It has been four months since my wife and I swapped roles and she went back to working in an office after I failed to find a job after losing mine last June. I’m not a full-time, and very reluctant, housedad to our three children, aged 9, 6 and 3, but until this week, I now realise that I’ve had it easy.
This week, of course, is the first week of the Easter holidays. Not only that, it has coincided with my Successful Other Half being away on business all week.
I’m only half-way through it, but I’m ready to throw in the towel. I have nothing but huge respect and admiration for single fathers and mothers who have to do this all the time without the physical and emotional support I get from my wife.
There are many more fathers in this situation who, unlike me, just get on with it without complaint. One of them is Terry Osborne, who contacted me through this blog.
I asked him if he would be interviewed for my blog and he happily agreed. When he sent his answers to my questions back to me, I was taken aback. His story has everything, but above all, humility and humour. I reproduce it here in full. I hope you get as much out of it as I did.
To read Terry’s interview, click the Continue reading tag. To follow his Tweets he’s @fireflyphotgphy
Reluctant Housedad: So, Terry, explain yourself.
Terry Osborne: When I left the Army I moved like many ex-soldiers into the field of security. I had approx 150 staff and co-ordinated loss prevention across half of the UK. It was long hours and hard work but I loved it. My wife meanwhile was doing a law degree and qualified as a solicitor in 2006, having studied and trained very hard for 6 years she always intended to work and have kids when we wanted them but with the intention of always going back to work within a few months. My daughter Issy was born in 2007 and my son Mark in 2010, Issy went into nursery from 4 months and so we didn’t have to divide childcare we took it in turns to pick her up from nursery and work like Trojans all was good.
When we first started out I was the main breadwinner but as soon as my better half (MBH) qualified she quickly overtook me. In terms of who earns the most it was MBH I knew that was inevitable, I did my best to keep her at bay but it was a losing battle, I had little defence against her huge brains and professional qualifications.
RH: How did you become a housedad? Reluctant or willing?
TO: I became a very reluctant housedad when the company I had worked for for 14 years folded in the economic crash/downturn/bank theft whatever you want to call it.
I say reluctant because I have never not worked, I left school with a few CSEs and have worked ever since. I have never felt that it was my duty or that I was born a man so must be the provider I just went to work and got on with it. Like many of us going out to work it is a contact with the outside world, it’s adult interaction and stimulation that drives us as well as money in the bank. I never expected to lose my job and always assumed that if I did through redundancy a nice big payday would be coming due to my length of service. Not so when you company goes down the pan, whilst the big guns walk away with big salaries and healthy bonuses, the workers limp away with an insolvency service letter and a capped redundancy payout, it isn’t much and it doesn’t last long!
In a way we were lucky MBH had such a good job, we were in a better position than others. So we pulled Issy from nursery to save money and I became key carer. I also realised at this point that having the two kids meant double the nursery fees. When we were both working I think we just accepted that we would spend the money on nursery. Once out of work it was clear that just any old job would not do, the fees would be about 25k a year for full time nursery places. I was astounded when the realisation dawned on me that I would have to earn exactly the same as I had before if I was going to see any of my salary at the end of the month. Any job below that would mean I was going to go to work just to pay for nursery fees, that really put a brake on the job searching as jobs that well paid were in short supply.
RH: How did it affect your self-esteem?
TO: Having never lost a job before it was a huge blow to me. Having essentially come from nothing and worked my way up through the company to be brought so low so quickly and by phone call as well was like being kicked when your down. On the day they called me I was at home with Issy who had a rotten cold and fever. Issy looked at me forlornly over her thumb sucking and I thought yeah honey I know how you feel. Outwardly I think male friends and acquaintances think you lucky git sitting at home all day looking after the kids watching the TV in reality anyone who has actually done it will know its a different story entirely.
I love my kids, they are the most gorgeous things I have ever seen and hate being apart from them but I can’t help feeling crushed ego wise from the loss of my job. It’s been a hard 2 years.
RH: How has being a housedad affect your relationship with your wife?
TO: I think during the early months we had a few heated exchanges as I struggled with getting rejected and essentially getting nowhere on the job front and taking on childcare full time. She felt sorry for me more than anything else she knows I loved my job and enjoyed it so to see it taken away from me was hard for her.
I also have an overly large sense of pride so I won’t accept money from her, I know how hard she works and just can’t bring myself to take cash from her. It feels like robbery she has been out all month and then there I am with my hand out so we have had some hilarious scenes as she try’s to pay for stuff for me. We have a joint account for food and petrol so that’s OK I have no problem with that and she pays all the bills again no problem. I just won’t take cash directly so I can buy something for myself, which I know annoys her so she ramps up her buying for me on my birthday. I get loads of presents bless her as she tries to make up for the fact that I buy very little for myself most of the time.
Overall I think we have settled into our allotted roles quite well, as we both worked previously it has not been a huge change for MBH as she is still working, having me at home all the time I suspect she thinks is both a blessing and a curse!
RH: And your children?
TO: My son has known nothing else but Daddy being at home with him so he would probably be very confused if I went to work full time and he went to a nursery. My daughter loves being at home with me, she is a Daddy’s girl so my full time attention on her is perfect for her needs. I am very strict so run a tight ship during the week and the kids respond well to it, we have good fun because they are well behaved for me most of the time and are fun to be around. I can even get them to sit and watch a whole film together which gives me a little peace and quiet.
On the weekends I hand over to MBH and they can really play up for her, so I can see that our relationship has changed I am with them all the time and they respect my discipline but when Mummy is around they feel like the leash is off and go crazy. It’s fun to watch but MBH soon draws me in to help bring them back under control.
RH: What are the best 5 things about being a housedad? With anecdotes.
TO: 1. When your kids have a first time moment and you are there for it instead of being told about it by the nursery or MBH. Like when I taught my little boy to say Ta when he wants something MBH was seething when he said it for her and she was excited to tell me and I said yeah he’s been doing that for a week!
2. Getting a lie-in every morning if you want it, my two are telly addicts so when they come in to our room in the morning they climb into bed either side of me and want the TV on, if I allow it instead of getting up and heading for breakfast they will settle down in my arms. I usually nod back off for a while, meanwhile MBH is rushing around trying to get ready in less that 2 hours. After ten changes of outfit and a pile of discarded clothes I wake up to say bye. You can almost hear the steam coming out of her ears as I say “have fun” and head into the shower!
3. Annoying your male neighbours when you pop your head out the door to get the paper, mail or chuck out rubbish and give them a hearty hello and a wave as they are trudging through the snow or driving rain off to work. It’s especially cruel when it’s Baltic outside I can’t resist going “blimey it’s bloody freezing out here, really dithering” and then heading back in to the central heating closing the door on their half frozen faces and red noses!! I’m expecting a house brick through the window at some point.
4. Very little pressure, looking after the kids can be stressful but only to a degree that you put onto yourself. Unlike work there is no real pressure if you have a routine and stick to it then life can be quite easy. No one is pressuring you to watch Peppa Pig or build a architecturally sound wall out of mega blocks you just get on with it. The stress comes in when baby tries to bring down said wall and big sis doesn’t know who Godzilla is so my attempt at humour is met with howling and tears of despair.
5. Being needed by my kids, I have spoken with many Dads who feel at times that because Mum is always usually with them they feel left out when the kids take a tumble or are upset about something. This normally results in “I want my Mummy” and pang of rejection sweeps over an equally attentive but not wanted Father. No such issues here if I had a pound for every time the words Dad was used in a day then neither of us would have to work, as Del Boy would say ‘we’d be millionaires’!
RH: And the 5 worst?
TO: 1. No adult interaction five days a week, I suspect this is an issue for most stay at home parents and why women get off their backsides and arrange coffee mornings. Guys on the other hand I believe are reluctant or unable to find a Housedad coffee morning so stick to the house. For me an avid talker and moaner this has been difficult. Initially resulting in MBH arriving home to a stream of verbal diarrhoea about my very dull day!
2. Making/preparing 6-7 meals a day for the kids, different ages make for food that is different at nearly every meal. Especially when one is weaning and the other can have pretty much anything they want. Don’t get me wrong it’s not like a full on Jamie Olivers kitchen thing but it still makes you tired of doing anything and you start to skip your own meals. Hence why I refuse to make an evening meal I just can’t do it, beans on toast every night would get old real quick.
3. Realising that you couldn’t take a job even if you wanted to. Once your nursery places are lost you cannot get the kids in anywhere so when a glimmer of a job does appear once you have got over the pay problem you then run into the I have nowhere to send my children too. Followed by a sheepish phone call to the potential employer saying you cannot do it.
4. The endless amount of washing and housework that needs to be done as well as drying and ironing. It literally never ends, similar I suspect to painting the Forth Bridge you start at the beginning and get to the end and then turn round and head back to the start to do it all again!! And whats with the audience? No matter what the job, as soon as you say stay here I am just doing……… You turn around and a small puzzled audience has formed to initially watch the entertainment followed by a pitch invasion and dragging away of important pieces of equipment!
5. The feeling of never actually giving your undivided attention to one thing at any one time. I always feel frustrated as I try to juggle a myriad of jobs, childcare being the obvious one, followed by cleaner, then DIY/Builder/contractor and bringing up the rear like Napoleons retreat from Moscow my photography an example of this was a recent holiday MBH took, this then degenerated into the following even though I was promised time to do all the things her highness wanted completed and what I needed to do :- MBH books off a week and a bit so I spent the whole time juggling doing the ordered DIY and stepping in between her and the kids when they gang up on her!! Plus it was my sons first birthday party so the ordered DIY was demanded to be finished before aforementioned party. If that wasn’t enough I had one of those rare photo shoot jobs the week before and this puts me firmly sitting on a thousand images that need to be filtered and then prepared for sale. There are times when I actually groan out load when I hear MBH call my name or my 3 year olds tantrum and I have to stop whichever of the jobs I am poorly performing to get stuck into something else “I’m coming your f*****g highness” tugging my forelock as I arrive!?!
RH: How has it changed you as a man?
TO: My philosophy has changed drastically I am now a HD and keep the castle clean and protected. I bodyguard my children and keep them in line, I have never given much thought to women who choose to stay at home or the issues they face. When you see TV shows and women are telling men off about not spending any time with the kids at the weekend for instance I now finally get it, this is just as much about the other parent getting some quality time with them as it is about the stay at home parent just getting a break a bit of peace just for a minute. It really is a job but you have to do it full time to really appreciate it, to experience it for what it is……..a full time occupation.
RH: What one piece of advice would you give to new housedads?
TO: Do not underestimate the need for adult interaction, even if it’s just a family member or good friend to pop round for a coffee and a moan. Endless days of kiddie speak and butt wiping can send you over the edge, especially when your kids are little as the attention required seems to get less as they get older. My 13 year old is a dream in comparison.
As lovely as your bundles of joy are they cannot comment on the news or the rising fuel prices, your rant about the budget is lost on a 3 year old and those blank looks make you think you are going off the deep end. Buy a decent coffee machine and then entice your mates over with good coffee and biscuits, worth their weight in gold.
RH: Would you recommend being a housedad to your working friends?
TO: Brutally honest, no! It’s not a thankless task but can feel like that at times and when you see the worker come home full of funny stories and pressured days you realise that your poop rolled on the floor story was only funny to you as you laughed manically to yourself until you see your reflection in the mirror and realise that’s not a padded cell behind you!
It takes a special person to be a homemaker/housewife/househusband, a sort of special breed of super parent who gets a real kick out of being at home week in week out and still stays sane and happy. Me personally I have discovered wine, always hated it but since starting HD I have broken into the Rose collection and found it to be lovely, at the end of a day a large glass with dinner makes me feel like the best reluctant housedad in the world by the second I couldn’t care what anyone thinks!!