Friday, 18 May 2007

Two of a kind

On holiday at the kitchen table over a hand of poker I am chatting with my brother-in-law. Old albums play on the i-pod, docked into speakers. Half empty wineglasses on the table in front of us contain red from the last available bottle in the house. Empty bottles cluster around the rubbish bin. Everyone else has gone to bed and someone shouts at us to turn the music down. We grin at each other, like much younger men. We used to talk a lot, in West London pubs mainly. Then work took the place of conversation. I went to work abroad; he started out in his career. I’ve mentioned the blog and he says, jokingly, that he’s ‘Never at home dad’. We laugh. But it is a more poignant comment than it seems on the surface. I imagine he’d like a lot more time at home and a lot less in the office. But he is good at doing both. I was never very good at doing both. A lot of men aren’t very good at doing both. They get caught up in work and lose touch with life at home. It’s a kind of addiction. They tell themselves that they need to do it for the money. But of course it becomes about standing and achievement and seniority and bonuses and image.

I see these men at the weekend, stiff and formal, thinking of other things. The evening routine. The morning commute. They push their pushchairs with the same grim expression. Heft their backpacks with narrow-eyed concentration. It’s not easy to separate different parts of your life. My wife comes home and after a few minutes is our daughter’s mummy, as if she hasn’t been in an office all day. When it was me, I found it difficult to turn into daddy. A drink after work with a colleague or friend was easier. Those dads have their weekend smiles, but I have today’s smiles and tomorrow’s as well.

I have a full house too. Grinning, I scoop my chips towards me.

18 comments:

Drunk Mummy said...

....but you can still have a drink after work SAHD. It's Friday night - corkscrews at the ready!
Just think, you don't have to brave the puke-scented horrors of Friday night public transport. Neither do you have to stand in a bar, with a crowd of spotty youths necking vodka and red bull, or pretend to listen to some sweaty, red-faced bore of a colleague. Best of all, you can drink some decent wine - Cheers!

The Good Woman said...

The Good Man is more of a here again, gone again Dad. He travels a lot and I see the way he and Bambi cling to each other after a long time apart. I do not envy him.

What I really appreciate though is that she is unquestionably his priority. He calls every night at bedtime and has been known to sing 'Nellie the Elephant' to her from the corner of a meeting room if his princess on the phone requests it. Magic!

Stay at home dad said...

Yes DM! Actually though that's unfortunate timing as we're off out for a rare foray into pukeville tonight...

TGW, sounds like you've got a good one there. I just wasn't particularly good at it. And I don't know the words to Nellie ... even now!

lady macleod said...

Insightful and well said. You are singular for having taken a look at yourself and acting on what you saw for the best interest of your family and yourself.

mutterings and meanderings said...

You have hit the jackpot SAHD ... but I must berate you for not knowing Nellie (not even the Toy Doys' version??)

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Lady Macl and honoured etc. Thank you indeed and enjoying your Moroccan sojourn already.

M&M, no, no idea about Nellie whatsoever..

Marianne said...

I think men often displace their feelings for their families and channel it all into work and providing. Then it becomes the end in itself, sadly.

The Good Woman said...

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk
and said goodbye to the circus.
Off she went with a trumpety trump
Trump! Trump! Trump!

(Best performed with an arm dangled in front of your nose and much enthusiastic stamping of feet.)

No more excuses SAHD!

Stay at home dad said...

Marianne, unfortunately I think you are right.

TGW, thank you. A classic!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

well put SAHD, how much did you win?
Pigx

debio said...

Seems to me the pressures on men are sometimes worse than those on women. Men rarely get a choice to do something other than 'succeed' in their careers but, in their heart of hearts, women know they are likely to have options.
Great writing - lovely to learn of someone to settled with themselves.

Stay at home dad said...

Hi Pig. No money passed hands in that game. When it comes to money games I am not normally the one scooping the chips up!


Thanks Debio. Options bring with them their own difficuties though don't they...

dulwichmum said...

I envy you really. My daddy was a stay at home daddy for several years - and he was the best daddy ever, right then no-one else was lucky enough to have one. I remember my mother being an occasional uncomfortable visitor. I know I am more like her than I care to admit at times.

Stay at home dad said...

A brave admission Dulwich Mum. You do have one big advantage though - the mother/child bond.

@themill said...

You're the winner in more ways than chips. Your daughter will grow and you will never feel you missed her childhood.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes ATM, I can certainly never say that - warts and all...

dulwichmum said...

Perfect SAHD,

"Brenda" is a fictional character. I am always my fathers daughter, my mother is not at all the person I describe in my blog. My father was a hard act for my poor husband to follow. He will always be my number one...

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you DM. Sorry. I missed this for a while.

That's nice to know, although poor hubbie!