As a mum, have you ever noticed how you slave away seven days a week running a household tighter than Rolex watch, seamlessly preparing meals, relentlessly washing clothes, creating a colonial style costume for a school play out of a pair of old stockings and a glue gun like it’s no big deal… and yet your partner can swoop on in one Sunday and bake some muffins for the kids and all of a sudden he’s Father of the Year?
And it’s not just the world patting him on the back for being “such a great dad”. It’s him, in the kitchen, asking you for the 13th time if you’ve tried these delicious cheese and spinach muffins that are not only healthy but taste really great too? Look, he says as the sink piles up with pots, bowls, congealed cheese and egg residue, did you see how golden they are on top? Did you notice I made enough to fill the whole muffin tray? Aren’t they amazing?
Yeah, that guy is me. Even though I’m not a man, in this lesbian relationship, I tend to expect all the ‘dad glory’ while my partner Jo, the birth mother, who parents around the clock seems to get none. She can pack a bag in five minutes to equip our son for two weeks in the Amazonian jungle should we get lost, yet she gets no more thanks than the hired help at a cheap wedding.
That’s right, she is running this orchestra from her pit, completely unnoticed while I’m up on stage like I’m the star of the show just because I changed my son’s nappy this morning. I’ll even leave it hanging on the door in its little scented bag so you notice.
It seems that, when you’re the hapless dad, people seem to expect so little of you, that simply showing up to school pick-up is cause enough for the red carpet. A dad giving his baby a bottle in a shopping centre may as well be Ryan Gosling for the ooohs and ahhhhhs he gets.
And it’s hard not to love the attention. I once baked some cupcakes for my son’s birthday that not only turned the walls blue from the excessive food dye use but also got the theme of the party wrong (those chicken cake toppers sure looked like ducks!) but was I a social pariah? No way, I was a champion. You cooked those? Wow. You are practically Martha Stewart. It doesn’t matter that Jo organised the event, the guest list, decorations, booked the venue, and sent out the thank you cards. No, it’s those cupcakes people are still talking about (for more reasons than one, I suspect).
To be honest I feel like a bit of an imposter. Being a woman means I can slip into a mother’s group without raising suspicion, I can change my baby in a public toilet without anyone blinking an eye. I go through life on stealth mum mode. Until I had to swaddle my baby and then I was all like, “agh I’m a dad”.
But why are dads considered to be so useless that the slightest little child-related chore completed makes them a hero? When I stay in on a Saturday night and my partner goes out with her friends, I hear “Oh you’re babysitting tonight, are you?” No, no, I’m just being a mum.
I suppose it’s partly our fault. From the moment you give birth, us partners are completely in awe of you and it feels as if nothing we do can ever compare. No muffin, no nappy change will ever amount to the sheer enormity of what your body achieved and the way you love and nurture our child every day. We feel helpless in comparison.
So, yes, sadly, most of us ‘dads’ do need a little encouragement and praise, but that doesn’t stop us from being wonderstruck by you. We think you’re amazing. But please, whatever you do, don’t tell us our muffins are overcooked…