This is going to sound like I’m betraying my sex, but I have to say it: I think mothers have it harder than us dads. That’s not to say that it’s easy for us, because being a parent isn’t easy for anyone, but we men have certain benefits that most women don’t.
Firstly, most men go out to work while the woman stays at home. Now, work is hardly a blast, but you get to get away from the screaming ball of snot and poop that happens to be your beloved and longed-for child. You get to have adult conversations about topics other than teething, weaning and dribble, conversations that keep you sane and allow you to acknowledge a world existing outside the insularity of child-rearing and the nuclear family. Don’t get me wrong – I love my daughter more than anything in the world – but it’s a bloody hard, unending slog, and sometimes you need a break from it. Most men get that break five days a week. Most women don’t get a break at all.
And men get to do all the cool stuff. The mum is washing clothes, changing nappies, breastfeeding or making up bottles, cleaning, sterilising, trying to soothe the screaming monkey, wiping its nose, changing every vomit-drenched outfit, and suffering under the burden of endless responsibility, every second of the day. Then dad swans in from work, to be greeted with an outlandishly huge smile from his little baby, because dad is cool and she hasn’t seen him all day and mum is boring because she’s always there. And he then bathes her (splash, splash, splash), and reads her a story, and gives her her last bottle and puts her to bed. All the pretty parts of childcare you see in TV adverts. The dad is the rock star of the parenting team; the mum’s the smelly roadie you only notice if they’re not doing their job.
At the NCT classes – that’s National Childbirth Trust, for those who don’t know – the men even said they were most looking forward to ‘daddy day care’. Because men look after their babies so rarely, and for so short a time, they can compare it to a situation in which a kid gets dropped off with a carer for a few hours before it gets picked up again. Lucky fellows.
Mothers, on the other hand, are looking after the baby all day, every day. It’s not ‘mummy day care’, it’s ‘mummy constant, oh God, where’s my time off, I’m losing my identity and my soul, care’, otherwise known as, ‘this is my freaking life’. I think there’s this idea that men go out to work and work, whereas women stay at home and don’t, so their lives must be easier. Let me tell you now, as a stay-at-home dad, it’s not easy at all.
But that doesn’t change the impression. Certainly some men come home and expect to get a couple of hours on the Xbox or watching TV, because they’ve earned some down time by working all day. Well, what do they think the mum’s been doing, putting her feet up, eating chocolate and watching morning TV while picking her nose? She has earned just as much down time, if not more. After eight hours looking after a baby by yourself, you don’t care how busy your partner’s been during the day, you just want an hour where you can switch off. It’s the constant focus that’s the killer, never letting down your guard, head in the game all the time, nothing missed. You can’t be a mum and do it half-arsed – you bring your all or not at all.
Mums can’t use work as an excuse, either. I’ve known men who think that, because they go out to work and their work is so much more important than the mother’s, they can’t do any of the night feeds – they need to earn a living, after all. Now put yourself in a mum’s shoes – get up, feed baby; change baby; dress baby; dad goes to work; entertain baby while doing chores; feed baby; change baby; take baby out; try to get baby to nap; feed baby, change baby; more chores; dad comes home and enjoys giggle time; baby’s gone to bed; go to bed yourself, exhausted; get up a couple of times in the night to change and feed baby; repeat. And how can looking after the next generation, and your own flesh and blood, ever be considered less important than anything?
I really think mums deserve a bit more credit than they’re given, don’t you?