“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an adult man in possession of any status must be in possession of a flash car…”
This tale began a few days ago, with a trip to the soft play. Sam’s mum was away and so I decided to take him to our local play zone for a bit of sedate fun. By ‘fun’ I mean sitting Sam on soft mats and letting him dribble on over-sized foam building blocks. It’s not for everyone, but he seems to like it.
I must give some context: I am not, I admit, someone who spends a lot of time thinking about his own physical appearance. This philosophy has spiked since Sam’s arrival. I now consider any item of clothing to be ‘clean’ if it has two or less drool / sick / baby-food stains on it. So I don’t think I was looking my best. To be fair, I’m not someone who ‘scrubs up’ well. I used to go to a lot of black tie events with my work and I always ended up looking like a security guard in a borrowed suit.
Such is life.
Anyway, I arrived at the section of the play area that is specifically meant for babies. I was, I’ll admit, a little frustrated to find it had been colonized by a group of much older children, under the care of a woman who I guessed to be their grandmother. These kids were running around in a very rambunctious manner, which I quickly saw might be dangerous for Sam. There is, however, an optimist deep inside me, this long ignored part of my psyche hoped that ‘Grandma’ would see my arrival, realize that their time was up in this area (that wasn’t meant for her kids) and direct them off to a more appropriate environment.
Of course that didn’t happen.
So I sat down in a corner of the area, with Sam on my lap – my body shielding him from potential collisions with screaming 6 year-olds on a sugar high. I smiled politely at ‘Grandma’. What I received in return could only be described as a glare. I decided to ignore her and get on with facilitating Sam’s drooling.
I was disappointed at this lack of solidarity between those of us involved in childcare. Disappointed but not surprised, many friends have described similar events on their ‘Daddy days’.
Yet, what happened next amazed me. ‘Grandma’ gathered her brood together, for what turned out to be a lecture of sorts. A lecture for my benefit. “Your daddy,” she announced, at a decibel level that bordered on screaming, “is a very successful man.”
Good for him, I thought.
“He’s so big and strong and successful. And that car he drives, what is it again?”
One of the children helped her out: a BMW.
“That was very expensive. He’s got a very important job. So important, he’d never have time to come somewhere like this during the day.”
I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Like some ancient schoolkid, this woman was putting me down.
Now I’m aware that I may have been wearing rather holey (in the non-ecclesiastical sense of the word) socks and still have the remnants of Sam’s breakfast on my shoulder. Yet, even so, I found the level of grandma’s presumption staggering. Clearly I was only looking after my son because of my abject failure in the rest of my life.
I’ve since spoken to male friends, in a similar situation to myself, who recount similar stories.
Isn’t it time we all grew up? Why are we, as a culture, hanging on to these outmoded views of success? I met someone recently who apologetically told me he was ‘a stay at home dad’, as if he’d somehow let the side down. His embarrassment really saddened me.
I don’t want congratulations for looking after my son, but equally being a child carer does not make a man of low status in society. What does that say about the women who for generations have selflessly fulfilled this role? My partner and I made the decision about how we would raise our son, it was what worked best for us. The thought process was not: “Oh he’s a failure at everything else, let him look after the kid.”
If you are someone who sees your success in life to be all about the car you drive, then frankly you need to grow up. I’m bored of all the one-upmanship that goes on with so many.
It really is pathetic.
Even if I had the money to afford a Ferrari I wouldn’t buy one, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I’d wasted money on such a transparent self-indulgence when there’s so much poverty in the world. OK, that may sound preachy. Frankly I don’t care.
I had a good mind to tell ‘Grandma’ what I thought of her and her son. But I decided against it, such harsh realities seemed anything but ‘soft play’.
The Out of Depth Dad.