Why being a domestic dad is bloody hard work – and a matter of serious manly pride.
Every morning before my son leaves for school he pleads to stay with me and have fun. I tell him that I’ve got boring daddy jobs to do, so it wouldn’t be any fun, and send him off to school with his mum. I wave to him from the living room window as he goes through the front gate, and because I work from home, when he gets back I’m waiting for him in the same spot – and usually in the same clothes I threw on that morning. I’m convinced he thinks I go into suspended animation as soon as he leaves the house, only to be awakened when he gets back. If only my son knew the all shit a domestic dad has to do while he spends the day playing with his mates.
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There’s never a day when there isn’t washing to do. Not a difficult task, but an ever present one that can grow into a monster if not battled daily. I once heard a bloke in a pub complaining to his wife that he’d done three loads of washing that day like it was some Herculean achievement. Let’s be clear here guys, the machine does the work. I have to sort the load and measure out the liquid but that’s it. I’m not trudging down to the river to bash my boxers on a rock. Doing three loads of washing in a day is only about 10 minutes actual work, so I’m not getting any medals for that one.
It’s the same with the washing up. We’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher so there’s no scrubbing pans for me, thank you very much.
No, the real work begins with the cleaning. For a guy who spent his youth (and a fair bit beyond) drinking and partying like every day was a George Best and Keith Richards joint birthday bash, I now spend am awful lot of time comparing cleaning products.
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I have a cupboard in the kitchen – with the appropriate safety lock, of course – stuffed full of bottles for every occasion. I spent less time deciding on a name for my son than I did finding a kitchen cleaner that doesn’t leave my worktops streaky, and I spent a lot of time reading baby name books. It might not sound very masculine to some blokes, but I take a great pride in cleaning something properly.
Once I start, I find it hard to stop – I’m a domestic dad on a mission. The kitchen gets the kind of deep clean that Gordon Ramsey would be happy with; the bathroom sparkles when I’m done with it; the wood floors gleam with a hint of zesty lemon; carpets are Dysoned within an inch of their shaggy lives; and can after can Mr Sheen is tossed away, emptied of every last squirt.
I don’t need to hunt or gather for my family so I conquer whatever beast I can find. I do a manly job of keeping my family clean and clothed.
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It’s the same with the garden. Mowing the lawn is a deeply masculine endeavour. For a start, you’re in control of a machine that has a spinning blade attached to it. You’re very nearly a ninja. If you’ve got a petrol mower you’re even more manly because it has an engine and you’ve got to pull that cord really hard to start it. Like Thor. Though I do undermine the image somewhat when I prance around with the thing like Freddie Mercury in the I Want To Break Free video. But I reckon I’m man enough to pull it off.
The garden may be an empowering place for a bloke to work in but back in the house there are other jobs that can suck the life out of even the hardiest domestic dad. No amount of Jagger-esque strutting can put the fun into changing bedding. You know that sick feeling you used to get in the pit of your stomach when you saw the school bully heading your way? I get that when I open the linen cupboard. I may need to see a therapist about my irrational hatred of duvet covers.
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Then there’s the tidying up, the cooking, sorting out the bills and the banking, and mending whatever toys have been recently broken. I’m lucky that I don’t have to put on a suit and commute every day, but that means I can’t escape the housework either. Whenever I’m at my desk I’ve got one ear listening for when the washing machine finishes so I can get another load on.
I sometimes wish my son could see what I do in a day so he could appreciate that school is more fun than being a domestic dad. He might have more respect for the manly efforts that go into keeping him in the manner to which he’s become accustomed. Though on balance, maybe seeing me swearing at a toilet brush wouldn’t quite get that message across.