It was BlueBeretDad’s birthday a few days ago and I decided to throw him a surprise party. No, not the one where everyone hides behind curtains and under the tables and scares the hell out of the unsuspecting birthday boy. More like the one where the unsuspecting birthday boy stumbles into the room after having been up at 3am, 5am and 6am (the baby) and falls over a flock of balloons. Then as he staggers into the kitchen the fridge door is plastered with his embarrassing photos from school ping pong and chess clubs. Yes, the kind of surprise where he then yells: “What the hell!” as he slips on the puddle of porridge mixed with mashed banana – Peanut’s favourite parent-trap.
Once he got over the initial shock of the idea of having to socialise with people taller than 80 centimetres and with more complex vocabulary than “Dadada. Mamamama. Baaaah. Whaaaaaaa.” BlueBeretDad got very excited. We don’t have guests very often (time, babies, time, babies excuses used by everyone, even by people with no children and a lot of time on their hands) so he decided to make most of it.
Throughout the evening the drinks were flowing, people were sparring ideas (BlueBerets love a good debate), babies were stuffing their faces with sausage rolls and a balloon or two blew in my face.
There were a few dads among the childless hip crowd. Some dads to be, dads with extensive fatherhood mileage and counting and relative newbies (the “Phew, Bean is 6 months 3 days 5 hours and 25 minutes old and still alive” type). As I was watching the Dads Club from a corner of my left eye, the corner of my right eye busy registering Peanut disappear into the depths of the recycling box, I started thinking that contrary to the general view of the public, dads don’t have it much easier than mums.
Ok, according to statistics they earn more than us, their careers don’t take a blow when an offspring arrives and, let’s face it, they don’t have to go through the whole pushing out an oversized object while being torn to shreds/ being scalpelled to bits by a sleepy consultant baby delivery process. But if you think about it for a minute, it is not that much compared to what they miss out on.
Expectant dads get one tenth of attention that their pregnant partner gets. The whole world revolves around the bump and the carrier. Been there, done that, dealt with furious BlueBeretDad after he was blanked and snubbed by midwives and health visitors. The Expectant Dads are supposed to engage with their unborn baby and it must be difficult when all you see is your partner looking more and more like the gym ball she is using to practise for the L- Day.
During labour, an “are we there yet” dad is expected to support through screams and swearing, wipe the sweaty forehead, ignore whatever that thing floating in the birth pool is(no, not the baby, THAT THING), be strong, know better than the committee of midwives and consultants what’s better for his partner and the baby, be enthusiastic about cutting the umbilical cord and forget about hunger, their own bodily functions and the latest Premier League score until their partner (drifting in her own drug- and/or hormone induced bubble) tells him to bugger off because she is exhausted and needs to feed their bundle of joy and catch up on some sleep.
Then it is all about nipples, clogged up milk ducts, random leakages, losing post partum weight, post natal depression, new mums’ support groups, mums’ forums, mums blogs, mum and baby this and mum and baby that. While the Dad, having discovered that staring into those dark alien eyes is more fun than he ever expected it to be, and having exhausted his few weeks of parental leave, goes back to work. He tries to focus on spreadsheets and avoid those red buttons that can annihilate the world (only if you press them when you are not supposed to). Then he goes home and is welcomed by a colicky baby and a partner who has just lost it and has not been out of her gown and in the shower for the last six weeks. There is no food in the fridge and the cat moved out a long time ago.
And if he is the one doing the stay at home dad thing… Well, then he is still in the category of the weird species that no one knows what to do with. Not many yummy daddy support groups out there, sitting in cafes and sipping daddy-ccinos. The majority of baby changing facilities are in female toilets. Mum’s still the word.
Most stories about absent parents are about absent/ not involved enough/too selfish dads. However, I have met a lot of people with absent/not involved and too selfish mums. Maybe it is time to realise that there are rotten apples on both sides of the gender fence and mention that fact more often.
“Nope, not easy to be a dad” I say to myself as I serve BlueBeretDad sauerkraut juice (psst, the best hangover cure in the world but not for wimps) while Peanut tests how many times he has to hammer a coconut against BlueBeretDad’s head before either cracks open.