I’m always deeply suspicious of men who say “I like women.” Yes, I always think. I bet you do. “I just love being around them.” Men in the weekend supplements say it. Generally powerful, attractive men. What does it mean anyway, apart from the obvious? Is it code? I’m not sure.
Anyway, I am increasingly finding that I like women too. Well, mums, anyway. On the occasions when we meet up with other families I drift towards the mums and enjoy chatting to them. I want to listen and swap stories. I am like them, after all. They have often left something behind too – a career - or they feel unappreciated, or are teetering on the brink of a massive mental breakdown.
I’ve stopped calling myself a stay at home dad in male company now. “But what do you really do?” men will ask. “Oh, you know, a bit of childcare, writing.” (They don’t.) “He’s not doing anything!” they declare, looking around knowingly. Yes, they’ve found me out. The combination of childcare and part–time work amounts to really almost nothing.
What my life no longer contains are any outward signs of success. Childcare is a readjustment to the rulebook. Who is there to congratulate you on a job well done? Where is the end of year party? I’d actually welcome a performance review, but even that isn’t going to happen.
Today I had a strange sensation while reading Topsy and Tim Go on an Aeroplane to my daughter before lunch. I suddenly remembered business trips with fondness. I always hated them then, but there was the feeling, niggling. The glamour! The importance! I had a bit of standing then. But not any more. Now I am paid in sticky kisses and tired hugs. Noone even notices me.