Thursday, 28 June 2007

Farmed Out

I have been dreading it since my daughter’s nursery teacher casually invited me on the outing to the farm park. “We don’t get many men” she told me. I could believe that, judging by the crisp-suited fathers I see prodding their children through classroom doors then sprinting in relief for the tube. “Yes that’ll be fine” I said, airily waving at an imaginary diary, every page of which stretched blank into the future.

So I rise ludicrously early and take my daughter and her packed lunch to nursery. In the rush-hour bus I am squeezed speechless, as we hurtle through the streets like an out-of-control carousel. Like everywhere else in London it is full of men in suits, mums, pushchairs, children in uniforms, builders, people with bags.

I drift down into the tube station with my daughter, ancient urges suddenly propelling me towards the Metro dispenser; a strange parody of the two years ago me. There’s pushing and rushing all around us. Everyone seems desperate in some way. To get to somewhere or from somewhere. Or away from something. The tube workers bristle with the tension of rush-hour problems.

At nursery there is an assortment of mothers perfectly prepared for a shopping trip to the West End, in heels, sunglasses, casual, but unmistakably designer, clothes. I say hello in my pretend relaxed way. I’m ok at this stuff after two years. The two years ago me would have shrieked inwardly, and maybe outwardly, and felt like running away. My daughter is a great help in this. She comes and chats to me when I am running short of amiable claptrap. It helps tremendously.

When it is time to board the coach I say hello to the male driver. Engrossed in his copy of the Sun, he doesn’t pick up on my cry for help and carries on fiddling with his sunglasses. I realize I’m on my own. I end up sitting next to a French boy who looks at me as only a Frenchman can, when he discovers I am neither French nor his mother. I want to scream at him “LOOK AT ME! I AM SUFFERING FOR ALL MEN! I. AM. YOU!” Instead I busy myself looking at roads and waving at my daughter when she gets bored with her neighbour.

At the farm park the mums totter around, desperately looking for somewhere to spend their money. A £3.99 fluffy cat in the farm gift shop proves popular. It allows them at least to get out their purses and take off their sunglasses. Outside they stand around in groups, chatting like they’re in a bar, only breaking off their conversations to catch a falling body. They look at me with distaste. One of them is complaining loudly that she can’t get coffee served to her at the goat enclosure. I chat to the more eccentric mums. The Japanese expat, the arty mum picking her way through the sheep turds in her designer wedges. This keeps me going between frantic shuttling from toilet to playground. Toilet to picnic area. Toilet to sheep pens.

Frankly, it’s six hours of hell. But then at last we’re back on the coach heading home. I’ve been to the toilet countless times, I have sheep turds smeared all over my trousers. The only thing I have eaten all day is a quarter of my daughter’s ham sandwich and I have two four year olds kicking me in the small of my back through the seat.

My daughter is asleep by this time. But suddenly one of the designer women talks to me! I lean forward to listen. “Oh dear” she says, gesturing at the figure dozing next to me. I raise my eyebrows. “She isn’t going to sleep later. Her mother won’t be happy.” I smile and look out of the window, seeing nothing. Everything is a blur. I think for a moment I am going to cry.

68 comments:

beta mum said...

Going with them on nursery/school trips is hell, and on balance I think the school ones are worse. The kids are older and more canny about playing up anyone who isn't a teacher.
Those mothers sound vile. Makes me glad I don't live in London any more.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Sorry, but I am laughing hysterically at this post. I've been on many a school trip just like this one (only our mums don't wear designer anything). I never seemed to have a ready excuse when the teachers asked me, and I was police-checked after all. I no longer have to go because my son banned me after the last time when I took issue with a few misbehaving boys (the teachers never seemed to be around). Next time you're asked, run, hide, lie, anything to avoid the Dreaded School Trip.

Stay at home dad said...

BM, I didn't include the bit about having to get tough with the 4/5 year olds who were being right gits.

Yes, most mums were not very, er accessible, but I did enjoy meetng a couple of them.

Wakeup, yes, the misbehaving boys do seem to be the main feature! I want to escape the trips, but I do feel a certain resonsibility to represent men at these things.

Elsie Button said...

i'm surprised these women bothered to go on the trip at all. when we took our kids on trips we would always get the same (lovely) mothers coming along to help - the same mothers who volunteered to help with school dinners, helped maintain the school gardens, help with reading, and generally the ones who are also trying to hold down 5 jobs, and have about 5 kids of their own. the mothers you describe would occasionally be spotted at a 'good work' assembly in all their get-up and glory, and barely utter a word to us mere teachers.

it was very good of you to go on the trip. i used to dread them!

Dee said...

I feel for you SAHD, alone and scared amongst those very strange mothers that you seem to have absolutely nothing in common with, other than the fact that you are both parents (in different universes ;).
But you know what scares me more... the fact that you know what 'designer wedges' or just plain 'wedges' are (other than the potato ones!)... weird. I don't know a single man who knows that word ;)

Iota said...

I liked the bit about your daughter chatting to you whenever you found yourself on your own. I have often been glad of my children as social props, ice-breakers, excuses for getting out of conversations, excuses to leave early. And yes, if you're ever stuck for someone to talk to, you can always go and find them.

Stay at home dad said...

Sounds familiar Elsie. That's central London for you. No need for you to worry about that anymore!

Dee, thank you, that's true. Re. wedges. I think she actually said that's what they were when I pointed them out. Or maybe I just knew. Worrying!

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks Iota. Yes, and I think there's a little bit of them that understands perfectly.

Kaycie said...

I feel for you. I remember school trips like that where I felt like a fish out of water. People look through you almost like you're not there, don't they? I am thankful my kids are older now. There are far fewer trips.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks Kaycie. Who are all these people who make us feel bad, anyway? Funnily enough I felt fine about it yesterday, but now I'm beginning to get quite depressed!

The Grocer said...

I wasn't sure on first read whether it was the women or the sheep that had you upset, then I realised they were one and the same thing.

DJ Kirkby said...

Wow you went on a school trip?! Scary! And thats just in reference to the mothers on the trip... Poor you, your daughter will remember and love you for it several times in her life though...

Stay at home dad said...

That's it Grocer. And let us not even mention the turds...

Stay at home dad said...

Bloody well hope so DJK!

Motheratlarge said...

Sounds gruesome. But think how much worse it would be if the baying pack (of mothers) dragged you into their midst, and pretended to be 'friends' with you.
Just back this evening from our own end-of-term nursery seaside trip - husband, Granny and I ALL went to support The Bean - and we turned out to be the only relatives there!

mutterings and meanderings said...

You know, I think that secretly, SAHD is actually a woman and has been fooling us all for months ...

Marianne said...

How patronising and demoralising. She sounds pretty toxic and to be given a wide berth.

BTW, I was helping a friend with a summer party the other day and was in trouble with a yummy mummy for asking her small son to say please when he asked me for something. If looks could kill ...

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Well you're braver than me. School trips are hard word, I expect nursery trips are equally.

I've seen women tottering about by the farm cottages on high heels and it just makes me laugh. What they must think when they see the state of me! Farm parks are such a lovely place to take children though. I'm sure you had a lovely day really.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes, that would be grim, but it also means that my daughter doesn't have playdates with many of her nursery friends.

Well done on the trip - lucky Bean!

M&M, I'm going to have to do something pretty drastic it would seem!

Marianne, that's what I thought, but she's not alone.

I'm with you, you have to do what you think is right, even if it is someone else's child..

Stay at home dad said...

I feel I have to try, CJ. If only for the male collective.

I wouldn't go that far! But, yes, it was nice in that I spent time with my daughter, and she was with friends.

the poster formerly known as VI said...

Being a veteran of three trips in very similar circumstances my only advice is that if you wait for the Mothers to engage with you, it will never happen - take the battle to them and be proactive (assuming of course you wish to engage with them) - afterall they are secretly in awe of you and only wish that their husbands could do the same for them and their children!

Another cracking read, and rest assured you are doing a sterling job for your daughter!

Jan said...

Oh Dear!
Dont Cry!
And Fancy not getting coffee at A Goat Enclosure...something should be done about the NEXT schooltrip!

The other SAHD said...

Oh SAHD, I am with you on this one buddy.

For me I just feel such a dork when I am cut out of the conversations and left on the outside...

But I do know from the women friends I have made that most of them feel the same and it is a small minority of pushy alpha mums which create tension in the school yard...

But it is Dee's comment that made me laugh the most 'cos I have been accused of becoming more and more female - this arose out of one incident where I confessed to having:-

1.) Had my colours done
2.) Cut out a recipe from a magazine (and actually cooked it..!)

Cheers bud

Keep the faith

Fellow SAHD

www.stayathomedad.typepad.com

Drunk Mummy said...

Ooooh, what a bunch of witches! At least your daughter talked to you on the trip. When I went on a nursery trip, my son refused to be in my 'group' and asked to go with someone else's Mummy! I think the nursery staff were horrified, but they didn't realise that mutual embarrassment is a family speciality.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oh how grim. I'm amazed they ignore you, I always chat to approachable looking Dads (!). But there are always cliques, and yours sounds particularly alarming, I bet there were a few of the Mums who went home miserable too... Could the collective noun be a Prada of Mums? Or are they more Chloe in your area?
Pigx

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you VI. A fair point, although it is difficult to insinuate yourself into groups of mums. And as you say, would I want to? Am happy picking off the ones at the periphery at the moment...

Jan, I held my tears in. I know, shocking isn't it about the coffee. She thought they were missing a trick financially, I thought, it's not the apprentice.

Other sahd (good to see you know your place) - you've made friends? Good going! Was it while you were having your colours done? Never confess.

To be honest DM, I was surprised by that too. But perhaps she has the same sort of problems with her designer-clad class-mates. poor you...!

Pig, to be fair I'm probably not the most approachable person and the notebook and pen might put some of them off...

Dad Stuff said...

It's a little different here with school trips. It's true that Dad's attend less frequently here too. But I think we are treated a little better because of that.
It's too bad some Mom's go on these trips just to get credit for volunteering or to make a show.
Hope the next trip is better.

carrie said...

I think that post almost made ME cry.

Those mothers sound awful.

Sorry you couldn't just go it alone. But then, I am sure something was gained by the visit to the farm, if only the realization of how lucky you are!

Carrie

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Omega Mum said...

I think crying would have been a good move. And it would have shut her up, too. Could it be you have put your child in the wrong school full of horrible women or, as my husband implies, do all school run women take on this collective terrormum persona? If so, I'd like to apologise for any inadvertent contribution I might have made. I am lighting another candle........Consider yourself fast tracked. I am asking T. Blair to intercede on your behalf with the Pope.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks Dad Stuff. That sounds a lot more like it! Yes, some ight not do it for purely altruistic reasons, but it's not about us, after all.

Yes Carrie, these things always make me realize that. They're not all that bad. Sometimes I think it's a bit like crashing into a women's changing room. You're just on someone else's patch...

Sounds great, Blogville Idols. And thanks for your support.

I'm not sure, OM, to be quite honest. My daughter enjoys the actual nursery bit so that's enough for me. The canonisation seems to be going well - thanks for your support too.

DevonLife said...

Woman in little gangs are horrid. I would have been in with the goats.

I think you should form another clique with the other outcasts (ie non-Boden wearing wimmin). Gather together, look at horrid mothers' shoes and laugh outrageously and then disperse. Like a school run fashion flash mob.

D did a school trip last week and was helping the children down a steep muddy bank and saw mothers skid down the bank on their fat arses rather than take his extended hand of help.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes, I need a non-clique clique DL... Love the story about the mud!

Gwen said...

I like DL's idea of forming another clique. I think that that is something you should definitely consider.

Stay at home dad said...

I suppose I was in one by default. The misfits clique!

merry weather said...

I have found these women melt when you start hosting their children in your home, after school. If you also help out/work at school, well, you'll be nearly a celebrity overnight.... God knows why they're such hard work to start with.

I loved the turds on trousers bit, haha. I helped out yesterday on a geography field trip and had to persuade unwitting people on the street to come and answer questions from my group of children... I think I also had fox turds on my trousers as we came through a field, but I was nearly past caring. Beaming and winking at total strangers, wearing a fluorescent jacket marked "Walking Bus" and controlling 5 hungry kids was hard work. The first question was: how old are you? I cheated on that, I just had to, and we made the ages up later.

Like you, I was battered by the end but it was fun. Great post.

Stay at home dad said...

I honestly don't blame any of them, MW. It's an odd situation in life; I hope in ten years' time it will all be different...

Thanks, and good on you too. Btw, wouldn't you know it if you were covered in fox turds?!

merry weather said...

Haha, ten years on down the parent road, I just popped them straight in the machine - on their own.... of course.

I'm not hugely observant anyway - I once kissed middle son better after he fell in dog poo, actually I prefer not to recall that one .... :)

Pig in the Kitchen said...

'kinell! 37 comments!
Respec' from the Pigx
38 now!

Stay at home dad said...

Eugh, MW, that's horrible!

My respects to you too, Pig. It's mostly me...

lady macleod said...

well done old son.

Lilly said...

Missed you sahd! Havn't read your blog in WEEKS, been too busy... but what a great writing today! Totally made me laugh.
School trips are my favorite. I live in New Jersey, and most mothers around here LOOK and ACT just like you'd imagine. (Think Sopranos). I love volunteering on school trips, just to have a good laugh at the MOMS. My son loves for me to be there at all his special days, so that's why I do it. But I do get a giggle from the spectacles. Keep finding something fun - keeps you going, I find. Keeps the depression at bay.

I can't believe how popular your blog is now!!! Well, actually, I can. You're funny, you write well, and your stories are perfect.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you, your ladyship.

Very kind of you Lilly and thanks for coming back... I completely agree with your analysis of school trips!

dulwichmum said...

Poor, poor you! Your daughter will be so proud of her lovely daddy forever. I am.

T-girl said...

Wow, I am a stay at home Mom and I can relate to your horror of what we call the "feild trip hell" here in the states! LOL Also I just want to say should I have been in "the group" well, you would not have been wandering alone in the dung! LOL That makes me mad actually, I know it is not "standard" but honestly who the frig cares? I think it is wonderful ANY parent take the time out in this day and age to spend time on a field trip or any event with their child. Recently my gf asked me to accompany her and her daughters class on one because they couldn't find a single parent to go! WHAT is up with THAT? So sad!

Dulwich Dad said...

Hi Stay At Home Dad

I've added your link to my blog - hope you don't mind

best DD

The Good Woman said...

Hi there SAHD

Great post. But before you dissolve into tears, please drop by my blog for a look...

@themill said...

Thank God mine are now past the stage of parental supervision on school trips, though the youngest is playing in a cricket festival in Bristol this week, but too far for me to travel. I think his big bro might make his way up from Devon to offer the family support!
And yes, your daughter noticed ages ago t5hat you didn't take the milk. I'm haunted by 'You always say you will, but never do'

Annie said...

Those mums sound awful. There was a stay at home father at our 'mommy' and me group here, I really, really hope none of us ever made him feel like this. He and his wife attended the same prenatal class as we did before our first, so I had a 'connection' of sorts to him elsewhere and chatted to him as I did to any other parent. This post, and other dad posts I've read lately have me wondering though if he feels much as you do. Hmmm.

Rebecca said...

"They look at me with distaste."

Why?? Who ARE these women. Is this snobbery?? Stay-at-home-dadism?? Or are they just jealous that their husbands aren't as good a dad as you???!

I hope you were able to return the nasty looks with TWICE the amount of disdainful scorn!!

You write beautifully.

rilly super said...

dear SAHD, a male friend of mine experienced a similar froideur from the mums when he turned up on a school trip, although he it might have had something to do with his abseiling down the front of the school in a batman outfit as it wasn't his turn to have the children. I will give him a call and see if he can give you any advice. I however think a mask and cape would be entirely superfluous in your case.

Stay at home dad said...

Dulwich Mum - that would be nice. Your affection for your own father is a guiding light...

Hello t-girl. Wandering lonely in dung sounds quite sad now you mention it! That is amazing about the girlfriend. Or more it is amazing since noone finds it amazing...

Hi Dulwich Dad. Not at all, of course, that's very kind...

Thank you TGW. I have been away but will be right over.

Yes, @TM, I think much of life nowadays is saying and not doing, through forgetting or being busy or...

I should think all men in this situation feel broadly the same. The ones that wouldn't probably will never be doing it.

Hi Rebecca. Thanks! I worry that I have somehow portrayed them as monsters, which is not the case. If they wrote about me I'd probably sound awful too. No disdain from me, I just look ahead blindly...

Stay at home dad said...

Good to have you back Rilly. Yes I can see how that might raise an eyebrow or two. I might try it: "Under my bearded exterior I am SUPERSTAY-AT-HOME-DAD!!"

Ashton Lamont said...

Another SAHD.....we appear to be taking over the blog world......scary eh?

Stay at home dad said...

On the contrary - the more the better Mr Lamont!

Suffolkmum said...

Fantastically written post, as you can tell by the zillions of comments - is there room for little ol' me?! You nearly made e cry. I hate women in gangs. Im a veteran of school trips, but luckily our little rural school is blissfully relaxed. Shocked to the core about the lack of coffee at the goat enclosure - Someone Should Be Told.

Stay at home dad said...

Always room, SM! And thank you very much.

The postscript to the coffee story was that she went to fetch a tray of coffees and it was honestly like watching something from It's a Knockout as she got the half empty paper cups back to the playground.

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

You've just been tagged by me, SAHD. We'd love to read 7 facts about you.

Stay at home dad said...

There's more to know, Wakeup?!

Elsie Button said...

SAHD, i am getting annoyed now... where is your next post? i know you are around because you keep replying to comments...

is it because you want to go for the blogger record by getting the most comments on one post?!

Stay at home dad said...

I'm a little overwhelmed, Elsie!

Sparx said...

Lord, you'd think they'd be thrilled to have an actual male helping out considering how they probably spend half their lives complaining that men are useless... (sorry, am I judging them by their shoes??)

Having a lovely long catch-up on your blog, have been away and missed loads! I love your style, funny and wistful and on the mark.

Miss Thistle said...

I was once encouraged to 'help' at my Son's trip to Blackpool Zoo (well worth a visit!?!) with 'we always like to have a nurse on board'. My Son had diarrhoea and locked himself in the toilet - on his release he had a massive nosebleed - they were glad of the nurse. I just wanted a ride on the donkeys! You'll be ready for those Mums next year, the nursery will be sure to ask you again.

Stay at home dad said...

Sparx, it's a good point. Thank you - it's reciprocated!

Hello Miss Thistle - you're a born comedian!

the poster formerly known as VI said...

Today is the day of another potentially horrific occasion, the end of term party held in the local park next to my 7 year old son's school.

The one potential highlight however is the spectacle of all the alpha mums fighting over the chocolate brownies kindly cooked by the wife of a 3 michelin starred chef. For some bizarre reason they must believe that her husbands cooking skills have magically transferred themselves to his wife!

We shall see!

Stay at home dad said...

Good luck VI! Yes it's all end-of-term this and that at the moment. Just goes to show the sacrifices we make for our children ... btw, please send me an email via the blog if you'd like to meet up sometime.

the poster formerly known as VI said...

I sent you an email, hope you received it!

End of term party passed without incident - to general dismay, wife of 3 michelin star chef failed to turn up, so the alpha mums went brownie-less.

How hum!

Stay at home dad said...

Hello VI. That's a shame. predictable though, huh.

Yes I did get it and replied too.. although from the Blackberry so it might not have got through.