Mummunity

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.

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Daddy Pig Isn’t Helping

It started just like any other morning of my blissful SAHD existence.

Me, tearing around the house in my #activewear, brandishing the hairbrush and spray bottle. Focker #2 with hair resembling the feral kid off Mad Max II, shrieking as she tried to avoid the dreaded brush. Focker #1 just standing there in the middle of the room, mesmerized by the television. Nude, except for one lonely looking sock on his foot.

As the opening bars from the Peppa Pig theme song tinkled from the television, we stopped to pay our daily homage. Focker #2 and I puffing and laughing. Focker #1 in his sock.

In this particular episode, Peppa Pig was being a pretentious brat (for a change), George was crying about his dinosaur (nothing unusual about that), and Daddy Pig was being lazy and inept (ditto). While the children go off to the fire station with Mummy Pig, Daddy Pig stays at home with his football mates to cook a barbeque. Unable to locate the tomato sauce, Daddy Pig calls the fire station emergency line to see if Mummy Pig can tell him where it is hidden – presumably because he’s too lazy or incompetent to actually go and look for it himself.  Mummy Pig and her fellow mummy firefighters share a laugh about how useless Daddy Pig and all of the other dads are before going back to the serious business of waiting for an emergency. The next thing you know, Daddy Pig is back on the phone, and the barbeque is on fire.  When the firefighting mums arrive, the dads are all standing around it with drinks in their hands, watching it burn.  The mums rush to put out the fire, before everyone shares a joke about how dads can’t be left to cook unsupervised or something like that.

It was during this latest display of Daddy Pig’s ineptness that it occurred to me. In a very long line of bumbling, incompetent (but loving) father figures on television, Daddy Pig is the latest, and by far the worst offender. Not because he’s any more of an idiot than some of the other TV dads that spring to mind. But because his audience is millions of kids as young as two years old. For a lot of these kids, he will be a key father figure as they start to form their own views of society and the world.

Now the portrayal of fathers by mainstream society as bumbling but well intentioned boofheads is the subject of a lot of social commentary – most of it by writers far more credentialed than I. But as Mamamia editor Holly Wainwright pointed out in her piece titled “Dads Aren’t Dumb,” if we want society to stop portraying dads as bumbling idiots, then us dads need to stop being bumbling idiots. Simple right? The problem is, as Wainwright so cleverly points out, is that it’s not always in our best interests to do so.

“There is a certain breed of father who has a vested interest in maintaining a façade of bumbling incompetence. After all, if you are rubbish at stuff, eventually people will stop asking you to do it.”

It’s so true. For example, how can a dad competently operate a lawnmower, but not a vacuum cleaner? After all, vacuuming is pretty much indoor mowing, and the same rules apply. Don’t miss any patches, don’t run over toys, pets or children, and empty the bag when you’re done. Simple.

Likewise, so many dads profess to not being capable enough to prepare a meal for their family. Yet if there’s some outdoor barbequing to be done, then suddenly they step up, tongs in one hand, beer in the other and produces a gourmet spread.

At this point you might want to lean in closer, because here’s where I risk the ire of my fellow dads and lift the lid on some highly classified, never heard before man secrets. We absolutely can operate a vacuum cleaner. Capably. Accurately. Efficiently. Equally, you’ll be shocked to the core to know that pretty much every man can cook indoors. Even those dads with zero cooking experience are competent enough to follow a simple recipe or instructional video on YouTube. They can even produce something edible at the end. After all, blokes are hard wired to follow systematic and sequential instructions, which is all that a recipe is at the end of the day. Furthermore, kitchen appliances that chop, slice, grind and heat are basically the power tools of the indoors. What guy wouldn’t want to play with a hand-held stick blender with rotating blades? Or better yet, one of those little blowtorch things that you see on MasterChef? Especially if he can still hold a beer while he’s doing it?

While we’re perfectly capable of doing these basic tasks, some of us just don’t want to. Because as we all know, cooking and vacuuming are the ‘gateway drugs’ of domestic chores. It all starts with a humble lasagna and one simple lap around the living room with the Dyson. Before you know it, your partner will be asking you to steam mop the grout in the bathroom tiles and churn out a croquembouche for a school cake stall. It’s a very slippery slope.

All sarcasm aside, I think that it’s really f*cking sad that there are dads out there who are happy to be thought of as incompetent by their partners and children. All because that way they can avoid having to help out around the house, and can spend their leisure time lying on the couch instead. How do we expect the role of dadding to be treated with any respect by others when we don’t have the respect for our families to man up, get off the couch and do a few f*cking domestic chores once in a while? This is where Daddy Pig and other TV dads let us down. In the 200 odd episodes of Peppa Pig, and believe me I’ve seen most of them, I’ve yet to see him demonstrate any level of competence on the domestic front. This is despite him being a structural engineer (or possibly an architect), world record holder for jumping in muddy puddles, and an otherwise loving father. Given his capabilities in other areas, you really have to wonder if Daddy Pig is “maintaining a façade of bumbling incompetence” as Wainwright suggests, or is he just in fact a dick?

With that in mind, I’d encourage all of the masquerading dads out there to drop the façade. Surprise your partner by picking up the vacuum cleaner and mowing the carpets. Maybe whip up a cheeky omelette or a batch of cookies (using at least one kitchen appliance with motorized blades of course). Most importantly, let your kids see you doing it so that they know that dad is just as capable as mum at all things domestic.

While you’re doing that, I’m off to find some pants for Focker #1 and finish taming Focker #2’s crazy hair. Then I might have a crack at throwing together a quick croquembouche.  After all, how hard can it be?