Saturday, 3 March 2012

Would You Say That to His Mother?

Who likes complaining?  Not me, but I sure can go for a rant once in a while!  Buckle in and prepare to dodge Sleepy spleen....

I love being a stay-at-home dad.  Sure it is a little bit different, a bit quirky to some.  My blogger profile sums up my thoughts on how this role is received in the public sphere:
A stay-at-home dad, a vocation so odd to most I meet; a strangely plumed bird that curiously stays close to the nest to nurture its young, it needs to be studied with furrowed brow and poked at with long fingers.
In general, society isn't ready for us.  People can't quite wrap their heads around the concept. I know another stay-at-home dad who was told he wasn't allowed to join the local mothers' group because he packs nards in his pantaloons!

I don't mind being a curiosity and I generally don't care for other people's opinions.  The obvious exception is for people I really admire and respect.

But there are occasions where well-intentioned people inadvertently backhand me on the assumption that I am somehow stupid because I pack a pair of nards in my pantaloons and take care of my kids. (Yes, all stay-at-home dads wear pantaloons, deal with it society!)

I can't help but wonder if other dads poisoned the well for us all with stupid antics when it comes to a task as simple as a nappy (diaper) change.

Thanks guys! We won't reach gender equality with antics like that.

Seriously, a Hazmat suit?

The first incident came up early in the piece.  The Little Dude was perhaps eight months old and I had been the prime care giver for a bit under two months.  There we were in a cafe in a megamall where I was feeding the baby a bottle of formula milk.

"Aren't you a good father, doing a good job with that bottle," came a comment out of the blue.  Quite literally out of the blue.  An elderly lady with blue-rinse hair believed she was paying me a nice compliment but what she was really thinking deep down is "he's a guy, he must be useless...I'd better encourage him...and how curious it is to see a man with a baby at 11AM on a Tuesday...."

I smiled and thanked her for the alleged compliment all the while suppressing the urge to say "the kid's still breathing, so far so good. Who knows what the afternoon will bring"

And I thought to myself: would you say that to his mother?

Another incident was around the same time.  The Little Dude was sick with a cold and he was miserable.  He couldn't nap because of the snuffly nose and this made him very unhappy.

I had been trying everything to help him to sleep, he'd been rocked and cuddled in my arms for two days straight.  I was exhausted.  I put the boy into the pram and took him for a walk hoping he would drift off to sleep.

We must have covered about 4km (2.5mi) and the plan wasn't working.  On the way home I stopped at the chemist to get some more baby paracetamol and the Little Dude was very grizzly.

Thanks to fMRI, an image of a baby sleeping
in a pram (did not actually happen)
The chemist peered into the pram, as all chemists do when a pram rolls into their store, and looked up to me.  "He's really tired. You can tell by the rings under his eyes," she informed me.

My brain actually seized.  How could I possibly not pick up on such an obvious cue?  I wanted to say "well duh!" but this brilliant retort only came to mind 30 minutes later, due to the zombie state of my brain.

And once again I thought to myself: would you say that to his mother?

These are just two examples, of many.  I know the people involved had good intentions but it really is rather insulting and patronising.   I imagine this happened on a grand scale when Moses announced "thou shalt not murder/steal/bear false witness."  The Israelites should have responded with an indignant chorus of "well duh!"

So, when you next come across the the enigmatic stay-at-home dad, please give him the benefit of the doubt.  He probably isn't the useless, incapable moron portrayed in popular culture. Odds are that his kids are well cared for, well loved and in capable hands.

And definitely don't pay him any compliments that you wouldn't give to a mother.

Well, that's me done venting, for today....

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  1. As a stay at home mum, I've noticed that society in general is very quick to make judgements, even for someone 'doing it properly' like myself- 32, married with two toddlers. And very rarely does anyone offer me help. Like when I'm laden with grocery bags like a pack horse, pushing a double pram weighing 35+kg and it's raining on the way to the car. Being parents also apparently means people to gawk at you and your kids, and touch your kids or start up a conversation with them without your expressed invitation.

  2. I find it takes all my will to stop myself from slapping away random well-wishers' hands when they touch my kids. When did kids become public access property, free for all comers to paw and pinch?