It started with a sixth sense. I could feel she was there - just in my blind spot, hovering.
I turned to discover a lady, of indeterminate age (somewhere between 70 and deceased) watching me with a growing amount of displeasure. Not knowing what to say, I smiled. She didn’t reciprocate, instead she chose to tut.
I took this as my cue to vacate the supermarket aisle - so I began to push the pram away. This, it would seem, was the wrong thing to do. The lady grabbed my arm. “He won’t like that,” she said, snatching a pouch of organic baby food from my basket. “Excuse me?” I replied, shocked and confused at the presumption that seemed the catalyst for this encounter. “Could I have that back, please?” I held my hand her direction, she tutted once more and shook her head.
I briefly considered trying to wrestle the pouch from the woman but quickly dismissed the idea. One of the issues of being a large man is that, if discovered fighting with a Miss Marple look-a-like in the Co-op, few people are likely to believe that you didn’t start it. So I took another pouch from the shelf and began to walk away. The woman muttered something, I ignored her (and the stares of the other customers) deciding instead to take refuge in the cheese aisle.
Life as a stay at home dad could never be accused of being boring. Weird incidents like this are depressingly par for the course...
Here are 5 Things Every SAHD Knows...
- Pensioners don’t get it. I know, I know, it’s a generational thing. Women used to stay at home and men used to bring back cured pork products. Yet, every day (and I do mean EVERY DAY) I find myself in a conversation with a pensioner whose gast is well and truly flabbered by my SAHD situation. “Giving his mum a little break eh?” they’ll cheerfully ask - as if it was any of their business. “Er, no,” I reply. “I look after him while his mum’s working.” “So she works and you don’t?” I smile, trying to seem polite. “No I work part-time and I also look after my son.” This is usually followed by lots of sighing and muttering about the country going to the dogs. NB: Some pensioners may not struggle with the SAHD concept, I’m yet to meet one.
- Soft-play is hell. This, I know, is a widely held belief - see my recent musings on the subject here. Yet for the SAHD, who finds himself in the lion’s den on a daily basis, it’s a uniquely frustrating experience. You see soft-play - like it or not - is a mothers’ domain and any man entering it, especially on a weekday, is viewed with utmost suspicion. What’s he doing here? Why isn’t he at work? I recently had an incident where an older child repeatedly threw balls at my son’s head. I politely remonstrated with the kid, asking them to stop. Suddenly the child’s (previous unseen) mother stormed in and retrieved her child saying: “Come with me away from the nasty man.” It’s a frustratingly common experience, but one that’s not likely to change any time soon.
- The ‘W’ Word. “Career on the skids was it?” Someone said to me recently at a party. The idea was I would only be looking after my own child because I was rubbish at my ‘proper’ job. Time and again I’ve met with the presumption only those who can’t cope with the world of work would become SAHDs - as if it was the ‘easy’ option. I used to have a challenging career in TV, during which time I never experienced anything close to the exhausting nature of looking after a small child. There are days when going to an office would seem like a holiday.
- You’re not a mother. Obvious, I know. What I mean is as a SAHD you can’t just plug into the long established network of mother and baby socializing that stay at home mothers (SAHMs) often rely on. With SAHDs still something of a rarity, finding a group of men in a similar situation is a difficult thing to achieve in most parts of the country. In my experience, any SAHD expecting to be invited to join in with a mums’ event may find themselves waiting a long time.
- Kids’ TV is addictive. People make grand speeches, during pregnancy, about how their child’s mind isn’t going to be sullied by watching TV. It’s a noble idea, but not really realistic. I’m a little bit addicted to Postman Pat. There’s something about the show that keeps me glued, perhaps it’s the spiralling costs of each delivery as helicopters are chartered to move pencil cases across ridiculously short distances as a result of Pat’s ineptitude. Or Perhaps it’s the hokey charm of the improbable idea that a rural Post Office might still exist in a village like Greendale? Whatever it is, my son ‘loves’ Postman Pat - which essentially means I wanted to watch it and he’s gotten used to the idea. Our mini-breaks in Greendale are one of the highlights of this SAHD’s day. Be careful though, it’s easy to binge view on Pat Clifton’s antics! For more of my thoughts on Pat, click here.