There are two ways of dealing with being a househusband. By “househusband,” I mean being a bloke who stays at home to look after a young child full-time, instead of going to work.
The first way is to sit around the house and mope about it. This is exactly what I did for the first four or five months of being a househusband (some people use the word homedad), and it was a mistake.
The second way is to decide that you don't care what the rest of the world thinks about you, and to just get on with being the best dad you can be. This is the better option, and is the one I am now trying to follow.
Many blokes, if you prod them, will ad mit to being quite intimidated if they are the only bloke in a room full of women. Especially so if the room is home to a parent-and-toddler group, and the primary topics of conversation are babies, pregnancy and giving birth.
But there's no need to be intimidated by this.
Just accept that youâre a dad, looking after your child, and that going to toddler groups with other parents (yes, mostly mums) is something you need to do. You need to do it to keep your own sanity, and to provide some playmates for your child to make friends with.
And the feeling of being intimidated will soon pass as you get to know the other parents. Make an effort, ask them questions, be yourself. Relax. Get to know people. It's not that big a deal.
Since making an effort to get myself and Barnaby out of the house on a regular basis, both of us have been happier. I have made new friends and so has he. I look forward to our weekly coffee mornings, so I can have some normal adult conversation with the people I've got to know. Sure, there are dozens of kids storming around the place as we chat, but that' s fine. Everyone ” almost automatically, without needing to say anything aloud ” shares the care of the children, so if one of them trips over and cries, or spills a drink,
or wants playing with, the nearest adult can lean forward and do the necessary. That child's parent doesn't have to get up from the other side of the room.
And sure, the conversation frequently turns to the horrors of labour, or stretch marks, or other aspects of childbirth that I have no personal experience of. I don't consider it a problem; if I have nothing to say, I keep quiet. It's up to me to contribute, or change the subject.
Barney looks forward to it as well, I think, but mainly because he always gets to eat plenty of biscuits.
Another worthwhile thing to do when looking after a little one is to get some structure to your week. At first, when I was in the moping stage, there was very little structure at all. We'd go out when I decided we should, often making decisions at the last minute which resulted in my tearing around to gather together all the clothes, nappies, bibs, food and other bits and bobs required when going out with a baby. P>
Planning the week is a much better idea. My friend Chris, who has been a homedad to two children and is just about to start on a third, spelled it out to me in an email:
Househusbands need structure to their week. I almost always went to the same few places at the same times week in week out: 2 toddler groups, one swim, one visit to my mum, THEN onto this backbone I built the slightly less regular things eg. park, Little Monkeys play centre, library, town shopping THEN I added anything else to taste.
It means when Monday morning comes round you know where you have to be, just like real working people, who sometimes forget that all that “freedom” they think you've got can be daunting and lead to much loneliness and clockwatching.
That's the best advice I've had since I stopped work, and right now, Barney and I are having fun following it.