Boss Baby

Is it possible to rule the roost and rule the country? Our Prime Minister thinks so.

Jacinda Adern is clearly a very ambitious women. She has become the darling of the political world, both nationally and around the world, in relatively rapid time. Her rise through the Labour Party ranks may not have been as meteoric as the media might have us all believe, but her ascendancy to the top job, elected or not, came on a rocket-ship.

And thus, Jacinda Adern was thrust into the limelight. Prime Minister. Leader of a political party, leader of a nation. Our nation. My country and the one I am raising four children to live, love, grow, work, fade and die in.

Now our Prime Minister and her First Man, Clarke Gayford, will shortly be doing just the same; raising a child to grace these shores with it’s beautiful presence. Congrats and all that are due. Never mind whether it is appropriate or not for the leader of a nation to be taking some time out for the birth of a child. Don’t worry over the rights and wrongs of not informing the populace, effectively her employers, of any pending pregnancy.

Adern will stand by her right not to have to divulge that information and on principal, such a stand has to be accepted and applauded. She must have faced quite the dilemma, discovering her pregnancy at a time when the political whirlpool was in vortex, sucking everything and everyone in, as the last election seemed to do. She made her call, it can’t be changed now and to my mind, Mark Richardson’s abilities as a clairvoyant aside, the point is kind of moot.

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Richardson got lambasted in all this, complete with stern, unhappy teacher face and waggling finger, and while it is important to avoid the temptation to make cricket analogies, it seems our First Man has been left out of the playing XI all together.

Clarke Gayford should be offended . Miffed at the least. The question keeps getting raised, time and again, in our mainstream media, in opinion pieces and blogs, in twitter rants and wherever…will the Prime Minister will struggle to do both jobs.

Damn right she will. She is clearly an ambitious and extremely hard working woman and must come with the verve, drive and energy required to get to the position she is in. It is going to take all of that and more, to get through the next year or so from here, relatively incident free.

But, I ask from the cloistered confines of full time fatherhood, why is it we seem to be neglecting, no…failing to herald, Clark Gayford’s role in this?

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Hasn’t the man put his hand up, stating his intended lead role in the raising of the Clarke/Jacinda bub? Are his abilities so doubted we have to question his wife and hers?

Let’s get real here, it ain’t easy raising a child, no matter who you are, what gender you have assigned yourself (that’s how it’s done these days isn’t it?) and certainly no matter what you do for a living. I don’t imagine the Clarke/Ardern household is struggling financially, I can’t see them being under a great deal of pressure in providing all that is needed to give their little one every opportunity. I would also like to think they have a nurturing, close and supportive wider family and social network. Our nations Prime Minister will not be flying solo.

And neither will  Clarke. If nothing else, a rapt nation will be kept well and truly over informed on the progress of bubs, Mum and yes, maybe, just maybe, Dad will get a mention too. Breakfast show TV will be all over it, Mark Richardson or not. But in reality, this baby is going to spend the first few years of it’s little life, essentially without a strong Motherly influence.

Adern will be busy running the nation, a task I am sure does not leave a huge amount of time for full nappies and rolling over and sitting and those all important first steps. Not to mention teething. I wonder how much time it leaves for breast feeding. Are we going to see our P.M. with a baby on the breast in parliament? Not for the first time and bloody good to see being accommodated and readily accepted, just as it should be.

So, to my mind, there is no question of whether or not Jacinda Adern will be able to cope, juggling motherhood and the leadership of this nation. She is only going to be doing the one job full time. The one with the paperwork and the negotiating and the press conferences and the pressure and stresses. The pressure and stress her husband will be under are far different, but you sure as hell won’t catch this guy belittling them.

The real debate is who is going to be working the hardest. I reckon I know the answer.

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Thanks

My Mother is nothing or no one special.

I try to be an attentive and diligent parent. I believe I do okay and my Dearest is good at it too.

We try not to miss much, try to get the kids involved and be involved with them. All the while being aware not to push them.

It’s a challenge, attending to the above demands while managing a household of six. Not to mention the pets and the little extras that come with living reasonably isolated; the travel required just to the basics like groceries, having a social life and keeping in touch with an ever evolving world while the one around you stays rooted in times gone by.

And that is what it is, a management process. For me it has been a learning curve and one I don’t think will ever be complete. While I have never been afraid of hard work, I have never before faced the level of distraction that doing that work under the reproachful gaze of your children brings. And the Dearest, whose watchful supervision can be daunting.

At times though, given the isolation, the new (ish) environment we live in and the nature of Dearest’s job, it can feel a little like I am flying solo. There are a lot of demands on what my wife does for a living. As a Midwife, managing her time is paramount and the scope of her practice means there is often little time left for the demands of family life, let alone the energy or any hint of time for herself.

But here is the time for a little perspective, as my 44th birthday ticks by.

A thought struck me as I was vacuuming. With the dishes down, laundry sorted and the kids feed, entertained or packed off to school, it occurred to me just how easy I have it, especially when I compare my daily life with that of the woman who raised me.

I highlighted at the start that my Mother is no one special. Obviously she is very special to me, my wife and her grandkids, but putting that loving bond aside and looking at the practicalities of what I am doing as a stay at home Dad and what she achieved, I believe she wasn’t special…she was incredible.

There are a heap of other supurlatives I could throw out there. The gist though is that Mother, Nana, was a legend. A solo Mum, in a time when that was probably not the most fashionable of things to be. Social stigma aside, we are talking about a woman who not only raised two boys only fourteen months apart (imagine that for a load of shits and giggles) to be well-rounded, healthy, good men, she did so while working full-time, educating herself, developing a career, holding down a mortgage and maintaining a social life, such as the latter must have been with all the rest of it going on.

I look back on my formative years with rose-tinted glasses, as I am sure many do in a country like New Zealand which sure, has its issues, but generally is one of the best places in the world you could hope to be born and raised. At the time, as a kid in a sleepy Dunedin suburb, I wasn’t aware of the stresses my Mother must have faced; the hours of hard work, the tight budget, the loneliness, the pressures of solo parenting. In retrospect I can highlight a few moments when it must have been too much. Did my Mother let it show? Did her pressures and stresses weigh even the slightest on her children, her two boys? Not in the slightest.

Was there the support, from government agencies and the like, a societal awareness, that is available now? I seriously doubt it. For my Mother, there wasn’t even really the back-up of an extended family to lean on and not a thing from an absentee Father.

So how did she do it?

Everyone copes with adversity in their own way. My Mother is like my wife, an active relaxer. Trafalgar Street in Dunedin, where I grew up and where the real-estate agents will tell is situated in St Clair, but we all know is really St Kilda, is a grass verged short strip linking the half crescent former quarter-mile of Hargest Crescent and the stretch of Richardson Street, where around the corner my first school, St Clair primary, is housed.

There are bungalows and the odd villa. Clad in weatherboards and brick and roughcast, some were shabby, some were immaculate. Lawns were mown, sometimes by your neighbour and gardens bloomed and there was even the occasional blossoming tree dotted here and there. Fences were low and hellos were said and you knew everyone’s name and they knew you.

Far from idyllic, yet Trafalgar Street is only a fifteen minute walk to the beach, the Salt Water pool and there are plenty of schools and parks around for playing and sports, not to mention a decent back yard to run in. All in all it was pretty good environment to be growing up in.

But Mum couldn’t keep up with the Jones’. She didn’t drive, I guess never really needed to as she worked not far from home. Bus rides into the city were a bit of adventure and there were always friends offering excursions. Despite the Smith’s having four kids, their Holden Belmont seemed to accommodate everyone.

My brother and I had push bikes. A monumentous day when they arrived. We had cricket bats and all the associated gear, football and rugby boots, we had boogie boards and ‘computerised’ Battleships. Then it was an Atari, an Apple 11 and a ghetto blaster. Bro and I strutted around in Adidas three-stripe threads and whatever other hideous 80’s fashion was in vogue. I think I even owned hammer pants and had a flat top!

We wanted for nothing, least of all love and affection.

Our Grandmother would arrive with lemonade and sparkles and be with us through the day when we were sick. It was almost worth being unwell for. Then Mum would come home and take over where her Mother left off. We were clean, healthy, well fed, entertained and educated boys and we were hugged and kissed and tucked in.

Only now do I really appreciate all that. 40 years my Mother spent as an Early Childhood Educator, 25 or so kids under the age of five under her feet all day, just to come home and deal with her own two brats. Legendary stuff.

So I will stop prattling away here. I will pick up the toys and detritus in the path of the vacuum cleaner. I will do another load of dishes, prepare some lunch for the crew, feed off the scraps, take care of the recycling, make some beds and put some washing on, get some dusting done and hopefully find time to do some gardening with the little ‘uns, then start dinner and think about doing it all again as I get the kids settled for the evening, that is after the homework and the reading of books and telling of tales.

And just like my Mum, I hope to do it all with the type of demeanour that means, when my kids look back, all they remember is warm summers days and an even warmer smile.

Love you Mum.

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Passion

My wife thinks I need to be more confrontational. More controversial, if I want this blog to be a success.

The One Who Must Be Obeyed is of the opinion I need to say or highlight something that is going to go viral. Stir up the masses and create debate and argument and conversation. Maybe she has a point. I sit here and write this thing on a semi regular basis and know I am reaching only a few.

So who am I trying to reach? Am I trying to reach anyone at all, or is this simply about self-satisfaction? Do I have a message, am I ranting or am I just throwing words to the wild west coast winds, to scatter as they will?

And how exactly do I define ‘success’. What does it mean to be successful? In my situation I don’t work as such. I am a full time parent, which is work in itself and my kids are, as far as I can judge, happy and healthy. Am I, therefore, not already successful?

The real gritty truth of it is that I simply don’t have anything that fires me at the moment. Haven’t for years. There are things in our education system that annoy me, wider issues like the governance of this country, the management of our environment, things closer to home like the perilous state of my personal finances, my ever increasing decriptitude etc etc…

So is it age? Is it a malaise, an apathetic lack of interest, suffered in the realms of stay at home Dad’s? (I have never thought to ask where other Dad’s are doing their thing, if not at home.) Have I gotten too old to care? Have I gotten comfortable? Fat, lazy, preoccupied, too busy, not busy enough? Has my life as a father, parent, become so insular that the myriad of issues I am sure are out there, I simply let slide?

The answer is yes. The answer is no.

I don’t go anywhere and I don’t do anything. Nothing of note anyway. I have two children in my permanent care, under the age of five and they dominant my time and the manner with which I can spend that time. The nature of what my wife does for a living dictates, to a point, what I am able to achieve in my own, euphemistically termed, spare time. Then you factor in where we live, a small spot in the Far North, not exactly blessed with a wealth of family friendly activities and it is obvious that the ‘issues’ of the day do little to impact by minute by minute existence.

Over the years I have dabbled with all sorts of things. I loved Scuba diving, loved to hike and have hunted, fished, played drums in a band, even tried being a co-driver once in a rally car. No, before you ask, we neither crashed or got lost.

But somehow I have gotten lost. Not in the sense that I am not the man I once thought I was, or aspired to be. Just because I am home husband, does not mean I am in any way subjugated or play second fiddle, any fiddle, to my wife. Being the ‘home maker’ is not a minor role in any family dynamic and while doing so isn’t where I thought I might be in  my early, okay mid, 40’s, doesn’t mean I am not immensely satisfied.

Am I stimulated?

I still rock. Crank up the tunes and let go like I did in the 90’s. The kids think I am weird, think I am mad, but every now and then bust out the grooves with me. I don’t read as much as I would like but I do write as often as I can or feel the need to. I am learning to cook, ever more adventurously and there are a heap of projects covering all sorts of activities that float around in the back of my mind.

However, I spend the day playing with dolls, fitting together puzzles I could do in my sleep and having conversations based around the merits of holding glass of milk in two hands versus one. When I do read it is out loud, to a sometimes indifferent audience, on topics that range from the activities of various animals engaged in a variety of outlandish activities, to the nocturnal and somewhat nefarious actions of fairies. My favourite movie at the moment is Rise of the Guardians.

No, in a nutshell, I am not stimulated, in that I am not challenged. Does this mean I am unhappy? No it does not. I only have to look out the window and am greeted with a stunning view that likes of which many only dream of. I only have to reflect on all the joyous moments that having children roaming around under your feet brings.

So I am happy enough, I am content enough. So much so that I cannot get stirred up over anything. There is no one single thing, nor any conglomerate of things, that gets me worked up enough to react, outside of a dinner table conversation, that may or may not border on a debate.  Even in the midst of an election campaign, I cannot find anything that is going to get me waving my banner all over the place.

I am, therefore afraid, to report, for the meantime at least, there will be no controversy found here. I am not going to have a go at religion, feminism, politics, sexism, racism, environmental issues or anything else. Not until those issues knock directly on my door and I have to be honest, I hope they never do.  The All Blacks keep winning, so no dramas there and Arsenal are predictable average, no surprises there.

I am not bland, I am not blank. I am just busy. Busy doing nothing in particular.

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