Introductions were so much easier in the days when I had a full time job and wasn’t the childrens’ main carer. I’d shake hands / kiss cheeks (delete as applicable), give the person my name and conversation would quickly move on to our respective occupations.
The discussion about work gets a bit more complex when you’re male and hold the babies. People expect a woman to say they’re on maternity leave, stay at home mum or (sharp intake of breath) housewife. It’s just not expected for a man to say such a thing.
As an aside, I have been called a househusband several times, albeit usually in jest. Although I previously hated the phrase homemaker, I have come to quite like it. The idea you can ‘make a home’ is considerably more pleasant and accurate than being married to a house.
Through trial and error, I’ve also learned it’s vital to make clear as early in the conversation as possible that I’m the kids’ main carer. This makes things so much easier and deals with any awkwardness straight away.
Not, you understand, that I feel awkward. In the three years I’ve been doing this I’ve met numerous people that haven’t quite known how to react to my situation. If there’s any awkwardness to get out the way, I believe it should be dealt with quickly.
It’s especially important to make clear to those in official channels what my role is in this topsy-turvy family. I get treated completely differently by health professionals, education professionals and childcare professionals once I’ve explained that my wife is the breadwinner and I look after the children. I find that people in these occupations are considerably more forthcoming with me when they know childcare is what I do.
It’s slightly depressing because it suggests that your common-all-garden full-time working father is kept in the dark because he isn’t trusted. That’s not a good way for society to treat men.
Unfortunately being open with people doesn’t always work. I recall a time when my wife and I were on a tour of a local nursery. The manager showed us round and would only address my wife, leaving me unimpressed.
At the end of the tour, I explained I was the kids’ main carer and, giving her the benefit of the doubt, asked one final question. To my surprise she turned to my wife and answered directly to her. You won’t be surprised to hear we didn’t use this nursery’s services.
I know of an American company selling tee-shirts that declare you’re a dad looking after your children. Perhaps I should buy one. It might make introductions that bit easier.