The low point probably came several months ago when I raced upstairs, put on my best suit and pretended to go off to work. It was 5pm and the children were due back from school. I wandered slowly around the block and 20 minutes later walked back into the house, puffed out my cheeks and greeted them as if I'd just come in from a hard day's work. 'Daddy's home early again, how was school?'
The truth that I wasn't able to tell them was that I had lost my job 72 hours earlier and was acting out this increasingly ridiculous charade partly out of shame, embarrassment and, well, I just didn't know what to say. Unemployed. It's the kind of haunting word that almost instantly shatters the illusion you hope your family has of this stoic, untouchable, patriarchal figure, working endless hours simply to provide.
Needless to say, the suit didn't fool them and a couple of days later we sat round our Sunday roast and Daddy told them he was off work for a while and going to get a new job. 'Cool, I figured something was up', said 14-year-old Amy, 'my dad's got no job. That's really cool.' (And to think I've been unsuccessfully striving for cool-ness for years!)
Joel, on the other hand, who is 12, sat rather stern-faced, staring into his roast potatoes, eyes narrowed in thought. After some awkward seconds of silence, he looked up at me and, with the seriousness only a 12-year-old can muster, announced: 'Don't worry Dad, you could be a pilot now.' From high-powered journalist to high-flying jet fighter. Well, stranger things have happened.
There was, of course, a nugget of truth in Joel's wonderful little fantasy. I've only recently turned 40, I can be anything now, reinvent myself, mould a new Superhero image. And that's precisely what I decided to do almost the moment the kitchen table was cleared - by me. I would be SupermanMum.
In between bouts of media consultancy, SupermanMum has the power to change a duvet cover sometimes in less than 19 minutes, the superhuman ability to sort out the recycling into five different boxes without resorting to swearing in the darkened night, the strength to fake knowledge of isosceles triangles.
And I wish I could say that, overnight, I have suddenly seen the light and understood how self-obsessed I was and that domesticity is the true calling for anyone who really cares for their family's welfare. That children need their smiling parents to greet them at the door and pick up their muddied shoes, have prepared a proper home-cooked meal instead of beans on toast, ask them endless questions about friends and homework and detentions and all the things I couldn't have given two hoots about last month.
But I can't. SupermanMum is the most reluctant, bored, frustrated, self-loathing antihero on the planet. His will is being sapped faster than a necklace of Kryptonite.
One of my closest friends invited me to supper the other night and, over a commiseratory bottle of his finest claret, he asked me whether being out-earned by my wife, donning the apron strings and suddenly 'starting again' at a point when most of us are cementing the paths we've taken, was, well, just a little emasculating. 'Hasn't it all made you feel like you're a bit less of a person?' Of course I answered no. The trouble is I really meant yes.
I suppose I could find companionship and relief from this peculiarly subtle form of castration by resorting to the most insidious threat to free-thinking parenting that's ever been invented - Mumsnet - where lonely homemakers and frustrated ex-career obsessed busybodies attempt to mend all that's wrong with society on their computers from the comfort of their designer kitchens. But I prefer talking to the pet rabbit.
All those wingeing internutters are trying to convince themselves that they're fulfilled by telling each other how special they are but I don't believe a word of it. The more you tell yourself something and surround yourself with people telling you the same thing, the more convinced you become that it's the truth. How can this really be thought of as a fulfilling life? I don't say that because I claim some sort of superiority with more than two decades of power-fuelled employment under my belt and not because I consider this kind of existence to be meaningless. But because, well, it's just mind-numbingly tedious, boring and dull and it's going to make me tedious, boring and dull in the process.
I genuinely hoped this life-changing moment would make me a more interesting and caring person but instead it's just made me frustrated. And wondering too what all the fuss is about. Today I've made the fish pie, bought new shoelaces, made the beds (badly), fed the rabbit, tidied the garden, cleaned out the shed (not really), plumped the cushions (that is the most pointless job ever isn't it?) and am staring nervously at an Everest of ironing. Oh and I spent the first five hours of the day in my new role as a media consultant.
Why won't anyone invite me for a coffee morning so I can escape this soul-destroying tedium? Is this really what now defines me?Suggest a correction