I was approached to apply for a job recently. A good job, with a decent salary. Lots of responsibility, long hours, high expectations.
‘Nothing to lose by throwing my hat into the ring is there?’ I asked my Hard Working Wife.
‘Nope. Nothing at all.’
To be honest, part of me was hoping she’d put her foot down and say: ‘Don’t even think about it: your place is at home with the children!’
Which doesn’t exactly fit in with the ‘reluctant’ part of the ‘reluctant housedad’ brand, does it?
But the more I thought about this opportunity, the more I wanted it. I’ve been our kids’ ‘primary carer’ for 18 months now. I’ve pretty much got the role sussed. Everyone knows their place; everyone has their routines. We all know what to expect from each other and nine times out of ten, we deliver.
I’ve even been able to make a few quid working from home as a freelance writer.
So why even think about up-ending our world – and my children’s lives, especially – when things are ticking along pretty nicely.
As my wife never ceases to compliment my parenting skills: ‘The kids have really benefitted from having you around. I can see that. Everyone can.’
But despite that, I have a nagging need to secure a Plan B. What if my wife’s job goes belly-up? It happened to me; it could happen to her. What then? And even if she stays in post until she retires, what will I do once the kids become more independent? Will I have been out of the job market for so long that no-one will cast me a second glance?
I went round and round the houses, trying to come up with a reason NOT to go for this job, but they were all based on a combination of fear (of not getting it; of not being able to do it; of leaving my children in the care of strangers) and not wanting to give up what I have (aka having one’s cake and eating it).
But I also realised that I am withering on the vine at home, creatively-speaking. I didn’t go to college, land a job I loved and earn 25 years of experience to spend the next 25 years of my life stuck at home, nagging kids about homework and untidy rooms.
I’m not dead yet. I need a challenge.
So I phoned the headhunter back and said: ‘Count me in.’
Then I set about researching the company and the role. And I got very excited.
Now I’ve been down this route before and it came to nothing, so I know not to get my hopes up. But still…it was great to have something to focus on other than how to save a few quid on the weekly shop.
And so today, I put on my suit, dropped the kids off at school, sat through a session about speech therapy for my four year-old, then got on the Tube for my interview.
I won’t go into details, but I was in there for an hour and a half. The chat was non-stop and myself and the person who would be my boss seemed to have a genuine rapport.
I left the building upbeat, motivated and convinced that I would at least get a call-back for the next stage.
And then my phone rang.
‘Hello, Mr Kendrick? It’s your son’s school. He’s had quite a nasty fall. Could you come and get him?’
I felt my blood run cold. I was at least an hour away. How was I going to get to him?
‘I’ll be right there,’ I said. ‘What’s wrong? What happened?’
‘He had a bad fall in the playground. Has banged the front of his head and scraped his face,’ came the reply.
I darted to the Tube and sat anxiously as it crawled through 20 stops before I finally reached my destination. Then I legged it to the playground, filled with a combination of fear and anger – was he going to be OK? And how the hell did it happen in the first place?
When I finally got there, my four year-old was smiling. He looked like he’d done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, but aside from the duck egg-sized lump on his forehead and his scraped nose, he was none the worse for wear.
‘Just a precaution,’ the teacher said, when I asked why I’d been called.
As I walked him home, I thought about how vulnerable he was, how an as-yet-unknown childminder would have been called instead of me or his Mum. I also wanted to know how it had happened, but his teacher didn’t know.
‘I can’t take this job,’ I thought to myself. ‘They need me too much.’
But when I got home, and my son started running around and laughing, I realised I was using him as an excuse.
I went to the computer and wrote this email to my wife:
‘I have been thinking and thinking and thinking about this job and all the reasons I don’t want to do it are based on fear.