The Stay at Home Dad

When you're a stay-at-home dad, you can break away from those old roles society expects of you, because it's viewed by many as a positive step towards gender equality. However, if you're an unemployed mentally ill husband who only seems to leave the house for the weekly shop and to walk the dog—you're more of a parasite. 

Fair enough, a stay-at-home dad is expected to engage in various activities with the kids, you know, like reading to them, cooking lunch or playing games and whatever, while also keeping tabs on the housework. We all have our ways of working. Once, there was a time, when the entitled breadwinning husband, who expected a pristine house and a hot meal at the table, was the norm. We've known that's sexist for quite a while now.

I'd like to call myself a house-husband, when I think of the water fights and joking around, but, I'd also like to call myself a billionaire, genius philanthropist—it's a stretch. This is where I could just hide from the vane judgements that float around the heads of certain people who mention my name or give you that ****ing dismissive glance that means you're beneath them. In all truth, although the concept of a father who stays at home is growing in popularity, it isn't accepted by all walks of life; from my experiences, even in this age of progressive thinking, politicians expect everyone to work—just turn your disability into an ability, go on! 

I should be the breadwinner, traditionally speaking, easier said, however; the disability status always seems like a cop-out to Joe Blogs, and even myself initially, but health is blatantly honest: pending spinal surgery and eye transplants, foot isssues, hip bursa problems, arthritis and that's my better half! 

Come to think of it, we had to home school; mainstream educational provision was incompatible with our kids, but they've well surpassed expectations! We had to stay home, nontheless; dark times of severe mental health nearly claimed my daughters life! We watched her drop to six stone, and I remember us having to hide anything sharp, almost 24/7—even broken glass when we were out. 

We entertained sending her to a hospital, it was horrific. I'm glad we didn't. Our NHS mental health hospitals were ruinous, we recovered together, as a family. These things are happening to people right now, even as you read this, across the UK children's and adolescent mental health is faltering, this means the bulk of psychiatric support is left to parents and guardians. I was told by a CAMHS nurse that children often self injure in ward, suicides happen and bullying cannot be prevented. Recent televised documentaries have shown the extent of failure in children's mental health care, including abuse. I feel for other parents.

Before all that, I remember visiting the disability employment service provider, who told me I shouldn't be allowed inside anyone's home! I only wanted to assess NVQs for a living; I was over qualified and I wanted a job. She only saw a 'Bipolar' when talking at me. She openly characterised 'us all' with her historical anecdotes about working with 'us lot,' as if she had exclusivity over my identity as a 'Manic,' given how we are all the same. She told me that she knew why I struggled with work—it was surreal. That was my gateway to employment. I wasn't a hundred percent, agreed, ninety at best, but I had been building myself up for the meeting for days. 

Years prior to any diagnosis, I was watching the Sopranos with a nurse on the night shift in a specialised nursing home—everyone was in bed. Tony Soprano was the main character, a mafia boss from New Jersey. He has no choice but to do that job. His criminal life was scary to say the least, but Tony, this tough mobster, was medically depressed; sadness and anxiety messed with his kingpinning, he decided to hide it. Rumours of his depression, pills, instability, involvement from a psychiatrist could have got him killed. This show, resonated my past, except the crime part. Tony Soprano was relatable given the stigma many of us once faced regardless of background, power or status.

However, when I'm low and hating on myself, I start to believe I'm like Frank Gallagher, from that TV show, Shameless. Nature of the depressive beast: I'm a teetotaler, nothing like the man. A depressed mind will almost always attack itself. 

Like Frank, we share fears around workplace performance, but for me, none of this turned out to be caused by what I originally thought; my psychiatrist called it a specific social anxiety. It's also a phobia. How people prioritize mental health and seek support isn't straightforward. We might acquire coping mechanisms such as, drinking a few pints of beer or smoking a spliff before going into the dreaded workplace environment; also, pulling another sicky or getting benzos from off the doctor allayed things, temporarily. 

We can all practice medicalised Buddhist mindfulness as much as we like; it won't kill the existenstial dread, the inability to concentrate or listen; that unshakable morbid doom as you try to go in to work. Maintaining good mental health is crucial 'they say'. If I could have behaved more like a regular Joe during the onset of my mood disorder as a teenager, I would have never been bullied by those philistines in that confined hot factory. 

Cowardly men watched me being bullied by other adults; I was sixteen years old. On two occasions, grown men of the same scummy clique grabbed my b******s, one low-life squeezed aggressively—unspeakable embarrassment, shame, and physical pain. All day, everyday, this group ridiculed and mocked me, my self respect diminished. Before I started working at that s******e, I was much happier with my longish, 'Ted Theadore Logan' hairstyle and my attempts at being different. 

I eventually discussed the situation with my father, who encouraged me to continue going in, and to win their respect, so I can learn skills to secure my future. Many were made redundant after a few months, including myself. I was delighted! Funnily enough, I got a job with my dad, and one random day within my first several months of commencing the job, I was told someone had punched him in the face. 

His company treated him terribly. As you might expect, all this helped in forming a specific social phobia. Sadly more people like me will struggle in this financial climate. When I think of those poor souls worse off than us, it looks bleak; suicide rates will undoubtedly increase, while self esteem and income continue to fall. 

Masses of people who regularly experience the kind of troubles like we have gone through will be fighting their battles right now, living with demons—stigma never leaves. It's the hatred in everyones mind and sadly it makes us feel righteous.

Or the unemployed poor man?


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