Wednesday 26 March 2014

A break from trampolining

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

So this is what a lie-in feels like. A house quieter than the grave and no one using me as an indoor trampoline. I almost start to miss them, but I am comforted by the thought of Errant Ex-husband staggering into his bijou kitchen to pour out three bowls of Cheerios while I luxuriate in bed.

A toddler walking in a garden
One more surprise!
©  |
I turn over and almost die of shock. Lying on the pillows next to me is a man. In sleep, his face seems almost unrecognisable, but eventually I recall how he came to occupy my bed this Sunday morning, after two years of sleeping alone and a lot of indoor trampolining.  

His eyes flicker open. "Good morning," he says lazily, crooking one arm to rest his head on. "Good morning," I repeat, before politely enquiring: "Did you sleep well?"

This, gentle reader, is Stay-at-home Dad. I met him last night through We bonded over tapas and one too many cocktails, methinks. My first foray into internet dating has served me well, perhaps too well. He has twin daughters (one's into ballet, the other Brownies) and he spends school hours painting canvases in a garden studio. Alimony from the ex-wife (City hedge-fund manager) keeps them all afloat. 

It's a small miracle that an evening of debating old-fashioned parenting and state-school education had led to this. "I decided to become a stay-at-home dad cos I believe my girls need that centre of gravity in their lives with their mum working silly hours." 

It's more than gravity that is keeping me pinned to the bed, under the duvet. I realise I'm naked and there is no way I'm getting out first. Fortunately he is gallant enough to make the initial move. He's even sweet enough to make me a cup of tea in bed, except I am up and fully dressed by the time he reappears. I am not one to squander an opportunity.

When the kids return that evening, I'm in for another surprise. "Mummy, she's walking properly!" Quiet One tells me excitedly as she jumps out the car, leaving Middle Child to wrestle with his seatbelt. "Dad got her to start walking." Errant Ex-Husband shrugs modestly from the front seat.

Lo and behold, Non-Walking Toddler is indeed putting one foot in front of the other. She looks like John Wayne, saddlesore after days of galloping across the American southwest, but she's upright and she's covering ground. She beams at me like she's the cleverest little girl in the world.

I choke back the bitterness at the back of my throat. Six months I have been trying to persuade her to walk and she chooses one weekend with her dad to find her feet. I am meant to be her "centre of gravity", not him!

Middle Child seems to sense my disappointment. "Don't worry, Mum," he confides later, "we prefer your cooking to Dad's. He doesn't have any Cheerios either." I stroke his hair away from his face. "It makes me sad staying with Dad though," he suddenly adds, dissolving into tears. 

My heart clenches with guilt. Our children bear the brunt of our failed marriage. "Why, sweetheart?"

"I don't want to be a boy anymore," he moans. "I don't want to go out to work like Dad and not see my family. I want to stay at home like you."

"Oh darling," I say, feeling conflicted. On the one hand, I am a poor role model for gender equality, but I am glad he recognises the importance of what I do. "You know, not all mummies stay at home. Quite a few go out to work as well. And I expect when you are grown up, you could stay home with your children if you really wanted to." 

"Really?" he says, smiling hopefully.

"Really," I say emphatically. "In fact, I met a stay-at-home dad just the other day."

"Oh, can I meet him too?"

"Not yet," I say. "Not yet."

Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam

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