There’s a great blog I’ve recently been introduced to called The Unmumsy Mum. Essentially, other than many wonderful pearls of wisdom, the popularity of this blog may well reside in it’s acerbic, sometimes sarcastic, dry, witty asides about life as a mother and the many highs and lows that being a parent provides. I love it. But it’s the title that intrigues me the most. The Unmumsy Mum. That’s pretty cool right? You can sort of guess the kind of attitude the author may well be trying to portray just from that nom de plume. Fun, willing to admit fuck ups, forthright in telling the truth about themselves and their children etc etc
It kind of got me thinking about what an undadsy dad might be. Wouldn’t it just be a man who walks out on his kids? Or at the very least it would be a man that doesn’t really engage with them right? Or is it though… My father’s generation was rife with dads that didn’t necessarily change nappies or take over feeding time etc, but a lot of those dads are heroes in their children’s eyes. Is that because that father in question is actually a brilliant, practical man, serious at times, fun at others and always the scary presence mum would threaten you with if you were misbehaving? So an undadsy dad would therefore be the opposite of that – a uselessly impractical man, hardly ever serious (so basically a fucking clown) and a complete pushover. Damn, is that me? I hope it isn’t! As for me ‘walking out’ well, Moo is basically my diminutive, grazed knee, messy haired shadow so that may well be quite difficult.
I find it confusing to know exactly what a stay at home dad should actually look like. It’s even more tricky to know how I am viewed by the mums I bump into every day. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I really don’t harbour paranoias about them talking about me in hushed voices with comments such as, “he’s trying so hard bless him but it’s a bit like using a Tescos when there’s a Waitrose around the corner. It’s just not right darling”. I promise you, I don’t really think like that. Much…
Even more unsettling though is what their husbands might think about the whole thing! There I am, a gorgeous, funny, muscular dad knocking on their wife’s door at 3pm for a ‘play date’. I mean, just imagine that phone call between them! It makes ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’ look plausible! OK so, for ‘gorgeous, funny and muscular’ perhaps read: balding, tired and middle aged. I guess one should also consider the fact that those husbands are all lovely and much more grown up than me, and then, well, maybe that’s not such a problem after all is it. It’s the curtain twitchers next door I need to worry about. They probably think that I am that lovely yummy mummy’s ‘afternoon delight’!
Or, perhaps not…
But why does what anyone thinks about me matter anyway? Why, when I am basically a knackered echo of the man I used to be, would I waste time caring about any of that stuff?
(I mention that last bit because I had a text conversation with my friend this week that went –
Him: “I’m test riding a Suzuki sports bike today then heading to the pub. What ya up to?”
Me: “Making sandcastles to be stamped on before cooking Moo’s supper for the dogs to eat”)
I guess I ponder on all this because the notion of having a job title or clear job description matters to a lot of people; me included. I feel I have to justify things to myself in my silly befuddled head. In terms of the ‘Unmumsy Mum’ character it’s clear how someone could push against type because being a stay at home mum surely has a well worked blue print, therefore one can rebel against it. I’m not sure what my stay at home dad blue print is though. Perhaps it’s this: A man who wears the same cargo shorts everyday, covered in milk, scrambled egg and some unidentifiable muck Moo wiped on me from the park (and yes, it does look like I have had a little poo on myself), being constantly bossed around by a 17 month old tyrant who makes a white-van driver stuck in traffic look calm and measured.
Sometimes you see the dads that ‘try too hard’ to be the ‘Dad’. (It’s going to be so difficult not to come across as condescending right now but I’ll do my best). You know, the ones that play with super enthusiasm. That go to the playground and talk on a level with their kids and say, “HEY, I KNOW A COOL GAME YEAH LET’S PLAY WOOOO HOOOO WEEEEEEEEEEE YEAHHHHHH”. The ones that jump in the puddles way before the child has even intimated that they have harboured any notion of doing it themselves. Well, now hear this: Far from being patronising and criticising anyone by writing that, I’m happy to announce that that very description fitted me like the proverbial ‘raisin up a toddler’s nose’ the other day…
My friend has a 5 year old daughter whom I adore. She’s crazy funny, boisterous, bright and beautiful. A couple of days ago in the sand pit at my local park, I picked Moo up and swung her around as I normally do. My friend’s daughter saw this and wanted a go. Cue me spending 15 minutes throwing, swinging and whooping and screaming like an over grown 5 year old; like I really had something to prove. Was I seriously trying to impress her and win her friendship? Damn I’m childish. All through this time Moo was stood staring at me with an expression that can only be described as ‘You sad, pitiful little man’. Anyway, the result of all this exuberant throwing and rambunctious swinging was that I managed to completely poleaxe a small 6 year old boy, like an 82kg bowling ball on a collision course with a tiny twig. Cue death stare from said boy’s mum. What a clumsy, clumsy fucker. At this point Moo skulked off, embarrassed and disappointed, to go and cuddle my friend’s mum. Quite right.
I guess then that the ‘Undadsy Dad’ is everything all at once. I can be the show off trying to impress mine (and other people’s) children. I can be the clown. I can be the cook, the cleaner and the protector. And I can be the serious one who picks my daughter up and soothes her grazed knee with kisses, cuddles and a little ointment. Perhaps it’s much easier for me to push against type than a mum actually! There’s nowhere near as much pressure on me to be some kind of a universally recognised stay at home dad cliché because there isn’t one yet. In fact, maybe we’re all of us actually undadsy dads and unmumsy mums in our own unique ways, and that’s what makes us special to our diminutive, messy haired shadows.