I’ve written before about the importance of staying manly as a SAHD.  It can be tough.  If you’re constantly worried about the importance of being perceived as a manly man, or keeping your platinum status on your man-card, then SAHDing probably isn’t for you. Having said that, cashing in a few man-points in some areas as a SAHD has allowed me to develop and evolve some of the more sought after mum-traits in others, resulting in me becoming some sort of hybrid super-parent. Manly enough to grow a beard and operate a cordless drill, and mumly enough to be able to pull off a French plait and remember which day is ‘wear your pjs to school day’.

Perhaps the most valuable mum-trait that I seem to have developed, other than being able to find my son’s lost sock when no one else can, is what I have called Mummunity.

If it were an actual term rather than a word that I just made up, modern science would most likely identify mummunity as that enzyme / gene / antibody that all mothers carry as part of their genetic makeup, and which gives them immunity to whatever bugs and illnesses are infecting the rest of the family. But, I’m living proof that it’s not a mum thing. It’s a primary carer thing, and after the week I’ve had, I know with absolute certainty that I have it.

Just when I thought that we’d seen the end of winter, and the endless fucking bugs and illnesses that come with it, a horrific flu virus has torn through our house this week with the subtlety and devastation of Cyclone Tracy. First to go was Focker #2 (thanks very much daycare). She spent the whole of Sunday (Fathers Day) being ridiculously miserable, and was in bed asleep before 6pm. After waking every 45 minutes throughout the night, she surfaced on Monday looking like Lindsay Lohan on a come-down. Pale skinned, with red rimmed eyes, clammy sweat on her little forehead, and a nose that constantly dripped and oozed all sorts of green delights. After a lethargic day, we endured another virtually sleepless night on Monday night as she continued with the ‘fall asleep – get hot – get cold – cough up a lung – wake up crying’ routine that she’d prototyped the night before.

With both Mrs D-E-D and I having unavoidable and highly important commitments on Tuesday, and no other viable childcare options, we became those parents. The ones that pump their child full of paracetamol, dump him/her at daycare, and disappear with a screeching of tires and a cloud of blue smoke before anyone notices the mucky eye and the two inches of bright green snot on the child’s upper lip. My initial guilt at dropping my infectious daughter at daycare was short lived once I remembered where the filthy virus had come from in the first place. Swings and roundabouts right?

Miraculously, Focker #2 managed to somehow keep her shit together for her few hours at daycare and I naively thought we might be through the worst of it. By Tuesday night however Mrs D-E-D had announced that she too was feeling a bit off colour. What started as a headache and a sneezing attack at 6pm, was by 9pm a full blown case of sweating and shivering in the foetal position. I knew it was serious when she started making noises about having to take a day off work the following day. Something that until that moment, had never happened in the history of our thirteen year relationship.

Tuesday night was rough. Mrs D-E-D was in no fit state to do anything other than sweat-shiver, and Focker #2 continued to hone her 45 minute sleep / cry cycle throughout the night. I took one for the team and spent the night in Focker #2’s bed with her. Shushing, patting, cuddling, and praying for my own speedy death.

Wednesday morning Mrs D-E-D was true to her word and didn’t surface for work. Focker #1, who up until this point had remained at arms length from the carnage, surfaced, but looked like he’d already been dead for several days. Pale, gaunt, and with a wild look in his weepy red eyes, he burst into tears when I asked him if he wanted a piece of toast. Although improving, Focker #2 was also still very fragile – leaving yours truly as the last one standing. It was solely up to me to step up. To hold the fort. To care for my family, and make sure that everyone had adequate paracetamol, Netflix and cheese toasties to get them through this difficult time.

48 hours later, the illness still rages on in our house, with little sign of abating. The kids are still miserable, and Mrs D-E-D, still in her PJs, is only just well enough to turn on her laptop and re-enter the corporate world from the comfort of the couch. Despite the carnage, other than feeling a bit weary (ok – deliriously weary), touch wood, I seem to have escaped its fury. Given that I’ve been living, sleeping, and breathing in the same infected environs as the rest of my family, the only possible explanation for my enduring health is that I have done the impossible. I’ve developed mummunity.

Contrary to popular belief, I now know with certainty that mummunity isn’t gender specific. Rather than residing in the genetic makeup of the fairer sex, it is a trait that develops and evolves to inhabit the primary domestic caregiver – male or female. Mummunity is born out of necessity. The necessity to ensure that your family is cared for in their hours of need. It not only keeps us primary carers healthy and upright when others are falling down, but it also gives us a metaphoric injection of awesomeness that  provides super-parent strength and endurance when it’s needed most. I’d gladly cash in a few measly man points for that any day of the week.


My Dad. Learning from the Very Best

It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, and it therefore seems appropriate to share with you how awesome my dad is. He’s a smart guy. A deep thinker. A bit of a clown. A good looking rooster – a bit like a poor man’s Sean Connery. An all round good bugger. The greatest dad that a bloke like me could ask for, and now a top notch grandfather as well.

Like a lot of impressionable young men, I always saw my dad through rose coloured glasses. He was my idol. He could do no wrong in my eyes. He was someone that I could look up to, and I wanted to mould myself in his image. Pretty standard stuff for most young men really.

It wasn’t until I became a father myself, and experienced the amazing joys and excruciating realities of parenthood first hand that I really began to appreciate just how good a father he really was, and still is.

At face value Dad seemed to be a stereotypical farmer. Staunch, strong as an ox, with dirt under his fingernails and a roll-your-own cigarette permanently hanging off of his bottom lip. His work ethic, even by farming standards was huge. Working daylight to dark (and often beyond) pretty much every day. Scratch a bit deeper beneath the surface though, and you’d find a deep thinker, a sharp wit, a strong emotional intelligence, and a truly excellent and loving father.

I read a parenting tip recently that said that a good dad should always say yes to his kids when he really wants to say no. I’m pretty sure that whoever wrote this had my dad in mind. I remember many times as a kid pleading with him to come and kick the ball or play cricket with me out on the lawn. Tired after long days of toil on the farm, and in desperate need of a steak, a beer and some shuteye, it would’ve been the very last thing that he felt like doing. But he did it anyway. He’d drag his weary body out on to the lawn (usually in his gumboots) and would proceed to play with me like he didn’t have anywhere else that he’d rather be. I’ve only come to really appreciate this since my own son discovered the joys of kicking the footy. More often than not I’ve got plenty of other things that I’d rather be doing. But when my son asks me to come and have a kick, I think about Dad and the countless times he made the effort with me, and I say yes.

Although a bit of a larrikin by nature and reputation, Dad took his parenting role very seriously. He made it his personal mission to ensure that my sister and I were sufficiently thick skinned to bear whatever humiliations life may throw at us. Had embarrassing your kids been an Olympic sport, Dad would’ve taken out the gold for about 16 years running. He had (and still has) an amazing tendency to fall asleep and snore loudly in public settings, including school assemblies, restaurants, 21st birthday parties and, well pretty much everywhere. His Peter Garrett / Joe Cocker hybrid dance moves at weddings and parties are notorious. His highly inappropriate jokes and the raucous laughter (his own) that always follows can always be relied upon at formal occasions. I lost count of the number of times in my teenage years that I prayed for the ground to open and swallow me whole in order to escape my shame. I eventually reached a point however, where I could no longer be embarrassed by him, try as he might. My skin had become too thick. I’ve already started conditioning my kids in the same way. Busting out awkward dad-jokes and horrific dance moves whenever I can, and I’m proud to say that they’re already exhibiting all of the classic symptoms of shamelessness that will put them in good stead in years to come.

Typical of his generation, Dad was never big on the domestic side of things. He didn’t cook. He certainly didn’t clean, and I don’t believe he ever changed a nappy. Despite his lack of domestic prowess, which must’ve driven mum batshit crazy at times, he was always a very hands-on father to us kids. One of the perks of growing up on a farm was that from a very young age I got to go to work with him pretty much every day. Whether it was milking cows, feeding out hay, shifting electric fences, spraying weeds, or just sitting in front of him on the motorbike as we blatted through the wet grass (no helmets of course), I never felt like my presence was an inconvenience to him. He always took the time to answer my annoying questions, and to respond appropriately to my endless cries of “Dad watch this” or “Dad look at me!” Now that I’m a dad myself I can really appreciate how annoying this can be when you’re trying to get shit done, and it’s a real credit to him that he managed to always respond so enthusiastically, without any hint of annoyance or the dripping sarcasm that I usually respond with to my own kids when I’m under the pump.

Despite my current choice of vocation being the polar opposite to his own, and despite it having never actually been said, I know that he is proud of me and respects my decision to be a SAHD. Recently he proudly pointed out to me that as farmers, my father, two grandfathers and four great grandfathers were all working from home dads (WAHDs). And according to him, these farming WAHDs were early trail blazers to the modern SAHD. It’s a pretty long bow to draw, given he still to this day has never even changed a nappy and he would have no idea how to bake a casserole or operate the washing machine. Nevertheless, it did make me take a moment to appreciate how exceptionally lucky I was to grow up having an awesome WAHD like him.

I love you Dad.  Happy Father’s Day.

Postscript – As I sit here, trying to get these final paragraphs out of my head and onto the page, my concentration is interrupted every 90 seconds or so by a cry of “Dad watch this!” followed by the sounds of a footy slamming into the side of the house. I’m tired after several nights of broken sleep. I’ve got a million things to do, and it’s approaching beer o’clock on a Saturday. But I’m about to close my computer, head outside, and kick that footy with my son like it’s the only thing of importance to me right now. Because that’s what my dad would do.