On holiday at the kitchen table over a hand of poker I am chatting with my brother-in-law. Old albums play on the i-pod, docked into speakers. Half empty wineglasses on the table in front of us contain red from the last available bottle in the house. Empty bottles cluster around the rubbish bin. Everyone else has gone to bed and someone shouts at us to turn the music down. We grin at each other, like much younger men. We used to talk a lot, in West London pubs mainly. Then work took the place of conversation. I went to work abroad; he started out in his career. I’ve mentioned the blog and he says, jokingly, that he’s ‘Never at home dad’. We laugh. But it is a more poignant comment than it seems on the surface. I imagine he’d like a lot more time at home and a lot less in the office. But he is good at doing both. I was never very good at doing both. A lot of men aren’t very good at doing both. They get caught up in work and lose touch with life at home. It’s a kind of addiction. They tell themselves that they need to do it for the money. But of course it becomes about standing and achievement and seniority and bonuses and image.
I see these men at the weekend, stiff and formal, thinking of other things. The evening routine. The morning commute. They push their pushchairs with the same grim expression. Heft their backpacks with narrow-eyed concentration. It’s not easy to separate different parts of your life. My wife comes home and after a few minutes is our daughter’s mummy, as if she hasn’t been in an office all day. When it was me, I found it difficult to turn into daddy. A drink after work with a colleague or friend was easier. Those dads have their weekend smiles, but I have today’s smiles and tomorrow’s as well.
I have a full house too. Grinning, I scoop my chips towards me.