When we brought DD home from the hospital she was just over a day old. A day. One day. A whole entire new being that we had made (to be fair I'd done the bulk of the work up until that point) and here she was, in our care. We didn't need a licence or a home check or any training, they just gave us this new person, wished us well and waved us goodbye.
|New baby DD
During the first few days and nights each time she cried Mr TM would look at me with a worried look and ask "what does she want?" I would stare back and say "I have no idea, I only just met her!" and he would say "but you are her mum!" to which the only sensible reply was "and you are her dad!"
And that's the thing isn't it, just because I grew a tiny person in the wet life support system of my womb doesn't mean I know her any more than anyone else does. Of course there are things that happen, milk appearing as if by magic when babies cry, which prompts a mum to offer a feed, but the terrible smell emanating from the bottom end of the baby which prompts a nappy change, is there for all to sniff! And so we learned. I was on maternity leave for a year and Mr TM had retired with the plan that he would stay home and look after DD when I went back to work. For a year we were together, learning about this new person, growing to know her ways, her likes and her (frequently violent) dislikes.
When I went back to work Mr TM became DDs main carer and so, spending longer with her, he became more attuned to her than I did. He knew that this week she hated rice pudding, or that she had decided a different teddy was needed at bedtime. He had always been the more organised one of the two of us, even now when DD has reached the frankly terrifying age of 16 he is still the one that does the laundry, cleans the bathrooms, hoovers the lounge.
I work full time and have since DD was a year old, she self weaned when I went back to work as I was out of the house (commuting to London) for such long periods of time each day, in fact the first 3 months I returned to work I didn't see her awake except at weekends. I relied on my husband telling me all the things they had been up to. The hilarious potty incidents, the difficulty in finding a public toilet to take her into, the things they had eaten out at cafes. Luckily I changed my job and avoided the long commute very quickly, and Mr TM and DD could come and visit me at lunchtimes, but still he was her main carer, the one that wiped her snot, dealt with nappy rash, became an expert on teething and knew the best way to deal with cradlecap.
|DD shares a picnic with daddy
Mr TM grew with DD, becoming a rather awesome dad. Great at organising days out (where I invariably forgot something vital!), a whizz at packing a rucksack with 'essential baby things' but because he was the parent that stayed home, he also became the homemaker (a rather nice gender neutral Americanism). So it is still Mr TM who is in charge at home. He cleans the kitchen floor, he dusts, he brushes the sofa and plumps the cushions, he cleans the oven. In fact he does all of the things most people would see as 'womens' work' and sometimes he worries that other men will think less of him because he is not 'the bread winner'. I have told him time and time again that women find men that hoover, clean the bathroom and feed the children, to be just as attractive a prospect as one that works in the city, but I'd be lying if I said everyone thinks it's fine.
He has to put up with questions about why he doesn't work, questions that no woman would be asked, he also gets regularly enraged by the lazy stereotype used in the media , that husbands and men in general are hopeless fools around the house, that men can't do a load of laundry, clean a stove top or hoover a room without help from a clever lady. Or if they can do these things they are some sort of superhero. He had to suffer being the only man at 'mummy and baby' groups and was often confounded to be excluded from baby changing facilities that were hidden in the 'Ladies' toilets.
|DD helps daddy clear the snow
Things have changed in those 16 years of course, and I know that now lots of dads are the main carers of their children either by choice or through circumstance. But I can't help but notice, among all the ranting about girls being forced to be pink princesses, that dads (and men) still get a bad rap where being homemakers and child carers are involved. So shall we just try and be inclusive? Let's remember there are great dads out there, terrible dads too, and mediocre dads, just like mums...
Much love from a very mediocre mum. Comments welcome on twitter or my facebook page.