Yesterday started at dawn with me trying to distract my two-year-old son from waking up my wife. Because if you love someone, you let them sleep. Especially if she has to go to work and you don’t. So, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, I carried Si to the kitchen where I prepared his porridge while he ran around my ankles shouting “nanas”. Then I made his and my daughter’s lunchboxes between trying to find Mol’s school jersey, brushing her hair, changing Si’s nappy and dressing him. After the school run I rushed back home so that I could wash the dishes, take out the rubbish, put the dirty washing in the machine and make all of the beds. Then I hung up the washing, typed and retyped this column’s headline a coupla times and by the time I was happy with it, it was midday. So I fetched the boy from crèche, fed him, changed another nappy and then attempted to coax him to sleep for his afternoon nap. After I realised that he wasn’t going to sleep I put him back in the car and went to go fetch his sister from school. After we’d finally found Molly’s school shoes on the far corner of the sports field we went to the park, but it started drizzling so we rushed home so that I could get the washing off of the line and into the tumble dryer. Then I helped Molly with her homework while prepping dinner, a nice hearty stroganoff, which I left to simmer while I walked the dog and let the kids run off some energy before the next cloudburst. Then I had to clean the mud off of the dog’s paws and put the kids in the bath and clean up the prints that had been walked into the house. My wife arrived at around six and she played with the kids while I tossed a salad and set the table. We were both in bed by around nine and there was no sex because I’d grown a mangina.
The life of a househusband/ house spouse/ house dad/ stay at home dad/ SAHD… isn’t one that I’ve chosen. Our live-in nanny wanted to go home to Zimbabwe to vote, and because it takes a lot of time and money to get there we gave her the month off and arranged for my mom to come down and help out. But then one granny broke her hip, and we thought that the other granny had contracted cancer, and so my wife and I had to use up some of those precious 20 annual leave days in order to take turns looking after our kids.
Initially I thought it would be a cakewalk. That I’d use the time to do some DIY around the house, catch up on my reading and put in some surfs sans weekend crowds. Ha! And perhaps I’d start a side business called Good Intentions Paving Co., too?
The truth is that the only downtime I had was when Rasta Mouse was on the TV and I could curl up in a ball and rock silently while sucking my thumb and thinking about my ergonomic office chair. You see, the smaller kid is difficult – a brat! a beast! – and he might even be slightly autistic. Just before the nanny left, Si locked her outside while she was hanging the washing on the line and she had to climb over the wall with the electric fence, then shimmy down a drainpipe and shout at passers-by from behind the gated-off servitude – asking if she could use their phone so that she could get us to drive back home and let her back into the house.
While doing the grocery shopping I made the mistake of passing a toy display and Si started pointing at a red box with Lightning McQueen on it. In the interests of the other shoppers I bought it for him. When we got home I opened the box and poured the puzzle pieces out on the table in front of him. He picked up the box, peered inside it, then flung the pieces from the dining room table and started screeching. This was a different cry to the one he cried every single time that I picked him up from school, and came with a barrage of headbutts, bites, fishhooks and fingers to the eye…
But worse than the brat’s temper and the housework was the boredom. Because we’re not made for this, us guys. We grow up pulling the heads off of our Masters of the Universe figurines, building booby-traps at the BMX track and picking on the neighbourhood ginger. Not rocking babies and putting imaginary soufflés in pink Fisher-Price ovens. Caring for something is about as foreign to us as keeping house is.
Now, in my eyes a man who abandons his career in order to stay home and raise children is not living up to his potential. Especially because my wife’s crush is exactly this guy – a stay at home dad. Since she joined Instagram I’ve had to listen to how this one guy that she follows pisses excellence. From how crafty he is – “look at these cute owl cupcakes @MattAllison makes!” – to his green credentials – “Why can’t you grow us our own food like @MattAllison does?” – to straight-up comparison – “@MattAllison looks after his kids all week and you can’t even do it on a Saturday?!”
So you can imagine how weird it was when I finally met my nemesis. At his house. For dinner. Where we ate things that he’d grown himself. (Now there are plenty of girls who I follow on social media whose homes I’d love to visit, so @NicciSaintBruce, @JanaBabez, and all those other bad bitches, please extend me your invites so that we can see how blatant these double-standards are.)
Anyway, I picked up my lip and went.
“So you’re a housewife?” I said.
“I prefer homemaker,” @MattAllison replied, before giving me a brief synopsis of his CV, which included how he’d started up the country’s first online news websites, toured as a musician, won a SAMA, opened a recording studio, serviced vintage tube amps and produced Annie Lennox’s album…
“So why are you baking with your son on a Tuesday morning while all the other dads are at work?” I asked.
“Because I can.”
Which I laughed off at the time, but now, having played homemaker for a week, understand what @MattAllison meant by that. Because not all guys can pull off being a stay-at-home dad.
Instead of watching Sport Blitz all day, or starting on a slab of tins at around lunchtime,
@MattAllison doesn’t even own a TV, nor does he drink heavily. The guy grows his own vegetables, keeps chickens and even built a very impressive freestanding playhouse that looks like something off of a Pinterest page.
While his wife is at work, @MattAllison’s the one responsible for cleaning those cloth nappies he insists on keeping his daughter in. Now it’s bad enough holding a nuclear nappy at arm’s length on the way to the bin. I can’t imagine attempting to resuscitate one. Also, you’d think someone who keeps six different dustbins and refuses to get a high-pressure geyser, because their current one still works fine, thankyouverymuch, would be the type to wear Crocs and have bunker chic stylings. But no, @MattAllison’s got style, so much so that he curates several blogs that has groupies, my wife being just one, cooing over his Scandi designed home and heirloom tomatoes and new-agey parenting advice.
Guy’s a Renaissance man 2.0.
And there will be more @MattAllisons in our lifetime. Sure, most won’t put on pants or pour the milk into a glass before drinking it, and will most likely have some sort of hired help to do the messy parts that men don’t like doing, but the stay-at-home dad is here to stay.
The last census showed us that there are now more female breadwinners. That more men are staying at home. In the UK, the number of working women has increased significantly since the financial crisis of 2008 and the number of stay-at-home dads has doubled. And a recent study showed that 28% of senior management positions in South Africa are held by women, which is better than the global average of 24%. All will agree that women are more involved in the working world than they’ve ever been. And now it’s up to us guys to pull up our socks at home.
You see, work is chilled. Work means you get to surf the Internet and the only tantrums you deal with are on deadline. At home there’s just no time for checking out funny gifs on Buzzfeed or Facestalking exes or catching up on last night’s episode of Come Dine With Me South Africa at the water cooler… Being a stay-at-home-dad is like working in the iPod factory where the only way to escape your Groundhog Day existence is by jumping out of the window.
So you’re trapped, bored and about as sexy as an adult onesie. The highlight of your day is speaking to your neighbour over your semi-detached’s wall while doing another load of washing.
Gone is your role as alpha male where you win the bread and bring home the bacon. As a stay at home dad you’re toasting bread and frying up the bacon, then kissing your wife on the cheek as she sets off to work.
Be careful what you wish for, man, because you might just get it.