For many years, I had the privilege of raising our young children as the primary caregiver. I managed our home, and supported my partner as the breadwinner for our family. I am an Australian dad with an earnest story to tell and some life lessons to share. Over the years, I have pursued careers in the construction industry, the retail sector, and more recently the Defence department. There has been plenty of variety in these roles, but none was as challenging or as fulfilling as being a House Dad.
I entered this line of work with little warning or preparation. After 4 years of 5 to 6 days a week employment, (most often not home until after dark), I found myself unemployed and unsure of my future. Due to an injury I was recovering from, I had some limitations on my employment options. For financial reasons, my partner or I had to find work quickly. We discussed our options and she decided to try to re-enter the paid workforce. She had already carried out a 4-year tour of duty at home, and although she loved being a mum, she also wanted to get back to a career outside the home. We decided that whoever found employment first would take it, and the other would stay home with the kids.
The next week she applied for a job in a company supporting people with disabilities. She aced the interview, secured the job, and was very excited about starting her new career. Then she began to write me a huge list of what to do and what not to do for the housework and for the everyday care of our children. I was happy that my partner had found employment, but at the same time, I was feeling nervous and uncertain about what I was in for as the full-time parent at home.
I can remember my partner’s first day at work as if it were yesterday. She was frantic, running backwards and forwards preparing for her first shift. She was reciting myriads of ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ to me. Actually, she was mostly telling me the don'ts like; "Don't boil the milk in the kettle", "Don’t leave Joel alone with scissors", "Don't leave Belinda alone with marker pens.” I was inundated with ‘directives’ and I had no chance of remembering all the instructions.
In my mind, I thought I had always helped with the children. I had taken as much of an active role as possible throughout the years. I thought I knew what caring for children was all about. I could feed the kids, do the shopping, and use the vacuum cleaner. At that moment, I felt all of my partners concerns were unnecessary. It is not as if I was a complete novice at taking care of the household, doing the cleaning and looking after our kids. I told her not to worry, saying confidently, "How hard could it be?"
Those were the very words I used on that day. In response to my enlightened comment, my mischievous partner raised one eyebrow, gave the 'I know something you don’t know’ grin, and spoke to me in a tone that can only be described as ominous, “You do not have a clue what you are in for.” The hair on the back of my neck stood up. She got into the car, turned the ignition on, and drove to work for her first day of what would become a successful and fulfilling career.
So there I was, wearing an apron and a puzzled look on my face. As the children and I waved goodbye to Mummy, I reflected on where I had been, realised where I was now, and looked to the future with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. I stood in our driveway with our 4 yr old daughter on my right side, our 3 yr old son on my left, and our 4-month-old baby daughter in my arms. Now I do not know about you, but I considered myself officially thrown in the deep end!
And so it began, I was an official 'House Dad'! The full-time parent staying home with the kids! The King of the Castle! I remember thinking that this was a fantastic turn of events. I loved hanging out with my awesome kids. Some housework needed to be done for sure, but that would not take that long. I would have heaps of time to play with the kids and do all the things I did not have time for when I was working. No problem. "How hard can it be?" Did I already say that?