Being in a same-sex relationship, it’s amazing how you subconsciously fall into gender stereotypes, especially when a baby comes along.
While we’re both around the clock mums, my partner Jo who gave birth to our son naturally took on the more ‘maternal’ roles of parenting. She can make a tasty and nutritious purée, she’s knows 101 ways to use Sudocrem and nine times out of ten she’s the 2am settler. I on the other hand, am there for scary slippery dip rides, pool chucking and skateboard lessons.
I suppose it’s always been this way in our relationship. If there’s a spider in the house, I’m the one called on duty. I’m forced to sleep closest to the door anywhere we go in case there’s an intruder (even though I'd be just as helpless). When the bin needs to be taken out, day or night, I’m your man. And naturally, when it comes to dad jokes, I’ve got them covered – in fact they began as soon as we announced the pregnancy with, “I’m going to be a dad.” The key to a good dad joke is consistency, and I’ve used this one about a million times since.
But what about those inherently ‘dad’ things that I’m not capable of? I am useless when faced with an IKEA instruction manual, I have no idea about football rules and I thought Grand Theft Auto was slang for that mechanics down the road who keeps ripping me off – that’s right I have no idea about cars, either.
I talk to a lot of (male) dads about this and they also have these insecurities. A mate of mine was worried that he didn’t know what to do with his son whose number one hobby was smashing things, when all he wanted to do was teach him acoustic guitar. I told him to look at Pete Townshend. Seriously though, you hear a lot about mummy guilt, but daddy guilt exists too.
The way I see it is, instead of feeling like a failure, you just have to embrace the things you are good at, regardless of how manly/girly they are. Your son, or your daughter for that matter, aren’t always going to lean towards gender-biased hobbies.
There’s only one time I will call dad rank and that is when I want to get out of craft-time. I once drew a dolphin in Billy’s class scrap book that looked more like a penis. I think we were all confused about that one.
There’s going to be times when Jo and I will have to “rent-a-dad” but we’ve got plenty to choose from. Our brothers, friends, and dads of our own will step in and show Billy how to shave or kick a football. There are a lot of dads who have to outsource things - not every man knows how to gut to a fish. In the same way that not every woman knows how to draw a dolphin.
And then there are the times that I’m just going to have to man-up myself. Because let’s face it, when you sign up to be a parent you are unofficially enrolled at the University of IKEA.