Allow me to explain this rather bland picture, it kind of sums up my entire life. I'm very much hoping you read it aloud David Attenborough style. Or if you're totes boring and not into role play you could read it silently. Just throwing it out there. Whatevs.
This! Is a rare sight indeed. The suburban male of this family sits at the table, conversing easily with a colleague on the phone. He is perched over a home-cooked lunch, multi-tasking between phone call and nourishment with ease. He jokes and laughs, discussing his luck to be finished work early for the day. If you look closely, two small offspring can be seen, they wait patiently across the table, vying for his attention but respectful of the man's phone call, and understanding of his need to eat.
Bah! This.never.happens.to.me. It’s a legit photo, I took it today. And I'm not exaggerating. Papa in Wonderland seriously came home, kissed family, sat down, started eating, answered phone, spoke at regular-human-decibel, ate food, continued talking, ate food, had a drink, chuckled a little, ate food, winked at toddler, put down phone, finished eating, put plate in sink, thanked me for meal. The children just stood quietly and watched him perform this most impressive of feats. They didn’t fight. Or steal his food. Or squeal ‘dad, dad, daddy, daaaaadddy, DAAADDDD!’ Wha...? How is that even possible?
Today my breakfast consisted of the crusts I cut off toast for the juniors (which I still had to share!) and half a lukewarm cup of tea. I haven't pee’d without someone in the bathroom with me, or someone inside me since January 2008. Speaking on the phone without chaos is a mathematical impossibility. So of course I was completely gobsmacked at what I just witnessed. And it got me thinking, this isn't the first occasion where daddy got the sweet end of the deal. There's those occasions where children climb into car seats and wait for daddy to strap them in, or the when they get dressed for him without incident or when they just lie down and go to sleep without umpteen toilet breaks, 17 drinks, three more toys and one extra story.
BUT! When I get them into the car, you'd think the car seats were ferocious bloodstained, studded, metal contraptions with gnashing teeth. And shoes! We have been putting shoes on every single day for almost four years, they should be accustomed to footwear, but you'd think shoes were ferocious bloodstained, studded, metal contraptions with gnashing teeth. And bed... ferocious bloodstained, studded, metal contraption with gnashing teeth.
So why is it that daddy is to be obeyed and adored, and I'm the mama-monster with studs and gnashing teeth? Well, all the usual reasons probably but it still sucks. I'm not game to enter the 'who does more' debate because as parents we both chip in and work hard and feel the unending joy and gnashing pain. We're both tired (but I'm more tired. I can say anything I like inside brackets because it's like whispering and I can deny it later) and we both feel every fluctuation of jubilation/frustration/bliss/exhaustion etc etc. We're essentially the same, except the kids have to endure me more often.
Sometimes though, when I've spent half the night bouncing around the house with an infant strapped to my chest and wake up (2 hours too early) to a grumpy pre-schooler and starving hungry toddler who only want their father (who is not home), I have a tiny, almost imperceptible flicker of cut-me-a-fricking-break-itis. The despicable, ugly little leprechaun on my shoulder mutters 'I breastfed you, I sacrificed sleep and wine and soft cheese and sushi for you, I give you everything I have to give and still you prefer your dad over me.' Eek... should have put that in brackets. That's a really ugly leprechaun. Sadly, I can't deny that her evil little jig occasionally dances to the beat of my own awful song. I am often told by readers (all three of you) that the reason you like what I write is because I'm honest. Well, with embarrassing candour I admit this; today's lunch time phone call made me jealous. Yep, I was jealous. I joked before but in all honesty, if I want to eat in peace I have to hide. HIDE! If I have to make an important phone call, I have to hide. I hide for some reason every day. And it makes me feel guilty, it's naughty and wrong. And their papa never hides. Ho hum. I know, I know… he’d probably hide if he was home with them as much as I am, but for now I’m sticking with ‘he doesn’t have to hide and boo hoo for me and poo to you.’ My maturity is astounding.
While my nasty alter ego jigs like Michael Flatley in her perilously pointy heels, on the other shoulder is another more likeable leprechaun. She tells me that despite the intense, crazy, straight-jacket inducing madness of Wonderland I’m actually doing kinda ok. She says hiding is fine if that’s what it takes for now. She says I won’t always have to hide. She is kind, and motherly, and trusts that it will all be ok. She says that it's probably not until my babes have their own brood will they know all I’ve done for them, just as I now know what my own mother has done for me. She and that other wench are both a part of me, and make me the mother and person that I am, and in some weird way, it’s a perfect balance of reality and hope and love and faith.
So yes, I was jealous, but I should be as honest with him as I am with you. He’s a good man, he’ll understand, he’ll be another voice of reason. But I won’t interrupt him, I'll tell him as soon as he’s finished vacuuming the floor…