Due to the sudden closure of The New Day newspaper by Trinity Mirror last week, my contribution to their ’11 DAYS IN THE LIFE OF’ column was cut short by a single article.
Had the newspaper survived, this is the article that would have appeared in today’s edition to complete the series.
There’s a tension at play for the modern stay-at-home dad. While it’s definitely becoming more common for fathers to look after their kids, society still views men as the ones who bring home the bacon rather than the ones who cook it with eggs for breakfast before the school run.
Although I don’t believe that Shared Parental Leave has incited a revolution and that we’ll soon see dads outnumbering mums in the mother and baby groups, it does feel like it has sown the seeds of change.
Nonetheless childcare responsibilities will never be entirely evenly split. There are some things that only a mother can offer. I have a clear anatomical disadvantage compared to my wife for instance. Mina is only just grasping this, and on the occasions when I have forgotten to give her milk, she still lunges for my upper torso, mouth agape.
However, children need time with their fathers; they cannot get everything from their mothers.
My parenting style differs from my wife’s. Alix has never sat Mina on her shoulders and danced around the kitchen, whereas I certainly have. The result was that Mina vomiting on my head. She found it hilarious though, despite throwing up.
It’s plain to see that Lola and Mina are benefiting from our time together and we have grown closer because of it.
Sure, looking after them can be stressful. And at times it’s boring and monotonous too. Playing with animal finger puppets provides less mental stimulation than almost any other activity I can think of.
Yet there’s little else I’d prefer to be doing and, like the girls, I have benefited greatly from the experience too.
My time away from work has been liberating and I’ve gained a new perspective on life. When your overriding responsibility is caring for young children, life is reduced to the basics. It’s about getting them washed, dressed, fed. Playing with them. Answering their questions. Listening to them read. Getting them to where they need to be on time.
It’s a world away from nine-to-fiving it behind a desk, although this is what I will return to in twelve weeks from today. In the meantime, I have another eighty-four days with Lola and Mina. It’s not long in the scale of things, but rest assured that I will make every single one of those days count.