Anyone who looks down their nose at stay-at-home mums should get along to a school Class Tea or Cake Day.
These women are an extraordinary lesson in organisation, team work, graft and generally just getting on with it and getting stuck in. No fuss, no rows, no power struggles, no politics. Just results.
Don't be misled by the quaint Englishness of the phrase. 'Class Tea' isn't cucumber sandwiches on the lawn, watching cork on willow. This is a bun-fight.
Literally. But more of that later.
Class Teas are a weekly event. Each year's parents (mothers, more often than not) takes a turn at organising them, with the aim of raising as much money as possible. This then goes towards new equipment and school trips.
I'd never been to one before but after six months of being a full-time housedad, I felt I should do my bit, so I asked my wife for the lowdown.
'Shall I write you a list of what to do?' she asked.
'How hard can it be?' I replied. 'Make a few cakes, sell a few cakes, make a few cups of tea. Doddle.'
And so the time came for my First Class Tea. I designed a poster and Blu-taked copies around the school. I baked some cupcakes from a Dr Oetker packet. Then I went along to the school hall, as instructed by my wife, on the dot of 3pm to put out tables and chairs, lay out food, brew pots of tea and dilute cordials.
When I arrived, eight women were already in logistics' mode, nattering away as they brewed up, laid out tables, arranged sandwiches and cakes, pies and pizza on plates.
And then, as the clock approached 3.30pm, the women took their places behind the tables piled high with goodies and waited. There was an eerie calm about the place. It was as if the women were waiting for Zulus to appear on the horizon.
They braced themselves, looked at each other, nodded. And then the bell rang.
And the doors flew open. And the hordes charged forth, clutching pennies and pounds, swarming over the tables like locusts in a drought. And all I could do was watch and gawp, my mouth open in awe at the flexibility and speed of the Mums' Army who were taking orders, dispatching treats and receiving payment on in the blink of an eye.
I left the experience shell shocked and ashamed. What kind of man was I? I couldn't even hold my own at a Class Tea.
'The next one will be different,' I thought. 'Lessons learned. Onwards and upwards.'
It would need to be, because an extra dimension was about to be introduced to the proceedings: competition. My first Class Tea had been for my eldest son's class in Year 1. The parents' effort then had raised £127. The parents were delighted with the haul, but they hadn't reckoned on the endeavour of the Reception Class mums a week later, who clocked up £142. Now it was Nursery Class's turn. My youngest son's class.
The nursery mums were in no mood for defeat.
'We're going to win,' went the rallying cry.
Tasks were dished out, roles assigned. I was on pizzas and cupcakes. Others were on lasagnes and shepherd's pies; samosas and pakoras; upside-down cakes and right-way-up cakes; sausage rolls and pork pies; traybakes and flapjacks.
'I'm going to need your help with this,' I said to my wife as she walked through the door after a Hard Day At The Office.
She didn't complain. Once the kids were in bed, she rolled her sleeves up, retrieved her mixing bowl from the back of the cupboard and went into action. Mum Mode. Meanwhile, I grabbed my coat and popped down to Tesco and bought a couple of pizzas – tomato & mozzarella; mushroom & cheese – for the princely sum of £1.49 each.
When the big day came, I switched on the oven, shoved in the pizzas, and left the room to send some Tweets about what an amazing job I was doing. By the time I got back to the oven, the pizzas were done – well, to be accurate, one half of each was overdone; the other half was underdone. Steamed, really. But by the laws of physics, two halves made a whole, so they were, in my terms, done.
It didn't matter. My pizzas weren't going to win this war. Vegetable samosas by Mum A; applecake by Mum B; foiled-packed lasagnes by Mum C.
These were the competers for the rosettes.
The doors opened and the thunderous hordes stormed in. I was on 'drinks'. Tipping and pouring, milking and sugaring. Ten, 20, 30. The thirsty kept coming, and I kept quenching. I was buzzing.
At the centre of all this was my son's classroom assistant, rallying the troops, pushing them onwards and harder, counting the money as it rolled in.
We sailed past the £127 mark within 20 minutes. But reaching £145 seemed to elude us. Then someone had a brainwave. It was a sunny day. Everyone was sitting outside. If Mohammed's mum wouldn't come to the mountain, then we'd have to take the mountain to Mohammed's mum.
Plates were piled up with cakes and fancies, hot dogs and snacks. Even my pizza got a look in.
Then this army mobilised into the playground, emotionally blackmailing other parents to part with their 10ps and 20ps all in the name of a good cause i.e. our victory.
Before not very long, the £145 figure was a distant hurdle. We raced past £150, £155, £160, but it went onwards and upwards from there. £180, £200. £220. £240.
This couldn't be happening, could it? I could hear the theme to Chariots of Fire playing in my head.
When the last butterfly cake had met its new owner, a grand total of £266 had been raised. Not just a victory, but an emphatic victory. Not just a triumph but an annihilation. Not just an annihilation but a RECORD! An all-time record at that.
So, to any of my working readers, if you think it's tough in your office or factory, I'm afraid you need to get along to a Class Tea. If this Mums' Army were fighting our wars, they'd all be home in team for a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake. They deserve a medal.
Do you do Class Teas at your school or Cake Stalls?
What's it like for you?