If you’d told me three months ago that I’d be writing this, I’d have laughed. Now I laugh thinking about the words of Captain Jack Sparrow as he puts his feet up on the table and bites into a juicy apple: “Funny old world, innit?”

A while ago I related the story about how I quit my job due to a circumstance which arose surrounding my previous employer, in an AOM blogpost which was titled, “Starting over at 26”. Then I started looking for another job, and decided I’d better take it down, lest it scare off a prospective employer (and yes, I think HR staffers should at least Google a person’s name before hiring them). I looked for a few jobs, and the most promising lead came after about three weeks of job-searching, which would have involved a stable job with a ‘big four’ bank, paying considerably more than I was on before (it was honestly the most excited I’d ever been about a desk job). After three more weeks of phone calls and emails back and forth, and driving two hours to attend an interview in Brisbane, the position was handed to someone else, and I received an ‘attaboy!’ letter telling me what a high-quality candidate I’d been, and they regretted that they couldn’t find a position for me, blah blahhhh ....

But the purpose of this post isn’t to whinge about the difficulties of job-hunting. Sure, I was disappointed to learn that I’d missed out, but, “Funny old world, innit?” That same afternoon that I learned I'd missed the job, my wife’s boss called and asked if she’d be able to work full-time, effective til the end of the year. So she agreed, and I ‘agreed’ (as in, that’s great honey, but I suppose that means ...), and off to work she went. And off to work I went. I didn’t have to go far.

As a man, you go into these ventures full of confidence in your own abilities -- after all, you've done all this stuff before on a casual basis, so it'll be just more of the same. Really, how hard could it be to keep house and look after a two-year-old boy with no ambition in life (so far) other than to quote TV lines ad nauseum, jump on the bed and play in the kitchen? (Ok, well, we haven’t run him through the goal-setting programs for kids yet – that whole discussion on a child’s innocence and being forced to be a miniature adult is something I won’t enter here.) Sure, it was easy for about the first thirty minutes. Then reality hit me – I’ve gotta do this ALL FREAKIN’ DAY!! And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day ... Normally if I had some free time I’d just let Judah play around the house while his mother keeps an eye on him, and I’d hive off in my den and play guitar or catch up on the results from the latest round of UEFA Champions League action*. Not any more – doing that now would mean abandoning my living spaces to destruction. It’d also mean having to clean up, or just as bad in a different way, having to explain the damage to my wife and wait for the inevitable reply: “Weren’t you watching him?”

Every day, you long for the moment when you put your child down to sleep in the afternoon (and yes, I’m lucky enough to only have one, so sleep really does mean no more dad duties for a while), because that’s when your life most resembles the way it was before. For those two hours or so, you might just be a regular working guy, who’s just having a day off. You can sit down and watch TV, brew some coffee and sip it gently while you read that novel you’ve been looking to finish, surf the web ... and then a squeal from the bedroom tells you that it’s back on. Time to get back to work.

Having done this for two weeks now, I have a respect for stay-at-home mothers that I never had before. It’s not just physically difficult – it’s also emotionally and mentally tiring. The isolation, the housework that simply never stops, having to engage the whole world in language that a two-year-old can understand, the tantrums, the ensuing discipline ... Funny thing is, none of these things are greatly concerning by themselves, but together, they demand of a man something we’re not used to giving -- some would say, that we're not naturally made for giving. The argument is moot. Then you wrap it up in the man’s own stigma that he has to deal with – the continual feeling that ‘I shouldn’t be doing this. I should be out at work. I should be building my career.’ That never goes away, either. It even starts to colour your adult relationships, after a while – any time you get together with your male friends, they talk about work, and where you used to join in enthusiastically, you just shrug your shoulders instead and head back to the counter to order another drink. You get some time with your wife at the end of the day and she thanks you for looking after the house so she can work, and sometimes all you can mumble is ‘That’s ok’ ...

It gets easier, though, as you come to terms with your new reality and find ways to remake it as you see fit. So far I’ve taken my boy to music shops (do NOT pull down the Les Paul Custom or I’ll give you a smack!), we’ve been making some great progress with reading picture books and playing piano together, I’m helping him build his collection of toy cars (you call that a car?! Take a look at this Audi R8 instead, my son), and we’ve fallen into a fairly constant rhythm of going out to town in the mornings, then coming home for lunch, he sleeps in the early afternoon and then he wakes up and we do housework. No, I wouldn’t have picked that way to do it at first either, but it works. Funny old world, innit?

I’ll have to leave it there. I’ve gotta hang out the next load of washing, bring the last load in off the line, thaw out the ingredients for dinner (we’re having beer-battered fish fillets with steamed veggies tonight), fold some other washing (my gosh, we seem to wear a lot of clothes), wash a sinkful of dirty dishes, learn some lines for the forthcoming Christmas production (one scene down, three to go for my character), call the gym about upgrading memberships, put away the rest of the groceries, rip the Chuggington DVD that I bought today for backup before surrendering it to Judah for continual viewing and eventual destruction, book the car in to get the brake pads replaced and the discs machined, clean the fishbowl ...

*United! And yes, they’ll be just fine without pretty boy Cristiano Ronaldo – sure, he could tear it up against relegation-fodder EPL clubs but he was a waste of perfectly good ball-possession running at well-organised Italian or German defensive line-ups. Seems Man U have a thing for right-sided midfielders with modelling potential who leave to join Real Madrid. I’ll laugh if he joins an MLS club later on ...
That's another coping strategy for dads -- following a code of football or some other such sport helps you hang onto a feeling of conventional manliness. In a situation like this, you follow it with a religious zeal you didn't know you had ... also handy to have an obstinate, belligerent opinion about every club and every player in the league -- it helps you hold your own with your man friends when the conversation finally drifts away from their work ...

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Comment by Dave Findlay on November 3, 2009 at 7:30am
Thanks -- I decided to work a little harder now and take a screenshot of him eating the apple, as per the described scene. Love that movie ...
Comment by Herb Munson on November 3, 2009 at 1:00am
Well written Dave. I will pray for you! ha (Seriously, I will). I love your Captain Jack pic too.

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