Maternity leave is over. Five mornings out of seven, I get up at six, feed Jimmy his milk and banana, wash and dress while he’s still eating and leave, shutting the door behind me; by 7.30 at the latest.
I don’t think about him at work. I even try not to think about work when I’m with him. I just concentrate on doing one thing at a time, to the best of my ability. It’s easy because I enjoy almost everything I do. I live a good life. A man’s life really. I shut the door behind me and go off to argue with tribunal judges, write training materials on the bedroom tax, talk to other adults and eat lunch while reading the paper.
I enjoy the security and pleasure of a family life without any cost to my career or my sense of self.
I reckon if I was a stay at home mum, I’d want a husband like me. One, who helps in the mornings, gets home for the bedtime routine and still does a hand’s turn around the kitchen. Nick doesn't always agree. There are certain things around the house that neither of us has taken responsibility for. It’s not clear whose job they are and they cause little arguments and resentment every time they need doing.
I contemplate career progression and speculate aloud about going for promotion. Not yet of course, some time far in the future, when Jimmy’s at secondary school and doesn't need me about so much.
Nick is amazed at this. “No Man would think like that” he says and I consider things from another angle. I’m the bread winner now. Perhaps that’s a responsibility worth taking seriously as well.
2 days out of 5, I play fun weekend mum. I take Jimmy to soft play, to the library, to the swimming pool. We sit in little Italian cafes so he can eat pieces of penne off my saucer and charm the waiters into tolerating our mess.
“Is he old enough for the zoo yet?” I wonder aloud and Nick says “No, not quite. Perhaps in another 6 months” I don’t know these things anymore. I have to ask.
Jimmy’s eyes light up when he sees Nick enter the room and he does that delighted little baby squeak. Nick holds him close and I see how easy they are with each other now.
“I love to see you two together like that” I tell Nick; “It’s a real reassurance to me to know, he’s being cared for so well, while I’m away at work”
Apparently this is also something a man would never say, which surprises me. As a good Marxist, I always assume material conditions determine consciousness. Living this husband’s life- I imagined my concerns would be similar to any of the fathers at my work.
“Oh no, Men don’t have that sense of responsibility. We see children as competition if anything.”
My husband is not one of those men who would describe themselves as a feminist.
He’s something better than that. A man who is willing to let me in on what men are really like- instead of always trying to convince me of how different he is from the others.
I know what he says is true. How else to account for the increased risk of domestic violence when women are pregnant or have recently given birth? It would be a mistake to assume violent men are the aberrations. Every heterosexual relationship plays out in the shadow of those same power relations.
On some deep level I have known this already. That deep pleasure I feel when I see them getting on together. I can name it. It is relief.