When I first became a reluctant house dad I threw myself into my children's school lives with gusto.
Driven by the guilt of no longer being the breadwinner after my wife and I were forced to swap roles, I'd attend every school trip, bake for every class tea, cook for every summer and Christmas fair. Hell, last year I even helped make 100 Christmas puddings!
But this school year, I've taken a step back, my enthusiasm waned by the fact that only half a dozen parents ever went the extra mile to help out.
I started to figure that if they couldn't be bothered, then why should I? Such parents would turn up, take advantage, and take off, leaving me and the other half dozen mugs to set up, serve and clear up afterwards. I started to grow resentful.
It reached a point last week when I deliberately arranged to take my sons to see their granddad in Manchester for the weekend PURELY because I didn't want to get involved in the school's Christmas Fair. Petty, moi? Oui oui!
Even after three LONG years as the primary carer to our three children, I still find it hard to accept my role as the link person between school and home. Few other dads do it. Few roll up for class teas and trips. Few show up at the school gates at home time. Perhaps they're working, I figure. Which is fair enough. But mums work, too, and they make the effort to get involved. So why not dads?
Take the last class tea, for example. At 3pm, half an hour before the school bell, the same half a dozen mums and me turned up, arms laden with cupcakes and hotdogs, then set up the tables and put out the chairs, then manned/womanned the stalls as the onslaught of hungry children hit us like a plague of locusts, offering their 50p coins with grubby fingers, snatching at biscuits and crisps and cakes, stuffing their mouths, spilling their detritus, tossing their waste, before vanishing into the playground for laughter and larks.
And as I served them, I looked through slitted eyes at a couple of dads who'd showed up to collect their kids. They didn't offer to help, just stood around, chatting about their work lives, oblivious to the mayhem around them, indifferent to the mess and chaos, totally unaware of what had been done and what needed doing, wrapped up in their own worlds.
Then, as I swept around their feet, feeling like a skivvy, I said to two macho gossips: "Oi, are you going to help out, or what?"
They looked at me non-plussed, with WTF expressions of men who had spent their entire lives being waited on hand and foot (blame their mothers; blame their wives), and replied: "But you're doing a good job. You don't need any help."
Of course, I should have up-ended by broom and shoved it up their jacksies. But I didn't because I didn't want to make a scene. I just thought: "Sod it. I'm not a celebrity...get me outta here."
But then...but then...this week I received a phone call from my six-year-old's teacher. A trip had been arranged to a local Pizza Express for the kids to make their own pizzas.
Unfortunately, there weren't enough parents to accompany them so the trip might have to be called off.
Now I am passionate about getting children involved in cooking, as I've written about before. There's no way I could have lived with the guilt of my son and his chums missing out on the chance to make their own pizzas, something I've done with him and his older siblings many times at home.
Perhaps I might learn a thing or two – which I did: this secret-ish recipe so you can make pizzas at home with your own children. Hell, I might even enjoy it and get to eat some pizza – for free, which I did. You know what: this volunteering lark isn't so bad after all!
HOW TO MAKE PIZZA EXPRESS PIZZAS AT HOME
• Baking tray
• Rolling pin
• Mixing bowl and damp cloth
• A separate bowl for your dough to rest in
• Teaspoon and measuring jug
• A knife for the grown-ups to chop your vegetables
• Chopping board
• Tea Towel
TO MAKE THE PIZZA DOUGH
• 100ml (1/6 pint) of warm water (1 part boiling, 2 parts cold)
• 1/2 level tsp sugar
• 1 level tsp yeast
• 112g (4oz) plain flour – and a little extra for your work surface
• 1/4 level tsp salt
TO TOP YOUR PIZZA
• 70g tomato purée
• 65g reduced fat mozzarella cheese
• A pinch of black pepper
• A sprinkle of dried oregano
• Your favourite vegetables
FIRST MAKE YOUR DOUGH
1. Pour the warm water, sugar and yeast into a mixing bowl and mix together, then leave to stand for 10-15 minutes, or until a froth is on the surface
2. Sift the flour and salt into the mixing bowl and work all of the ingredients together using your hand
3. When it is one ball, take out of the bowl and place on a flat, floury surface
4. Fold and push the dough with the heel of your palm until it no longer sticks to your hand – this can be hard work! So ask for help if you get tired
5. The dough should be smooth and silky. Place it in a clean bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour
6. Pre-heat oven to 220/200°C fan oven or gas mark 7 This is the perfect time to select and prepare your toppings (we have some great tips in 'Extra Ingredients')
BACK TO YOUR DOUGH
7. Your dough should now have doubled in size. Take it out of the bowl and place on a floury surface, then push your fist hard into the dough, turn it over and repeat
8. Then, using a floury rolling pin, roll the dough out into a circular shape so that it is 9 inches in diameter
9. Now place your pizza base onto a baking tray, making sure any flour is tapped away.
CREATE YOUR PIZZA!
10. Spread some tomato purée evenly over your base
11. Then scatter your toppings over your base – you can get creative by making a smiley face or pattern
12. Evenly sprinkle your cheese – remember, don't put too much on, as this makes it hard for the dough to cook all the way through
13. Add a pinch of black pepper and, finally, a pinch of oregano
14. Place pizza into the oven and cook for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling and the base is crisp and golden brown
15. Ask an adult to remove the pizza from the oven, leave to one side on a plate for a few minutes as it will be very hot!