Not those kind of confessions, get your mind out of the gutter.
If you were expecting this to begin with a rugged plumber knocking at the door I can only apologise. The most excitement you’d get from me in that scenario is if he didn’t condemn our boiler for another year. And if I’m naked it’s only because the kids let him in without telling me. Again.
Seriously, were you really expecting some kind of 70’s style smutty soft porn? Really? I mean, I can give you 70’s style smutty soft porn if that’s what you want…
Happy now? No, didn’t think so.
The confessions I’m talking about involve domesticated deceit. They’re a glimpse into the dark arts of house-husbandry. Secrets that could easily see me shunned in the playground or worse still, ostracised from the SSSP (Secret Society of the Stay-at-home Parent).
So why am I writing this you might ask? Well, yesterday there was a really annoying low-pitched noise in the house. I checked all the usual suspects. It wasn’t the boiler. Nor was it the fridge. It wasn’t coming from the radio and The Wright Stuff had long since finished.
As I sat in the middle of the room contemplating whether to contact Derek Acorah, suddenly I found the source. It was me. I WAS the noise. What I was hearing was my own muttering. Occasionally a chuckle, but mostly a mutter. Out loud or in my head, I can’t be sure. Not that it really matters either way.
Two years a house-husband and this is what I’ve become. A middle-aged man in an empty house, oblivious to his own inane muttering. A man who gets overly excited by new clothes pegs. A man trying desperately hard to hide his utter disdain for any guest who dares to use the toilet after he’s cleaned it.
But as any crack-pot psychologist on This Morning will tell you, the way to deal with this type of behaviour isn’t to bottle it up until you explode into a wild rant about mismatched socks. What it requires is some self-analysis. To dig deep into your soul (not too deep mind, it’s dusty down there) to find the true cause of your woes. To cleanse your conscience by writing it all down.
Which is what I’m doing here. You see, it turns out I’m living a lie, and there’s only so much guilt a man can carry (even in my swanky new tabard with extended pockets) before he descends into a miserable muttering mess.
So here I am. Laying myself bare. Confessing my sins.
And where best to start than the biggest lie of them all. That being a house-husband is hard work and a full-time job. It’s neither. There, I’ve said it.
I can hear you shouting at your screen. Working parents yelling ‘I knew it!’ Stay-at-home parents screaming ‘what the hell are you doing, shut the f*ck up!’
I know, first rule of SSSP club n’ all that. Well I’m sorry, genuinely I am, but it had to be said.
That’s not the same as saying it’s easy, mind you. Just creating the illusion of it being hard work and all-consuming is a chore in itself. One that gets progressively harder over time.
Harder still when your partner works from home and you have to clean ridiculously slowly to make sure you haven’t finished by 10am what you’d previously claimed took all day. There’s only so long you can sit on the toilet scrolling through Twitter under the pretence of mopping the floor. At least I assume there is, I’ve just not reached it yet.
And with that out of the way, here’s a few more personal confessions.
For the last few weeks I’ve been taking credit for cleaning the windows. Truth is I took on a window cleaner. To be honest, I have to admit this one as he’ll be round asking to be paid soon, and it’s a lot easier to admit this now than try and explain why I’m giving money to a stranger at the door for ‘services provided’.
I’ve also deliberately set the bar of cleanliness low. Very low. So low that a hoovered floor now gives the impression of a deep-clean.
The wallpaper hanging off the upstairs landing that I blamed on the shoddy workmanship of the previous owner? Another lie. I was too lazy to take the stepladders upstairs to dispose of an almighty cobweb so went at it with the hoover instead, sucking off most of the paper in the process; fool that I am.
I may or may not have walked through the house on numerous occasions spraying polish as I go to give the impression I’ve dusted.
And while I’m on the subject of smells, the real reason I’ve started using the slow cooker again is to disguise the smell of some spilt milk I never got round to cleaning up properly, distracted as I was by a murder Angela Lansbury did write.
One thing that is true however is my daily shop sometimes takes me a couple of hours, just not always because I’m shopping around for the cheapest loaf of bread. Sometimes I get distracted by a cooked breakfast. Other times, taking the long way home means an extra three Pokestops.
I occasionally put the washing machine on late in the afternoon so it’s still running when Janet gets home from work. This works on many levels. Firstly, it gives the impression I’ve been busy all day. Secondly, it lets me play the martyr by perpetuating the myth that this man’s work is never done. Thirdly, albeit unlikely to ever happen again, Janet may offer to hang it out.
And once out it can stay there for days. Janet thinks it’s the ultimate in laziness. I prefer to think of it as a walk-out wardrobe.
Certain jobs are little more than a cover story for an otherwise unproductive day. Changing the bedsheets is a particular favourite. Leaving a strategic pile of clean clothes in the front room, another.
If I’ve not started something productive by 10.30am it becomes an extended lunch. If I’ve still not started by 1pm the day gets written off entirely. Well, I’ve a school run to do at 3pm.
And I sometimes lose a couple of hours to an as yet unexplained phenomenon. All I can tell you is I take some clothes upstairs to be put away then wake up on the bed. Weird, I know. Weirder still is that I’m under the covers!?
But thankfully there’s more to being a house-husband than kicking things under the bed. It means I can do the school runs, something I’ve pretty much mastered. Not once have I picked up fewer kids than I dropped off. And with no need for an after school club it means we’re able to meander home slowly, stopping at the park if the weather’s good or taking a detour to pick blackberries for a snack.
I can cook fresh meals every night. Meals that we all eat together as a family around the table.
I can help the boys with their homework, volunteer to help at their school, look after them during the school holidays and take them to their swimming and Taekwondo lessons during the week.
And it’s also given me the opportunity to study for the degree I intended to have twenty years ago, so that when I do go back to work it’ll hopefully be in something I’m genuinely passionate about.
I’m often asked if it’s emasculating being a house-husband but it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. I feel really lucky. Blessed, even. Because I know for many families, men especially, it’s just not an option.
Our house may never feature in Cheshire Life, nor I in ‘Men in Uniforms’ magazine (they’ve still not got back to me, is a tabard not a uniform?), but we’ve somehow managed to create a family life that suits us all, and what more can you ask for than that?
Sorry, what’s that? Maybe a clean house? Pft, you sound just like Janet!
If you’re interested, copies of my 2016 ‘Man With a Duster’ calendar are (surprisingly) still available, although you’ll need to be quick if you want to benefit from a full month of October. Honestly, dungarees and dishcloths have never looked sexier!