Our brand new column on Parentdish.
I reluctantly became a house dad two years ago after I was made redundant from my job as a magazine executive. My wife gave up her role as a Stay-At-Home-Mum and became the breadwinner. I'm now the breadmaker for our three children – my ten year-old stepdaughter, and two sons, aged seven and four. I used to get excited about photo-shoots, brainstorms and office gossip. Now I find my excitement in other, hitherto unforeseen, places...
1. Biologicial vs non-biological washing liquid
For a while now, I've been having an issue with the state of my children's pants. This was something that never troubled me before. What they wore under their outer-garments was no business of mine and if they got run over by a bus and the state of their underwear was brought into question, I could just blame their mother.
But now it is my responsibility, and I care very much. I also care about the state of the environment, and of the sensitivity of my kids' skin, so I always use non-bio super-sensitive laundry liquid.
The problem with this stuff is that it doesn't, you know, clean whiter than white. Some, er, stains survive the 40 degree wash. And so, like a mum in a naff 80s' washing powder ad, I've been conducting a little experiment, comparing different liquids, powders, tabs and cubes with each other in the hope that my children's undies will be fit for exhibition should the need arise.
And it is my displeasure to report that the hands-down winner is a certain brand of biological laundry liquid. Non-perfumed. Well, I don't want them smelling of lavender bushes, do I?
Getting three kids, aged 10, seven and four, out of the door for school in the morning is a chore at the best of times, even when it's sunny. But when it's raining, or hailing, or sleeting, or snowing – as it has been during this most fickle month – it's an assault course of decisions about what to wear.
Of course, it's easier to just pile everything on – T-shirts, jumpers, coats, hats and gloves - to make sure all options are covered, but this is an expensive option, too. Have you ever seen the Lost Property bin in a primary school? It's piled high with T-shirts, jumpers, coats, hats and gloves that have been casually discarded during the sweat of a playground runaround. Most of them are my kids. Can I have them back, please?
3. Tiny underpants
'Excite' might be stretching it a little, but when I'm hanging them up on the washing line, or putting them away in the kids' drawers, it reminds me how young and small and vulnerable my children are – and that they won't be so young and small and vulnerable for very long.
4. Dirt that the Dyson can't reach
We all need a challenge in life and my monthly mission is to seek out and destroy the ingrained dust and dirt that accumulates in the carpets behind the TV, at the corners of the doors and in the strip where the stair carpet meets the wall.
As dust-buster day approaches, I make sure I have my equipment ready – a thick pair of rubber gloves and an old ice cream tub to collect the debris. Then I get down on my hands and knees and dig down into the fibres of the matted material until it looks like it has been attacked by an army of Shake 'n Vac women.
Yes, I live a sad and often lonely existence.
5. The dishwasher
Otherwise known as The Dirty Cupboard. The place where we stash all our dirty pots, plates, knives and forks until it is full enough to press 'Start'. And then said crockery and utensils emerge all shiny and bright, ready to begin their loathsome journey towards filth and horror once again.
6. Making cupcakes
I have always been a passionate cook – but never a cake-maker. But that was until I discovered the cut-throat competitiveness of the primary school Class Tea. This is literally a bun fight, where other parents (OK, mums) turn out their finest fairies in the spirit of raising funds for the school, but in reality so that they can out-do each other.
This was the kind of competitiveness I had when I was a senior manager before I was made redundant and my wife and I swapped roles two years ago. My efforts are mainly patronised by the other cake makers, but one day I will outshine them with a display of edible gold and pearly ice-drops like they've never seen before.
7. Budget shopping
My working wife kindly deposits a certain amount of money into my bank account my standing order each month to take care of all our food needs. It is mine to spend as I please – as long as everyone is fed and watered, the rest is mine.
And thus, each week I embark on the Housedad Shopping Challenge, looking for bargains, BOGOFs and bulk buys.
We have 27 toilet rolls in our back bedroom, because they were on offer, on the basis that kids' bums will always need wiping; wine by the gallon, on the basis that mum and dad are middle-class alkies and will always need a drink. And enough kitchen towel to decorate the whole house several times over, because there will always, always be a spill to clean up.
8. Other people's kids
When I was working, these were never near my radar, let alone on it. I only ever saw my own kids, and that was last thing at night, just before they went to bed.
Now I see other people's children all the time and far from being the demonic monsters my imagination had conceived, they're all really very pleasant.
My excitement about other people's children has reached such a fever pitch that I actually VOLUNTEER to accompany them on my sons' class trips because, you know what, they're great company and good fun.
And they give me an excuse not to do the ironing.
9. Parenting tips
Other parents – whether real or virtual (via Twitter) are a mine of useful information for dealing with the headaches of everyday parenting life.
Not too long ago I was getting seriously worried about my four year-old's speech. I shared this information, both with the school gate mums and Twitter friends and the advice I got back was both reassuring and valuable.
I am now so established in the "community" of parents that they even ask me for advice.
10. An early night
And, no, not to get jiggy with the missus.
I was always a night owl when I was working – graft hard, play hard, go to bed late, suffer the next day, do it all again.
Now the lure of the mattress and pillow, especially during the school holidays (of which there are MANY, as you know) is so great that I become so overwhelmed with the thought of hitting the hay that I fall asleep before my head has hit the feather.