I've seen you on TV and in photos, but probably wouldn't recognise you if you turned up on my Papamoa doorstep. You won't, which is fine, though I never refuse fresh-caught fish. So, if you're trolling the Bay of Plenty, and have an extra snapper or three ... never mind. Here's what I want to share:
I've read the alleged "breaking news" where you're accused of riding your Prime Minister partner's coat-tails, lapping up whatever spotlight spills your way. Let's move beyond teapot tempests and talk about something real and positive: you're going to become a father. You plan to be a stay-at-home Dad.
How fantastic is that? It's 2018, and though this should be old hat, it's still mostly women who stay home with Bubs for at least the first few months, wiping mouths and bums, enduring boredom, isolation and endless washing, along with first smiles, giggles and raspberries on pudgy bellies. Mostly, men still kiss their wife/partner and Bubs goodbye and go to work, where everyone speaks in (mostly) coherent sentences, the only person you must feed is yourself, and no one vomits on your shirt (unless you count the 2012 Christmas party, and we're trying to forget that).
When your partner's running the country, it makes sense for Dad to stay home. You could go the nanny or childcare centre route, and you might decide to do this after a while. However, that means nanny cams, visiting, vetting and knowing someone else is watching your kid babble and pull herself to a standing position. You remind yourself how lucky you are to be able to make such a decision, because, for many families, it's back to work for both parents just as Bubs is starting to hold up her head.
Clarke, I'm not too excited about political manoeuvres - which party is gaining or losing mileage from this statement or that pronouncement; whose spouse wore it better or whose partner ate lunch with which Beehive power broker. I leave that to the pundits - people who chew on political news at each meal, and the stalwarts - those who sweat and bleed their party's colours. All that stuff can be fascinating, but I have commutes and deadlines and two children who fill almost every minute of free time I don't have. You'll be there soon enough.
What I do want to highlight is the fact you, First Bloke, will soon become a notable stay-at-home Dad, another example of how a family can function. Another role model for Kiwi girls and boys. The more options our sons can witness, the more possibilities they can envision for themselves, which increases opportunities for our daughters, too.
Though fewer parents overall are staying home to look after their children than they did in the '80s and before that, the number of fathers who've decided to be with their kids full-time has increased, according to the 2013 Census. That year, around 36,000 Kiwi men were stay-at-home Dads, compared with 195,000 women. In 2006, about 31,000 men took the house-husband plunge.
We'll see if the growing trend of stay-at-home-Dads continues when numbers from this year's Census are released in the coming months.
My late husband morphed from full-time TV news photographer to full-time stay-at-home Dad after we had our first child. It wasn't about resting on laurels. It was a question of who had the better salary, more regular hours and better job satisfaction. The answer to all three questions was me. Did we want to spend most of my husband's salary on child care? No, we did not.
I left my five-weeks-premature baby when she was three months old to resume presenting a breakfast TV show in Washington state. It was wrenching - Baby had just gotten the hang of breastfeeding, and I pumped at regular intervals to ensure a steady milk supply. I felt our new child's absence not just emotionally, but physically.
The ache diminished when I remembered Bubs was home with her Dad. She was loved and looked after in the way only Daddy could care for her. His way wasn't always how I might have done things, but that's okay. We were grateful for our tribe of three, for the new baby bubble called home that smelled of soup, wet wipes and sanitised bags that desperately tried to mask the pong of poopy nappies.
Tauranga stay-at-home father of six Hallam Woolfrey founded a support group for Dads like him. He shared parenting tips during an interview with the Bay of Plenty Times in February, including: Don't think like your mum, don't clean up constantly, and take kids to the beach. All solid ideas.
To this, Clarke, I'd add, enjoy this fleeting time. The same tiny Bubs who pees in your face when you're changing his nappy will be begging for your car keys in a blink.