I’ll be starting a new job on Monday. Aside from a brief spell with Diageo that I arranged as an industrial placement during my MSc, this will be the first paying job I’ve had since Frank was born back in late 2009. It feels pretty good to be joining the ranks of the wage slaves again. I can take a lot of positives away from my time as a stay at home dad. I think I have a close relationship with the boys, especially Frank. My cooking has improved immensely. I have learned how to cook roasts, casseroles, sweet as well as savory pies; I can make my own curry sauce from the constituent spices. I have done amazing feats of DIY, including insulating the attic, tiling the kitchen and bathroom, painting the walls. I’ve laid out the garden, planting trees and putting in raised beds. But despite these achievements, it was slowly driving me insane. I’m just too old fashioned in my basic outlook on life to regard being the principal care-giver for two boys as an acceptable life for a man. I was ashamed of my situation. Now, if it had been Dot in the same situation, I would not have seen it as shameful for her. If it had been one of my male friends, and they had not felt ashamed, I wouldn’t have judged them for it either, but I’d be lying if I said I had been perfectly happy with it. As well as not contributing the the family finances during straightened times I was the largest expense as I have the biggest appetite. That’s just an example. What got me was the feeling that I was a burden on the family.
Raising a family presents a lot of challenges for modern parents. Housing costs mean most families have to have two working parents. Childcare costs mean that the second income is often almost completely taken up with that. The newspapers are filled with dreadful stories of various forms of dangers to children. There aren’t many safe places for children to play. Many people, like me and Dot, have careers that required they move away from where they grew up, so they don’t have all the support that comes with being rooted in a community. And then there is the fact that working parents are also paying for everyone else through the tax system. In some ways, my being out of work has spared the family a few of these difficulties and we’re fortunate that Dot’s job kept us solvent.
Life is a series of compromises. It is not possible to ‘have it all’. When I go back to work, it will mean I see less of the kids. I hope, on the other hand, that the time I do have with them will be better because I won’t be morose or gloomy anymore. I don’t want to have it all, anyway. I’m content now to have some. To have a job and a place in society and to be able to set a good example for my children.