The day I became a house dad felt like one of the blackest of my life because it was an acceptance that, in my eyes, I had failed in my duty as a father and as a provider.
I felt like an imposter on so many levels. I didn't see the value in housework, in school runs – even in spending time with my children. All of these things were just chores to remind me that I should be earning money, should be working in an office, should be fulfilling MY potential, because these were the things I used as a measure of myself as a man.
But over the months, I have come to the realise what really matters, and that becoming a full-time parent doesn't have to mean sacrificing your identity.
Six months ago, I couldn't have written this article, but now I am proud to bring you
10 REASONS I LOVE BEING A HOUSEDAD!
Joys 1, 2 and 3: WELL, IT'S OBVIOUS, ISN'T IT?
My stepdaughter Daisy, and sons Tom and Sam. Looking back, I barely knew who they were before. I used to work such long hours that they were in bed by the time I got home, and at weekends I was so exhausted from the stresses of the week that I didn't have the energy to spend any 'quality' time with them.
Now, nearly all the time I spend with them is quality time. Of course, there are the laughs and the cuddles, but quality isn't just fun: it's also about the nagging, the nurturing, the teaching, the example-setting.
It's about knowing the food you cook is making them grow; the time you spend helping with their homework is helping them learn; and the times we share together during the long weeks of the school holidays are about creating an unbreakable bond that would last forever.
My father didn't have that with his four sons. I know how privileged I am to have it with my kids.
Joy 4: MAN ABOUT THE KITCHEN
I have always been passionate about cooking. At school, I was the only boy in a home economics class of 30. Cooking wasn't the coolest thing to do in those days - the Galloping Gourmet was about the only food show on TV - especially at a Manchester comprehensive. But I didn't care. Cooking appealed to everything my creative, approval-seeking young self wanted to be.
Over the years, work - that suffocater of time - meant cooking took a back seat. I still indulged at weekends, but it was never enough.
Now, as one of the great unwashed unemployed, I get to cook twice a day, every day. It's brilliant.
I start on a Saturday morning, drawing up a table, making a list of what I'm going to cook for the kids each evening, and what I'm going to rustle up for my Successful Other Half once the kids have gone to bed. Then I go online to shop for all the ingredients, which then arrive on Monday morning. The rest of the day is spent chopping and marinating.
One of the legacies of my well-paid job is that I have some quite superb kitchen kit: Tojiro knives, sharp enough to slice through canvas; Wusthof poultry shears, for dissembling chickens (great for making one bird stretch to six meals); a Cuisinart slow cooker, for melt-in-the-mouth stews and deep, rich Bolognese sauces; and my piece-de-resistance, a Sous Vide water oven.
Everyone wins: my kids eat great, fresh, unprocessed food; my wife gets restaurant quality meals every night without having to pay restaurant prices. And I get to be creative, and most of all, feel useful.
Joy 5: ANOTHER NOTCH ON THE BELT
I weighed 13.5st and had a 38-inch waist when I was working. This was partly because I was running a cookery magazine and so 'had' to sample all the cheese, crisps and goodies that were sent in by PR companies anxious to get publicity for their clients' products.
But it was mainly because office life is so sedentary. It might sound glamorous being a journalist - and for those who get to test fast cars or go on holiday or hang out with film stars, no doubt it is. But for most of us, journalism is about being tied to a keyboard, making phone calls and piling up cups of half-drunk tea on your desk.
here's a great myth that being unemployed is one long lie on the sofa watching Jeremy Kyle and Antiques in the Attic. Housedads and Housewives of Britain - you don't need me to tell you what the reality is. Yes, exhausting.
But it has its plus side: I have a lost nearly a stone and now weight 12st 8lbs, and only last week I had to punch another notch in my belt because my waist is now 34 inches.
Joy 6: DAY TRIPS WITH THE KIDS
Life was so hectic when I had a job that I didn't have the energy at the weekends to take my kids to the zoo, or theme parks, or anywhere, really. I just wanted to switch off, lock myself in the kitchen or spend a few hours in the pub.
Now I get to accompany my sons on their school trips, which I love.
Joy 7: GO GIRL!
I had never really spent much time with my stepdaughter Daisy before. I've known her since she was very little, and love her as much as I do my sons, but because of a combination of me working long hours and Daisy spending every weekend with her dad, there's never been any real time to connect.
We've always been more like mates than stepdad and stepdaughter. She doesn't call me 'dad' - because she's got one of those and he's a brilliant bloke.
Now, though, I've got the role her mum had, both good and bad: I pick her up from school, nag her about her homework/state of her bedroom/dawdling in the morning; but I also get to chat with her about her day, and go along to cheer her on at her school plays or netball matches.
Last term, for example, she scored all 12 points in a 12-0 victory over a rival school. I went bonkers on the touchline, yelling and cheering, chanting and fist-pumping the air. And instead of looking embarrassed, Daisy just looked dead chuffed that I was there to witness her triumph.
I felt a huge connection towards her, but also a huge connection towards her mum and dad. I was the link between them and their daughter, updating them by text on every netted ball, and filing a full match report at the final whistle. It felt like a huge privilege, and it feels like a huge privilege to be her stepfather.
Joy 8: PUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON
When I was working, I rarely got to see my son's class assemblies and plays, but since I was made redundant I've been to see them all. The highlight of these magical events was Puff The Magic Dragon. My boy didn't have the lead role, but that didn't matter. Throughout the play, he didn't lose eye contact with me once. It was as if he couldn't quite believe I was there, his dad, watching him.
When it came time to sing the title song, every parent went as still as a statue, in anticipation of the effect this wondrous song was going to have on them.
And then the whole class sang the killer line: 'A dragon lives forever but not so little boys,' and I thought my chest was going to collapse from the exertion of stopping myself bursting into tears.
My son asked me afterwards: 'My are your eyes so red, Dad. Have you been crying?'
'Yes,' I replied.
'Because I'm so happy.'
If the ground had opened up and swallowed me whole, I think my son might have been happier.
'You're so embarrassing, Dad,' he said, as I blew my nose.
Joy 9: OPENING A DOOR TO NEW FRIENDS
I never Tweeted or blogged before I became a housedad. I didn't have time, had no interest in it and didn't think I had anything to say, anyway. But it's lonely being at home alone with no adult interaction, especially after you've been used to the hustle-bustle of a busy office.
Now I'm a Twitter fanatic and have built up a following of more than 700 who, for whatever reason, enjoy my moans and grumbles, my frustrations and observations, my spouted inanity and musings. It's great fun! Follow me @relucthousedad. I started my blog,
Chronicles of a Reluctant Housedad, because I wanted to chart my journey as a full-time dad. Simple as that. But it has led to freelance writing work and has forged connections with many people I hope will be friends for years to come.
Joy 10: I'M HOME, DEAR!
I've saved the best 'til last. There's nothing as sweet as the sound of the key going in the door at around 7.30pm and the chirpy voice of my wife announcing: 'I'm ho-ome.' I take her coat, pour her a glass of wine, kiss her on the cheek.
Then get my coat and head off to the pub for an hour. The way I figure it, after a hard day at work, she needs some special mummy-kids bonding time without me hovering over the proceedings.
Are you a full-time dad? Tell us what you like and don't about your role.
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