To celebrate Father’s Day this year we are posting up a series of posts from Dads (and some Mums) all based around the following question “What challenges do dads face in 2011”
This our first post, written by @reluctanthousedad will speak to many dads in their 30 or 40s. “I can’t be the man my father was, but I can be the dad he was” jumped out at me with some force. He writes so well, and his blog is one of those where the honesty spills out. It is a wonderful combination!
Like many men stuck at home raising children, the fear of turning into a right wuss is never far away…this post touches upon this difficult subject with care and insight…
Father’s Day will coincide with the anniversary on which I lost my job, exactly
one year ago, and it’s had me pondering the nature of fatherhood.
There is no such thing as a Typical Dad. We learn from our own fathers, the
good, the bad, the ugly, then do the best we can when our own children come
I have always had a hero-worship relationship with my father. He is a real man.
A working man. He led by example without any recourse to counsel or nurture. He
worked hard so that his kids could have what he didn’t have growing up in the
slums of Manchester.
Now, as his oldest son (me) gets closer to 50 than 40, my challenge is to be as
inspirational to my children as he was to me.
And that’s a challenge I have found difficult to get to grips with. Because the
goalposts have moved.
A father used to be the provider, the fixer, and in my father’s case, the
fighter. His dad, my grandfather, was a heavyweight boxing champion. When he
retired he became a bricklayer. My dad was an engineering fitter. A job so dirty
he would come home looking like an extra from the Black and White Minstrels.
I remember one time when I was a teenager, walking our pet dog Sam, when a group
of drunken young men confronted us.
‘Where’s your wallet?’ one asked. Another took a swipe at Sam with his boot.
If my dad had coat-tails, I would have hidden behind them. Instead, I watched in
awe as he looked each idiot in the eye, identified the ringleader, then knocked
his teeth out with a single punch. The other three went scattering as fast as
their leader’s nose when splattering.
I am far too fey and delicate to be that kind of dad. But I always believed I
could be the kind of dad he set the example for me to be: the working dad, the
And until June last year, that’s exactly what I was. I left home at 16, got the
equivalent of a degree in journalism, and at 19, secured my first job. I didn’t
have a day out of work, earned a handsome salary. I was the bee’s knees, the
dog’s bollocks, the Mr Woo, as my dad used to call me.
And then I lost my job, and with it, my identity and my perception of my role as
My wife and I swapped roles at the beginning of this year. She went out to work
in an office and I became a full-time Reluctant Housedad. I felt worthless,
useless, pointless. My entire sense of self had been wrapped up in my ability
to work, to provide for my family. Now it had been decimated.
The impact of this was for me to question what it means to be a father. I could
wash, yes; I could iron, easily; I could cook, clean, pick the kids up from
school, no problem. But I couldn’t provide. And for me, providing was all that
I became reclusive, distant, resentful, even.
Why am I telling you all this nostalgic self-indulgent twaddle? What has it got
to do with the challenges facing fathers in the year 2011?
Well, it’s this: in fatherhood – full-time fatherhood – I found myself and my
purpose. My children ARE provided for; my children want for nothing. Their
mother makes sure of that via her job working 10 hours a day in an office that
has all the stresses and strains you might imagine go hand-in-hand with the
modern commercial workplace.
But what I give them is me: the values instilled in me by the example my father
set. I give them decency, morality, politeness, discipline, not by nagging, or
counselling, or contrived Let’s Have A Talk sitdowns, but by leading by example.
My nine year-old stepdaughter will know that Good Looking Bastards are exactly
that (because her stepfather is a minging soft touch!); my six year-old and
three-year-old sons will know the value of being generous and kind. They will
all understand the importance of respect in relationships and have an
understanding of the fact that no matter how much you try to strategise you
life, shit happens and you have to deal with it or curl up and die.
All fathers have challenges in the year ahead, and beyond. I can’t tell them
what those individual challenges are or how they should deal with them. Each to
their own. We’re all different.
But the challenge for this father is to give my kids what my father gave me. In
a world which has become increasingly rude, ill-mannered and me-me-me; in which
instant gratification has replaced patience and calm; in which results are more
important than endeavour, I can at least – as a housedad – be here for them to
show them what really matters in life.
I’ll never be the man my father was – an adversity to being punched in the face
has seen to that – but I can be the DAD he was, and is. I might get my hands
dirty in a different way but I get them dirty all the same (wiping my toddler
son’s bottom every day springs to mind – a task my father would never in a
million years have done).