Stuck in a woman's world
Some blokes would consider my predicament paradise, others would think it a fate worse than death. I'm a man stuck in a woman's world. It's actually quite amusing.
For half the week I travel New Zealand finding nice people and telling their stories on telly. The other half I am a stay-at-home dad to a 2 1/2-year-old micro manager who likes swimming, Jam-mite (Marmite and Jam) on toast and not having an afternoon sleep. Her name is Marley.
My other responsibility is a 5-month-old milk reviewer and sleep specialist. His name is Archer. I'm still getting the hang of him.
I'm a stay-at-home dad in title only because we never really stay at home. Monday is Kindy Gym, Tuesday swimming lessons and Wednesday is play group. These are held at community halls and pools dominated by women.
The ladies are convivial. We make small talk about our children, they make fun of me when I help out in the kitchen, and ask questions about where my wife is. I often think they look at me and wonder whether their husband could do the same.
I don't get invited to other women's homes for coffee much and I don't take Marley on many play dates. In a small town like New Plymouth, doing too much of that may get people talking. I'm OK with this situation, I'm not a big fan of hot beverages.
I've learnt there are topics to avoid. Never talk pregnancy or assume someone is pregnant. The female body comes in all shapes and sizes and even if it appears a lady is hiding a bowling ball up her jumper, never ask when she is due. There's always a minor chance she's not giving birth to anything. This is a mistake you will never recover from. I've only done this once, it was a long time ago and thankfully I have never bumped into that woman again. It still haunts me, though.
I've also learnt about the politics of preschool education. The ladies tell me in hushed tones which kindergarten is good, which isn't and how unfair the waiting lists are. I've heard there have been meetings where strong-minded women thrash out the issues, giving direct feedback at every turn. It sounds like a scorched-earth policy. I have been in television newsrooms where there is politicking aplenty. This sounds much worse.
I feel lucky to be able to help raise my kids. I can have a say in how our house is run because I'm around it most of the day and know what's going on. It's tough for men who come home from a big day at work and are expected to instantly plug into what's happening.
It means I argue with my wife on domestic and parenting issues on a reasonably even keel. I don't always win those arguments but at least I present an educated case.
Life as a stay-at-home dad isn't the worst. Recently my son smiled at me. I was blowing raspberries on his belly.
It was his first smile. It's hard to get in on that action when you're at the office.
The Dominion Post