Other People

Here's a quick test to discover how secure you and your partner feel in your roles:

Question: You go for a drink with a friend. One of his male work colleagues asks you what you do. How do you respond?
  1. Look shifty and mutter.
  2. Fix him with a steely gaze and say, 'I'm a housedad. Make something of it and I'll iron you.'
  3. Non-chalantly sip your pint, say, 'I'm a housedad,' and then ask him what he does, without batting an eyelid.

Question: Your partner goes for a drink with a friend who is a housemum. The friend spends half an hour listing all the exciting things she's done with her children and then prompts your partner for a similar list. How does your partner respond?
  1. She feels inadequate as a mother and descends into a overwhelming torpor of despair.
  2. She lays into her friend to cover her feelings of inadequacy.
  3. She lists a couple of things and then smugly mentions she has a man for all that really and she'd better get home before her tea burns.

For a while, as my life got less interesting, people became much more interested in talking to me. To start with I was a physics student. Mentioning this pretty much killed conversations stone dead. Which is odd really, because I got to carry around frothing buckets of liquid nitrogen while cackling evilly. Every day brought new and crazy ideas. It was fun and occasionally radioactive. Then I was a computer programmer with a life assurance company. This involved sitting at a computer all day and sometimes going to meetings. Suddenly people wanted to talk to me at parties - maybe I could fix their Windows 'thingy' for them. I had attention. This, however, was only mere preparation for being an aspiring writer. Once I spent all day sitting at my computer without going anywhere, producing very much or getting paid, well they were queuing up to hear all about it. Go figure.

Now I say that I'm a housedad I can get all three reactions at the same time from the same person. There's the initial fear and shock like they've accidently spoken to a physicist. Except it's still OK to treat physicists like oddball lepers but as a housedad I have political correctness on my side. They can't ask me where my apron is or claim I'm an affront to nature. Instead they almost always go with pointing out how common housedads are these days since they've heard of another one. I usually humour them unless I'm having a really bad day. Then the worry-lines doing a little dance on their forehead ease as they realise I can talk to them about children. I have children, they've met children, maybe I can fix the children. Finally a glimmer of awe and wonder settles upon them. Women ponder subjecting their men to domestic slavery so they can sit around in an office drinking coffee; men consider sending their women out to the mine while they lock the kids in a cupboard and play the PlayStation. Excitement fills their eyes. They want to know more about the trials and tribulations, joys and successes. A man who looks after children, how can this be? Surely we must listen at his feet. Truly, light seems to shine forth from his very...

Ahem. Anyway, people are strange. Quite why I get more credit for doing things housemums do all the time simply because I'm a man, I don't know. Actually, I could come up with some theories pretty quick, but this isn't the place. Suffice to say, I am a housedad in a world that isn't quite ready.

And there lies the problem. You want to be a housedad? Where are your role-models? The world says that the perfect dad works hard, earns money, plays rough-and-tumble with the kids and then reads them their bedtime story. (In the Hollywood version he then goes out and shoots himself some terrorists. He drives a nice car and wears clothes that don't smell of vomit). Unfortunately, that is not the housedad way. The housedad way is to work hard without earning money, jigger your back and then be too frazzled at bedtime to do anything other than switch out the light. The triumphs are getting everyone up and out in the morning, replacing tears with a smile, making the porridge go in and stay in. If you can create a game from three crayons and a marble, then you're a star. If you can play it over-and-over for a day and a half and still seem interested, then you're a hero.

Your partner will have a similar problem with the expectations of the world except she will feel pressure to be both the perfect mum AND the perfect dad. She will feel attacked by housemums who think mothers shouldn't have careers and by career women who harbour resentment towards those with children. Women who somehow magically manage to have a career and stay at home doing face-painting and nature-walks all the time will particularly get up her nose. She will want to have their cake and eat it. You will have to calm her down. Value her, respect her and appreciate her. She cannot possibly achieve her best at everything. Her triumph is providing enough while still being home enough. And the kids will like her best, anyway, because she does all the fun things rather than telling them to eat their tea.


You're not going to get a promotion or change the world. Get over it. Stay focussed on your family. Be proud to be a housedad. Women will admire you, men will fear you and small children will adore you.