With Father’s Day coming up, Sam Wilson takes a look at the modern father and gives thanks.
I have a
confession to make: When I
first started writing this back page column*, I was the perfect candidate for the
job. I worked from home, I was on the
PTA, I fed children through professional phone calls: I was the archetype
Modern Mother. Okay, I may have smoked heavily at the time and worn my pyjamas
almost constantly (thereby giving Lisa the Publisher a little pause for thought
on her first impromptu visit), but I was, nevertheless, in serious Mom mode.
A lot has
changed over the three years (gulp, is it really that long?) that I have been
writing this back page. First, I now have an office job. I have also given up
smoking (again) and have started wearing real clothes (well, jeans). But much
more importantly, I am no longer the primary caregiver in our family. I have
become the Dad.
egalitarian of set-up, my partner Andreas and I decided way back that we would
try and share this parenting schtick as evenly as possible. So while I was the
front-line parent for the first five years, Andreas took over around two years
ago now. And boy, has it been interesting.
all, I can not stress enough how fun it is to be the Dad. To go to a job you
enjoy and to be able to work at it undisturbed by sticky fingers, google-eyes
or guilt, to come home to clean huggable children who have done their homework,
a cooked dinner (or well defined take-out plans), a clean house and a loving
partner… hell, what’s not to love?
question really, because I know you all know the answer. I don’t love not being
responsible for my children’s day-to-day wellbeing. It’s really hard to hand
over the management of sticky fingers and homework to someone else. I am the mother.
Thousands of years’ worth of female ancestors are looking down at me
disapprovingly. And, dammit, Andreas doesn’t do it quite like I would – he is
too strict with bath time, too uninventive with lunchboxes, too
schedule-orientated, too… not me.
how my stay-at-home mother used to tear her hair out when people at cocktail
parties would ask her what she did and then rejoin: “Home with the kids? So you
don’t really do anything then.” I am more violent a person than my mother and I
know if anyone had said something similar to me when I was home with my kids I
would have quite cheerfully torn their
I watch how
everyone assumes Andreas doesn’t have a “proper job” because he is the primary
parent (“Oooh! How lovely! Your husband just stays home all day then?”),
thereby comprehensively negating the juggling act of the millions upon millions
of working parents. Dreas does have a job, he is a scientist who works full day
at a university, but he juggles his lunch hour, our housekeeper, the school’s aftercare
programme and Woolworths’ extended shopping hours like all other working
primary caregivers. And does a great job.
I watch how
I get treated for being a dad-mom – raised eyebrows from art teachers (“What is
it that you do that we never see you? What a shame.”) or bafflement from
colleagues (“Did you just phone your husband to tell him you’d be late for
dinner? Ha ha!”) despite the fact that I am behaving no differently from the
men that surround me.
And then… I
notice how many other couples all about are having similar battles. I see Dads
in Crocs, expertly dummy-plugging whilst doing a shop. I see suited Moms on the
phone patting children affectionately, but distractedly, on the head. I see men
exchanging parenting tips. I see women having after work drinks. Most
importantly, I see all manner of happy messy family stuff in between. And I see
how, in our lifetimes, we are set to explode the distinctions between Mom and
Dad and start truly parenting together. Well, if not explode, at least
exciting is that? This Father’s Day, I’d like to raise my knitting and my
briefcase to all parents out there – to mothering fathers and fathering mothers
and conventional duos and super- capable singles and say… yay to everyone whose
eyes go soft at the sight of a child.