As a stay-at-home dad of three years nine months standing, I am naturally very in touch with my feminine side. That may sound like a sweeping generalisation but it’s true and I’ve not the time nor inclination to debate it. Case in point, this morning one of the mums at the school gate gave me their one year old son to hold while she and another mum went to shift a heavy desk onto a pick-up.
But the other day something happened that really brought out the protective masculine instinct in me.
The wife and I were sitting in the back porch looking out to our overgrown garden when she caught a glimpse of what I shall – for the purpose of this column and to protect her sanity – refer to as a mouse. But let’s just say it might well be one of their rodent cousins.
For it was that thought that made me come over all caveman like. Me man of house. Me will go out and cut down tree and banish mouse from garden.
I say tree but it was in fact a grapevine that hangs from the house and was currently providing a good habitat for a small creature with ill-intentions to stake out the inside of the house. At any rate it had to be stripped back.
You see I am well and truly out of this whole Autumnwatch camp and the show’s tips to make your back garden as welcoming to wildlife as possible. It is clearly ‘fantasy country living’ television for city dwellers with low maintenance courtyards who wouldn’t dream of putting dead leaves around their bonsai plants. Or country folk with no bloomin’ common sense.
There are goodness knows how many fields surrounding our village where extras out of Bambi can happily reside, thank you very much. We don’t need to invite them into our homes. Naff off, the lot of you – and take that Humble woman with you.
So anyway there I was in our garden, ready to face the enemy -Argos value shears in one hand, some rusty blunt saw that had been left outside the shed for months in the other. Hardly Black and Decker man but it’d have to do.
Progress was slow to begin with. My sporadic attempts at gardening always start well but within ten or 15 minutes I realise my efforts are making little or no difference and give up. But this time round there was a little bold as brass mouse to defeat. I had to carry on.
And soon I got into my stride, even working up a bit of a sweat. I kept thinking back to the caveman analogy. Me protecting family. Me destroy rodent. At one point I even considered taking off my T-shirt but I didn’t want to give the old lady across the road a funny turn.
Also having the UB40 song in my head made the time pass- you know the one: ‘there’s a, er, mouse in mi kitchen, what ama gonna do, there’s a mouse in mi kitchen what ama gonna do.’ Before I knew it, the job was pretty much done. I had defended my family home from a potentially evil threat. And I had quite enjoyed the whole, manly experience.
Now look, for those of you who are tittering at my definition of ‘manly experience’ (essentially cutting back a hedge in a couple of hours)and think how most men would have gone out there and hunted down the little devil, then cornered it and beaten the living daylights out of it with their premium quality non-rust stainless steel, extra strong garden spade, I say this. If that was the type of man I was, I would have struggled with the day to day complexities and emotional strains of being a stay-at-home dad and looking after two young children for all this time. I wouldn’t have made it past the first three and a half weeks, let alone three and half years. On the other hand, I would have had a garden to die for.
My point is, now that both kids are approaching school age and I am getting back an element of freedom to my life, I am savouring the opportunity to beef myself up a little. I want to be the guy who is asked to move a heavy desk and not automatically given the baby to hold.
I am aware this is sounding really sexist yet I am not saying women are the better sex to bring up their kids. But you have to adopt more feminine characteristics in your nature. That is just the way it is. Fine if you’re a woman but as a bloke you are going against type. It’s not so much the public perception of you but the way you feel. Eventually you are going to want to find your masculine side again.
In my case it wasn’t really ever that prominent (I prefer Kylie to Bob Dylan, Notting Hill to Terminator, rose to cider, etc) but there is always a need to know that it’s there. The incident with the mouse helped me confirm it.
And woe betide if the little blighter actually does make its way into the kitchen. If that happens, I’m sending the missus in there with a heavy spade. But I’ll be right behind her, honest.