I’d never actually go down the pub just to have a drink. Luckily I do like taking cars apart and motor racing otherwise I don’t think I’d have any male friends!
I tend (hopefully) to treat everyone just the same, male or female. I guess because I’m challenging the stereotype by being a male housewife I’m unwilling to make my own assumptions. I’m also aware that the Mums (and Dads) I meet had careers that were often quite high-powered, in Life Before Children. All of this meant that I found it quite easy to join a group of new Mums and chat about babies, and life in general. (After a few weeks I was even allowed to eavesdrop on a few conversations about what happened during the birth, how many stitches etc.)
If you’re a man with a baby in the midst of a group of new mothers, there is one elephant in the room – breast feeding. But to be honest I found that it wasn’t too much of a problem as long as I was a bit sensitive. Some mothers would chose to go into a corner and turn their back to feed, or to at least latch on. Others (notably those with more than one child) would be more laid back. Sometimes I’d sit next to someone and start chatting, hardly realising that the baby in her arms was actually feeding from a breast that was just poking out of a t-shirt.
But it takes all sorts. I once sat down opposite one Mum in a tight top. When her baby started crying and rooting, I wondered where to look and what she’d do. Before I could make my mind up, she’d rolled up her top, pulled a breast out, squeezed a bit to get some milk started and latched baby on. So we just carried on chatting, albeit with a bit more eye-contact from me than before!
Fear of the playground
The most common thing I read in articles about SAHDs is that they are afraid of the playground. The cliques that form among mothers and fear that a man on his own will be outnumbered and either humiliated or ostracised.