Six months ago, I was called into my boss's office and asked if I would like a cup of tea.
'Cheers. Milk, one sugar,' I replied.
I needed the sucrose to sweeten what came next.
'We're going to have to let you go,' he said.
I didn't really hear what he said after that because my heart was beating so loudly in my head. Something about cutbacks and re-shaping the business, nothing personal, these things happen, blah blah platitude platitude. I felt uncomfortably numb.
But by the time I returned to my own office, the news had sunk in: I'd lost my job.
Thank you and goodnight. Go directly to the scrapheap. I was 46.
'Not to worry,' I deludedly thought. 'I'll get another one.'
And so confident was I that I went home, proposed to the mother of my children then booked a wedding venue and an expensive family villa in Corsica for our honeymoon, blowing a significant chunk of my 'pay-off' in the process.
'It'll all be fine,' I assured her.
And she believed me, because I believed me. Except I was wrong.
After hundreds of inquiries and applications, I couldn't find another job that would pay enough to feed our mortgage and our three children, my nine-year-old stepdaughter Daisy, Tom, six, and Sam. But my wife could. And so, in common with one in five families in Britain, we were forced to swap roles.
Job loss is one of the most stressful things that can happen to anyone. This year and next, tens of thousands of workers will experience what I have in the last eight months. Many of them will be male, middle class, middle aged managers, who perhaps, like myself, may have to take over the domestic reins while their partners make ends meet.
My wife and I swapped roles six months ago. Now she goes out to work as a magazine editor while I stay at home and do everything she did.
And my God, did she do a lot! Breakfasts, school runs, cooking, cleaning, tidying, washing, ironing, homework, bathtimes, reading, separating bickering children. The list is endless and relentless.
People say I'm lucky. Family, friends – my wife. And in many ways they are right. I don't have to commute or deal with office politics. I get to spend the kind of time with my kids that most over-stressed working people – both men and women – would give their Blackberries and iPhones to have.
I get the cuddles and the kisses, the outstretched arms when I meet them at the schoolgates. I get to share their sporting triumphs and classroom achievements. These are all the things my wife used to be part of but now has to live them vicariously via me.
But, as much as my Successful Other Half misses her children, she freely admits that she loves her new life, whereas I feel I've lost my identity, have buried the man, the provider I once was, and have become a very reluctant housedad. My domain was the office. Now it is the four walls of home with only my children for company.
Would I swap back? Well, I'd like to say 'In a heartbeat' but I've grown into my role now. Nobody irons the yoke of a shirt quite like me; I've got the kids into military-like routines I'd be loathe to abandon. And there's nothing quite as joyous as those three words, 'I'm home, dear' – especially when they're uttered by the woman in your life rather than me.
Because when she's home, that means only one thing: time to get my coat and head off to the pub. But only after kissing my wife on the cheek and telling her: 'You and the kids need some bonding time.
Are you a stay at home dad or a mum who's had to return to work when you would rather not?
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