Having just returned from Australia from a 10-year break I thought I would share my experiences of being a stay-at-home dad of two children for the past five years.
First of all, the bond I have with my children is all that I could have wished for. My respect for my parents grew 10-fold overnight, not to mention my patience.
We were forced into me taking the role of the stay-at-home parent due to a work injury. It was really tough at first, dealing with the little ones and still rehabilitating my injury. The stress was there, but through it all I learnt a lot about myself and those around me.
Being a stay-at-home parent is not as easy as you might think. For me, a schedule is a must.
I was, and am, really lucky to have two great kids, but I found it really tough with so much being aimed at the mothers and not the fathers. Still to this day I get promotional stuff aimed at women - not that I have a massive issue with that, I just don't need bras or nipple pads!
One of the things that struck me was the way people could not comprehend that I was the stay-at-home parent, especially the older generation. The looks and remarks were quite cutting.
The lack of fathers' facilities was also an issue. I often had to take my daughter to the men's room and change her on the floor, due to the family room being accessed via the women's bathroom.
You might think this sounds like a guy moaning about small stuff, but when you have to change your 2-month-old baby girl on the floor of a dirty smelly men's room, you kind of get annoyed.
Jumping forward a few years to kindy, my son had a milk intolerance and the only dairy I could get him to eat was chocolate yoghurt.
I let the kindy know, but two weeks later I was accused of being a bad parent for feeding it to him. The question I ask myself to this day is that if I was the mother would they have listened?
I found the school years tougher than the earlier ones due to feeling very isolated. I ended up writing a letter to a popular mothers' group, which received a few thousand likes and two negative responses. It went something like this ...
I am the dad that watched his children grow and start school. I too cried walking home on the first day without that little hand to hold. I too have a million questions that I would like to ask.
I am not trying to pick you up when I talk to you, instead I am trying to build a network so I know my children are included.
I try to give you space and make you feel included, why can you not do the same? Yes, it's true, I do volunteer one day every week to assist in your child's learning, yet you still look at, and treat, me as a ghost.
I am just as tired, scared and stressed as you. The only difference is you stand around in your mums groups and share, release and breathe. Just a simple 'hello, how you doing?' every now and then would be great.
That is the shortened version, but it seemed to get a point across. Now we have come home and are enjoying a bit more family support and all life has to offer.
So next time you see that stay-at-home dad, say hello. You might find he has some great insights.
And would I change a thing? No, never.