Family Life Personal

Daddy’s In The House, But Mummy’s In The Home

One from the hearth as Caveman Dad lays down his club and armour

You father a child, so you’re a dad, right?

I’ve done it. Twice.

Fulfilled my biological imperative to perpetuate the species.

Like my father before me.

Simple!

My three brothers are dads too.

The dynasty is safe.

If the Coronavirus doesn’t wipe us all out.

So, yes, I’m a dad.

Now, there’s millions and billions of us, and we all know what a dad is … biologically.

But how do we do it?

I mean the dad job!

Not so simple, eh?

It all seemed so easy once: Caveman Dad, known to one and all as Ugg — well, it’s pretty much all they could say —  slopped around the gaff until the family got hungry.

Then, he would hitch up his animal skin onesie, grab his club, roll away the front stone, and off he’d go to hunt down dinner.

Clocked off when the sun began to go down, or when he had clubbed a wooly mammoth to death and dragged it home, maybe with the help of his old mucker Zugg.

Easy for him to say!

Dinner for the week.

‘It will be even tastier when I discover fire,’ he’d reckon.

‘I’d kill for a Mammoth Burger, yum!’

‘What’s tomato ketchup, Dad?” young Nugg had grunted to him just the previous day.

‘No idea, son, but I’m sure it’ll be lovely,’ he grunted back.

What they actually said was ‘nugg, nugg,’ and ‘nugg, nugg, nugg … ’

But there were no sub-titles back then so they all just kind of winged it.

Mum, meanwhile, kept a good cave, minded the kids, stripped the mammoth down, and fed everyone.

‘I’d love a fridge,’ she’d say, ‘whenever they invent one.’

Actually, she just went ‘nagg, nagg, nagg …’

Generally,  she did what Ugg told her. The whole family did. They were so happy.

And then came #MeToo, and U2, and life got a whole lot more complicated for Ugg The Mammoth Clubber …

Weinstein
#MeToo … Caveman Harvey comes out to pay

I have been thinking about this dad thing just now after reading a magazine interview with historical novelist Hilary Mantel this morning.

She was talking about how she had never seen her dad after the age of 11, when her mum moved the family away with her new partner.

Mantel talked about the impact of this on her writing, and how she had explored the fatherhood theme in the Tudor times trilogy she began with Wolf Hall, continued with Bring Up The Bodies and now concludes with her new book, The Mirror & The Light.

“I grew up accepting that I didn’t have a father. It was a case of what you never have, you never miss,” she said in the interview.

“It was only later, much later, that it struck me that that lack might have implications and it drew me into thinking about fatherhood,” she said.

hilary-mantel-jpeg
Hilary Mantel

So, I’m thinking, 11 years of having a dad, and then he’s just an absence.

I mean did he make no impact at all while he was around?

What sort of an impact have I been making on my now 16-year-old and 14-year-old offspring?

I just know it’s complicated, and my relationships with the two are completely different.

Lots of common ground, of course, but my daughter and I, and my son and I, are such different arenas.

Of course, they are different people.

I mean really different.

Girl and boy, yes, but that’s only the start of it. Disparate personalities, distinct ways of communicating …  utterly different takes on people and the world.

And on me, I’d say.

So I often ponder this thing called fatherhood.

Being a dad.

Getting things right. Getting things wrong.

Getting things wrong even when I’m right. And some things right even when I’m wrong.

I hope you know what I mean.

I’ve also been thinking about motherhood, and what that means to me.

My mum died when I was 14, and I was in my 40s when my dad died.

So mom left my world when I was an unresolved teenager.

And I knew my dad all the way through into my adulthood.

So my perspective on my mum kind of froze over from when I was 14, and my take on my dad evolved as I matured.

Thinking of my mom now makes me think of the historical fragments and flashes of dialogue or pictures in her mind which Hilary Mantel described assembling, firstly, and then building into her characters and the story.

Most of Mantel’s characters, including chief protagonist Thomas Cromwell, actually existed, but their whole interior worlds are Mantel’s inventions.

A bit like the historical figure that is my mum to me now.

Memory fragments, flashes of dialogue, and pictures in my mind I have fleshed out into the Story Of Mum And Me. 

More than anything, I recall that thing that nobody else can replicate, not a dad, not a favourite aunt, nor a beloved friend … the Essence Of My Mother.

I wouldn’t describe it as a scent, a particular perfume or an aroma, just the unique feminine essence that was my mom.

It’s like my very body knew her.

Long before my mind did.

Call me old-fashioned, or creative, or just wrong, but for me, but there is just something about a mom.

Which shapes a family, and marks a home in ways no dad can comprehend, let alone replicate.

Because somewhere dads are children too.

While girls are apprentice moms as they identify with and clash and disentangle themselves from their maker.

I’m getting onto something here I cannot possibly explain logically, it’s just something I feel.

Something my body knows.

When my daughter was 11 or so, I took redundancy and was a stay-at-home-dad for a few years.

My wife went full-time in her job.

My daughter was embarking on secondary school, puberty and teenage identity formation.

I did my best, but my daughter and I clashed. A lot.

From things said in the heat of battle, and worked out in peace-time, I have fleshed out how my daughter came to view the pre-redundancy period as some kind of idyllic Shangrilla, where she dwelled safe in the Essence Of Her Mother.

Then redundancy came, and Stay At Home Dad took over, a domestic dilettante, who did his best, but really was far better suited to grabbing his club and going out to whack a few wooly mammoths while Mom created Home and Hearth.

A bit simplistic, but not too far from K’s Teenage World as she constructed it.

And what we have been doing, her and I, is carefully taking down this edifice and trying to build a Hearth and Home that Caveman Dad can live in also.

A place where he can lay down his club and his armour, and be a Real Dad.

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52 comments on “Daddy’s In The House, But Mummy’s In The Home

  1. My Dad passed away when I was very young. I often wonder if I’d have been a different person now? I guess I’ll never know. My older kid’s Dad left when they were 8 and 9 years old and soon after went to live in another country. I know it affected them and I had difficulties being Dad and Mum for quite a while. The weird thing, my oldest daughter is just like her Dad in so many ways, despite him being around for so little of her life. I wonder if I’m like my Dad, because I know I’m not like my Mum. I don’t know why I’ve not really pondered about this before. Despite your clashes, I’m sure your kids appreciate you just as much as their Mum, it sounds like they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I suppose we can’t choose our family circumstances, Anne! As we know, kids are affected in different ways, so who’s to say how much it’s nature, and how much nurture!

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  2. Enda. Thanks for reading and commenting on my snowdrops post across on Blogger. Have you considered linking your Blogger profile to your WordPress site so that anyone who follows you up from your comment can find you? (I’m not sure how easy it is – it might need a post that contains a link).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this. The role of a Dad is a difficult one as there are really no set markers to tell you if you are winning, or even just doing an OK job. Truth is probably that as long as you are doing your best, you are doing pretty well!
    #KCACOLS #Dreamteamlinky

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is and there isn’t. There is the construct we create. In some families the Dad, esp if the stay at home one from an early age, is the go to guy. It’s just that in Australia, it’s usually the mum. If the switch comes later on (in the teen years), the switch never really happens. Or is harder to happen, as the child is ‘programmed’ to go to the mum. That’s just from obsrvations around me. That said, pretty much most dads are more hands on than they historically were. When they were sort of phantoms not to be disturbed…#MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, things have changed. But I think it’s more than cinditioning. More often than not a mom gives something to a family that cuts deeoer than fulfilling the role of parent. Thanks for commenting, Lydia

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  5. Christie Hawkes

    Thanks for sharing a father’s perspective. From age six to 19, my father was not present in my life. I was not particularly close to my stepfather (though we have a more comfortable relationship now). I still sometimes have a little longing deep inside to have been “Daddy’s Girl” to someone. I can completely relate to the Essence of Mom though and that security of being deeply, unconditionally loved and cherished by her. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

    • That was hard for you, Christie. Cherished. What a great word. What a gift to give. Thanks for your comment

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  6. Every parent’s relationship with their children is unique. There is not one right way to do Dadhood, or Momhood either. You just have to sort out what works for you, do the bet you can, and let the rest fall away. That you are there and that you care is the most important part.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think we all parent to the very best of our ability. There have been a lot of times over the years when I questioned my abilities as a parent – none of us had a handbook to read. Now that my own children are grown and flown, I volunteer with mentoring children from difficult family backgrounds and I see that the fact that our kids had loving stable homes is a huge start in the right direction, add in the love and the fact that we’re doing our best, and you can’t give your kids much better than that (and underneath it all, they know they’re on a good thing).
    Thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right about that deep down knowing they’re on to a good thing. And lifevwill hopefully let them realise that more. I know our kids are doing fine

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  8. Okay, first up, this was a great read. As you say there’s a massive difference between being a father and a dad & unfortunately there’s no handbook for either role – although perhaps the procreating & providing bit is a tad more straight forward. Likewise, there’s a difference between a mother and a mum. All any of us can do is the best that we can & remembering, as you have said, that our kids have their own personalities and at the end of the day it’s a relationship the same as any other. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A really interesting read. I loved having teenagers in the house – watching them (and helping them, just occasionally, when they would let me) find their way in the world, discover their own passions and begin to make a difference. Teenagers get such a bad press, but it’s such a precious period in a child’s life and they (and you) don’t get it again. Enjoy (even if only in hindsight…).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get the hindsight bit!!! Hehe. Our daughter overnighted last night, and such a sweet, peaceful evening in iur home. But give me another day and the mussing her begins!😀

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  10. I only began to understand my dad when I had my own kids and realised how much of an effort it was to give them what my dad had given us. Before that I really felt he was a terrible father. He was a product of the times, didn’t have much to do with us kids except as a disciplinarian. He was a drinker too, and a nasty one at that. It wasn’t until he was in his 80’s that we could repair our relationship. He kept apologising for being a terrible father and I kept telling him I’d forgiven him already. One of the last things he said to me was that I was a good daughter which meant the world to me, and I’m happy to say our relationship had been repaired completely by the time he passed away. As parents we will stuff up – we’re only human. Being able to apologise to our kids does wonders for our relationship with them. Another great blog post, thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a delightful reply, Christina.So glad you had the opportunity to establish a good relationship with your dad. Sounds like a good man who had a heart and soul, but was a product of his times and his addiction, perhaps. I often wonder what it would have been to establish a relationship with my mom as an adult. And I agree so much about how much saying sorry achieves as a parent

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  11. Hi Enda I think the Dads of today are very different from previous generations. Most are very involved in parenting and I know my son-in-law takes on the role of primary care giver as my daughter has a demanding career. They made this choice before he children were born and have made a happy and safe environment for my grandsons who are thriving. As parents, there is no handbook on how to do parenting. Sure there is lots of advice but at the end of the day it is the love of parents, the hugs for the children, the ‘being’ there after a busy day and giving the children your time. Thank you for thoughts with us at #MLSTL and have a lovely week enjoying time with your family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Sue, I get what you are saying about hands-on dads in this generation, and a great job being done by them, normally, but I still think there is something about mother in the family that is unique.I’m not referring to working outside or inside the home, Something more core than that. Not a judgment!

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  12. Hi Enda, I’m visiting from MLSTL link-up. As parents we do the best we can. Just like other human relationships, sometimes parent and child personalities clash. As the children grow up, the parents need to move into advisory-when-asked role and that can be a difficult transition because parents are naturally protective of their children. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. #MLSTL

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It sounds like you’re doing an amazing job. Being a stay at home parent is hard work. and often completely underrated. I’ve literally just gone back after maternity and I’m enjoying the break from the monotony. I’ve never read any of her books so can’t comment on those but it sounds like her childhood had a profound affect on her books. Sorry to hear about you losing your mum (and dad) too early too. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Emma. Stay at home is so overrated … especially by your kids, haha! I can see how you would enjoy the buzz of work after the intensity of the parenting at home bit!

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  14. Thanks for joining in with #WotW and for your kind words

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great post, Enda. I loved reading your thoughts on fatherhood. You are very involved in your kids’ lives, which is the best gift you can give them. It’s interesting to read about the differences between your daughter and son. I have 3 sons and 3 grandsons – no girls in the family. I have often wondered how I would interact with a little girl. My mom and I were always close – I didn’t go through the period of time in my teenage years where most girls are embarrassed by and/or “hate” their mom. I feel like I kind of missed out on that by not having a daughter, but now I have daughters-in-law and that’s pretty wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Missed out on that hate your mom thing? I wouldn’t worry about that, Laurie, hehe. Our daughter is, let’s say expressive. Our son, not at all. Just now, I was asking him about a teacher of theirs, that he had last year, who has died suddenly. ‘Were you upset?’ I asked him. ‘Nah,’ he rep[lied.’I was sad, okay, but I’m fine. “was anybody else upset” I continued.’ A bit, yeah, there is a place you can go in the school if you want to be quiet and think. I don’t go there, I’d rather be outside kicking a football, to be honest’. That’s our boy, solid and deep, and his own person

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  17. It is interesting to read about different relationships with parents. I have always had a great relationship with my dad, it was my mum that I always clashed with. It sounds like you are doing your best and that’s all we can do x

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  18. It’s interesting to read your perspectives on parenthood, reflecting on both fatherhood and motherhood. I had a great bond with both my parents growing up, but was always closer to my dad as a child. My memory of my childhood is my parents both being equally good at creating ‘Home and Hearth’ but that when Mum said no, she meant no, whereas Dad could occasionally be persuaded! I am sure you are doing a brilliant job as a stay-at-home dad – I suspect the stay-at-home parent tends to be on the receiving end of more of the teenage clashes anyway – that was certainly true of me with my mum as a teenager! #WotW

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  19. Well Enda, I never knew you had done the stay at home dad thing. Gives you an interesting perspective, yes?

    Anyway, I feel a pull in your article, to the expectations of us men and what we are raised to do. Being a stay at home dad or heavily involved dad goes completely against that. I don’t want to be Ugg. It takes quite a bit of effort not to be Ugg, but I’m much happier doing what I’m doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I did it for three years or so, John. Just couldn’t make it pay!!! You definitely appear to be making a very good go at it, John.

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  20. I sometimes wonder how my children will remember me. They’re lucky as both parents are around, as we both work from home, mostly. Even saying that, I mostly take the job of organising the day to day running of their lives, while my husband steps in with the fun stuff. I may have this the wrong way round, but it is a case of divide and conquer. I love that they feel happy to talk to either of us about problems. We just all do our best. Not made it all the way through teen years, yet, but I still reckon the 14-15 years is the hardest time. #wotw

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree, it is a tough time for kids, those in-between years, Cheryl. As you say, we have to just do our best and hope it works out!

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  21. It is so funny how much parenting we make up as we go along. I am looking forward to seeing what challenges we have with our only child, who even at 4 is full of big emotions and willful. Great to read how your parenting has been affected by your own relationships. #KCACOLS

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Gender identities and roles in the household are very tricky. I feel awkward asking my hubby to help out with the kids and still do most of the housework depsite working almost full time in my part time jobs (7 of them!). But then I feel guilty if they bother him when I can deal with their problem (usually biscuit related). Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Now there’s a thought. What an interesting viewpoint. I’ve read through some of the comments you got too and I definitely think that how much dads/mums share of the parenting stuff is largely down to circumstances and personality rather than ‘a change of the times’. Some dads will never get it, and some will. But I do agree that one parents whether it’s mum or dad will have that something extra that makes the home a ‘home’. Or rather.. they are the ‘home’. I’m not sure it will have anything to do with gender – but generally speaking, little ones appear to flock a specific parent. Thank you for sharing your views with the #DreamTeamLinky 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, both can do a great job, Annette, it’s just I have been struck by the importance of that indefinable essence of mother thing in a family unit. Thanks for your as always kind and considered comment

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Elaine Livingstone

    A great take on a difficult subject – being a parent and doing what you see is right for your children, regardless whether they feel it is right or not, tough love is the hardest bit of being a parent.
    My first two still are as different as chalk and cheese, one right handed one left, one blond blue eyes and right handed, the other dark green eyes and left handed. Standing joke with ours – the only thing they had in common was they hated each other, and that lasted until grandchild number one was born and this brought them back together over the first year or so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Elaine, yes it is amazing how unalike siblings can be… in every kind of way. Sometimes as teenagers especially, it seems they are only united in getting on mommy and daddy’s nerves, hehe

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  25. Oh it’s been a great read. Being a father is something that can be difficult, I know how hard and exhausting being a parent can be. Thank you for linking up with us for #kcacols and we hope to see you next time.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. This post hit a nerve with me, I did not have a dad growing up or any other time really, he disappeared and was a non-participant for many years, just an occasional “viewer”. NEVER gave us anything, nothing at all, no love, no money, nothing of himself… I could never understand what was so broken in him. He resurfaced through the years, then as I was older he would ask for money. He never tried to be a grandad to my kids either. Just not interested in us on any level really. I tried valiantly with him time after time according to God’s word and finally about 5 years ago decided to end it once and for all. Never again will I blow God’s breath in his direction.

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    • Gosh, that’s a lot to go through, Pene. Sosad to thnk that all your dad could think about was himself. So hurt, so wounded, but so what to a child. But you have obviously learned othderiwse, and you write so well. Thanks for sharing your story

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