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London has been recently hit by a wave of absolutely glorious weather! Temperatures have risen well above 25 degrees on occasion and I couldn't just not take advantage of London's most beautiful park (in my opinion), Holland Park.
A sprawling parkland dotted with delightful gardens, arches laden with blooming wisteria, fountains and the callings of countless peacocks in their full regalia.
It is quite simply gorgeous!
There is also the best equipped children-playground area and sand pit in London, so I had to take my little man... Every day!
I must admit, it feels quite intimidating to enter an 'under five' play area when the sun is shining. The place is crammed with buggies and prams of all kinds, jackets and shoes lie pretty much everywhere as do water beakers and toys.
The intimidating factor is the fact that I am almost invariably the only dad with his son at the playground.
I get the most stares from the kids.
I wonder if they think I have nothing better to do than bum around in the sand pit with my son instead of going to work. Yes because looking after my 23 month-old son doesn't equal to work, right?
They would know! Being in affluent central London, 90% of them are accompanied by their nannies, all of them stuck to their mobile phones whilst the kids in their charge slaughter each other.... Their parents are at work. Properly.
I get asked often the question "So, when are you planning to go back to work?", to which I reply "I don't know yet... We'll see..." and this generates weird looks, as if it's strange that I might have chosen to give up my career to become a full time parent.
But then I look around me, and I understand.
All my friends have 'rushed back' to work after six, nine or twelve months of maternity leave. They have usually fallen back into their original positions and resumed their tasks.
It's true that whatever they earn goes into paying for childcare, that in London is extortionate at best (here in Chelsea, the going rate for one full day at nursery is between £75 to £100!!), but they decided nevertheless to go back to work for a question of 'mental health preservation'.
How I understand!
Unfortunately, I was never given the opportunity to go back to work as the laws regulating paternal leave are quite different and the most one can obtain as paid leave from an employer is 2 miserable weeks! Can you imagine? Just consider that it took us 3 weeks only to take Gabriel back home from the US!!
I had to resign, but I was planning to anyway, so, no hard feelings, but being a dad in the UK is not a bed of roses, legally speaking....
I was trying to explain this thing to my mum. She is a woman from a time when being a mother and a housewife was the top aspiration of many, MANY young girls, and she finds it hard to understand how any woman could give birth and then 'run' back to work.
"Mum, you make it sound like these women escape from the delivery room with their briefcase in hand and the umbilical cord still dangling between their legs, to make it to the boardroom in time for the 8am meeting...." I taunted her,
"Oh darling! Come on... The place for a mother is with her children.... " she ranted on
"But, mum, women have a lot of other responsibilities nowadays. They are no longer waiting at home to become brides you know?"
"Why? Do you think that I was waiting at home for your dad to come and ask me to marry him? I had been working since I was 13! By the time your dad popped up I was a seasoned professional housekeeper... Mind you, I never felt like that was my ultimate goal in life, but, nevertheless, I had a job that I had to give up to marry and become a mother... I chose to live as a housewife as I felt that my place was at home, with you."
"Fine, I understand this, but a lot of women out there simply cannot afford the luxury of giving up their jobs to play happy family.... Maybe they need the money or maybe they feel that they have invested too many years of their lives to build up a career to simply let it go.."
"Mah! -she went on- I think that marriage (as an institution) is in crisis because women have forgotten what their place is.... They want the same things men want, so there is nobody left that wants to do a woman's job anymore... Apart from you". She concluded laughing.
In their crude simplicity and backwardness, these words made me think.
Nobody wants to do a woman's job anymore.
Perhaps that's totally true. Perhaps this is why a lot of people look surprised when they find out that I decided to hang up my Gucci suit to stay at home and get covered in spew, crayon, food and, occasionally, puke.
Perhaps it is not perceived as such a good deal, swapping the frenzy of a monday rat-race, the meeting, the budget forecasting, for a tranquil existence of washing machine-loads, floors to polish and cakes raising in the oven.
That's why, every time I get to the playground with Gabriel, I have a hundred pairs of asian nanny's eyes on my back.
I don't see what the big fuss is all about.... I see it as part of natural evolution. I explain.
Back in the Stone-Age, it was a physical strength issue that left women behind, in the cave, to look after the fire and the little ones.
Back then, and for several centuries afterwards, it was the strongest of the two that was in charge of hunting and providing. Not that a woman wouldn't be able to manage with bows and arrows (perhaps in fact, women would have been even more organised as it turns out they are still better team-players than their male counterparts...), but when you consider the long days, the miles to cover during a hunt and the roughness of the environment, then probably the physically stronger individual would have proven more suitable for the task.
Furthermore, women can feed the babies from their bodies, so, no use for a dad to stay in the cave if there is nothing flowing from his hairy nipples.... Nearly all the important tasks ensuring survival, were revolving around physical strength, so it was natural back then that men had to go and hunt, fight, plow, build.
And this set up stayed with us until recently, at least until the end of the 19th century and the rise of the Suffragettes.
Women don't need to stay in the cave and look after offspring and fire because they don't need a man to go out and hunt. They go to the supermarket and do food shopping with the money they've earned from their jobs.
They can pay someone to look after the fire, the little ones and even the husbands. They are now equals in a world where physical strength is no longer an absolute necessity for survival, but money and knowledge is.
So there they go, the gender-appropriate roles. We left them in the cave.
Have gender-appropriate roles become obsolete?
Are genders obsolete?
In the evolutive race towards equality among the sexes, are we all going to blend into one?
With more and more families breaking the conventional pattern of 'female/mother/carer/home' versus 'male/father/provider/work', are the future generations going to be finally free of debilitating gender-related social pressures?
My mother seemed to think that society is destined to 'fucked-up-ness' because of this inner revolution, but I for one think that this gives scope to explore oneself as a more complete being.
Let the men get in touch with that caring and nurturing side that also belongs to them, but that they had to stomp out for fear of being emasculated; let the women exercise that ambition and that drive to succeed that they had to suffocate for fear of being left out as the rebellious woman that refuses to obey her husband.
By wiping away the gender roles within a family, we create a family that truly works as a team, where everybody is an equal and contributes to the family in equal measure. A family where children will not grow up with prefabricated concepts of 'what is appropriate for what gender to do'.
Women out there, have you ever sent flowers to your husbands/boyfriends? More importantly, if you were ever to send them, would they be pleased or just die of embarrassment?
See what I mean?
In the world we live in, a man doesn't even have the luxury of receiving some flowers. I won't believe for a second that any man, in any level of education, is unable to appreciate a beautifully tied bunch of flowers. I rather believe that they had to train themselves not to swoon over such frivolities. Their balls are at stake.
Their loss.
Whilst men still scratch their heads trying to grasp the big change, women have children, cook, clean the house, make themselves pretty, tuck their kids to bed and have the new socially granted freedom to ride motorbikes, drive trucks, run the marathon, direct huge corporations, build houses and swim the Channel.
They are experiencing the world by wearing skirt and trousers.
That's exactly what I want men to do, without fear of social pressure. If this is a men's world,
then the laws you laid down now work against you! You are missing out on evolution!
So here I am, donning the metaphorical skirt more often than not.
I am sorry if my legs are still too pale under it, but I needed to start from somewhere.
Once you get to experience it, it turns out that a woman's job is in fact the job of whoever loves something and wants it to grow.
"But you know.... Our society sometimes dictates that a man should...... ".
HALT! Stop the bullshit!
The society is us.