is all about the joys, challenges and lessons of being a bloke in the role of primary caregiver.

From January to December 2009 I had the pleasure of being at home with my eldest son, Austin, for months nine to 19 of his young life. It was a blast, but it wasn't all easy.

This site captures it all. From self-feeding to potting training; the politics of playgroup and the suspicious looks from all those mums on the high street. There's recipes, activities and road trips. There's SAHD news from around the world. There's things not to do on online auctions - no matter how long your child's afternoon sleep.

It may inform, inspire or amuse. Heck, it might just do all three.

Wednesday, December 2

Two Worlds Collide

You’d like to think the last week would be a highlights reel - one more of all the great things so you can soak them up before they disappear.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Maybe, too, it’s best that you apply the band-aid logic. If it happens fast and is all of a blur then you won’t notice the pain.

In reality, neither of these things are happening. My final week as an at-home dad has been about juggling roles and responsibilities. Two mornings is a row I was on calls to the U.S. when I should have been giving Austin his breakfast, or at least watching the Today show with him.

We took a suit to the drycleaner when we should have been at the park, Tuesday’s playgroup was scrapped because we had to visit his new daycare centre and Kate worked from home this afternoon so while Austin slept I could be in North Sydney at a client meeting.

And that sleep was one of my last chances to have a cheeky glass of wine and get into trouble on Grays Online.

Thankfully, tomorrow should bring some sanity. Friday too I hope. Nothing will stop us going to our main playgroup on Thursday. There are some friends to see one last time. I also have to tell them I can no longer be a coordinator. Or Santa.

We’ll pay a visit to our cafĂ© on the way there and shop for shoe bargains on the way home. That’s they way we’ve always done it and it will be nice to do it just once more.

Tuesday, December 1

The End of an Era

Each Monday evening Austin and I get his dinner out of the way early so that we are cleaned up and out on the porch by 5.45pm. We know mum won’t be far off. So too the garbage truck and the lanky, long-haired rubbish man who always waves and says hello.

A few weeks ago I explained to him that this was the highlight of our Mondays. His response: “It’s my highlight too.”

Yesterday had brought some wind and rain but there was nothing that would stop the Clark boys being out there to see our mate and his big white truck.

One last time.

Having just secured two new freelance projects, my December and January are going to be full-on. The larger of the two, working on Sydney’s biggest and most significant infrastructure project, will push through to at least the end of March.

It will be fantastic; an opportunity too good to miss. It will also tip me over 50 hours a week, every week during this time. Most of it at the client’s office.

And that means major changes on the home front.

Kate and I have done our research and found a daycare centre well-connected with home and both of our workplaces. Pending an inspection later today, Austin will start there next Monday.

There’s a lot to soak up before then, but come the hour he’ll be great and we’ll be fine. These things I know.

Of course, no stay-at-home dad means no blog, so there's another chapter that has to end. As a creative outlet it has been fantastic. Not bad, either, as a chronicle of my time at home with the boy.

One ardent follower challenged me over the weekend (and a beer) about the irregularity of the posts and my recent leaning towards leveraging American news. I suggested that perhaps I should publish a Charles Foster Kane style Declaration of Principles.

I don’t think he got the cinematic reference, but he did get the point. Not that one exists any longer.

What there will be, though - and this should make him happy - is one post for every day that’s left. The weekend included.

And then that’s all he wrote

Monday, November 30

A Moment to Cherish

Something wonderful happened on the way to the Deardens. The resurrection of a great kiwi tradition. Something I never thought my son would experience.

Experience in New Zealand, that is, let alone Australia. And least of all in a supermarket.

The scene was the service deli counter at Woolworths Balmain. With my chicken and bacon weighed and wrapped, the young man behind the counter asked if I’d like anything else.

Yes, I said, one cocktail sausage please. Like jandal, cheerio would have gone way over his Australian head.

Realising it was for Austin, he handed it to me (gripping it with a plastic bag) and told me it was on the house.

Bugger me if I didn’t find this uplifting and heart-warming. To be honest, it made my day. And not because we’d saved 34 cents. This was totally unexpected. The tradition was still alive.

Alive for my boy. And very much against the odds.

Four major forces have brought about the demise of butchers giving free cheerios to kids. The first is that there are more supermarket service deli staff than butchers. Second, as a result, the common day cheerio is generally rubbish. The taste and texture aren’t what they used to be and they tend to split even when you bring them to the boil slowly and simmer them very gently.

Then there was the media frenzy whipped up in the late 1990s about the health risks of uncooked cheerios. Media frenzies being what they are, my lasting memory was that the tradition had been banned altogether.

It might as well have been, but the truth is that it had just been a warning from a single area health board.

And a certain Dr Pink.

Canterbury’s Officer of Medical Health, he had issued a statement saying that cheerios had to be heated prior to consumption to wipe out any residual bacteria and that handing them out to kids in butchers’ shops was therefore a no-no.

Residual bacteria? Isn’t that what the acidity of the tomato sauce is for?

Perhaps, but an investigation by the Canterbury District Health Board had found that six children suffering from yersiniosis had eaten cheerios. Six out of how many is unclear but, according to the statement, attempts by butchers to maintain their charitable tradition had been associated with previous local outbreaks of salmonella and campylobacter.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it took just one medical officer to bring down the walls. What’s more, he issued his statement less than a month before Christmas.

As if thousands of kids wouldn’t suffer enough.

That said, Dr Pink is not our Grinch. That honour goes to Mainland Products.

Just when you thought poor tradesmanship and bureaucratic nonsense had done enough damage for one processed meat product, they come along and trademarked what most would consider a great kiwi colloquialism and therefore off-limits to branding and legal types.

An example of the impact of this is outlined in a 2008 story from the Christchurch Press, written by one Elizabeth Osmers Gordon.

Three years prior she has given a public lecture in which she expressed regret that the cheerio was being “chased out by the interloping cocktail sausage”.

Weeks later she received a four-page lawyer’s letter telling her that ‘cheerio’ was trademarked by Mainland. If talking about these pink party favorites, it instructed, she must instead use the term ‘CHEERIOS - cocktail sausages’.

Talk about the end of the golden weather.

And yet there may be hope. At least in Balmain. Austin is too young to tell me how it tasted, and the name on the sign was certainly Mainland Products wrong, but this was one afternoon on which a beautiful tradition was handed down from proud father to smiling son.

And I’d like to think it won’t be the last.

Thursday, November 19

Hardcore Potty Training is the online home of the San Francisco Chronicle. One of the more obscure sections in what is a very plentiful offering is ‘The Mommy Files’, a ‘local mom’s take’ on raising kids in the Bay Area.

I’m man enough to say that I pay a visit from time to time. You know, in between hardware shopping, games of Stick Cricket and the ritual browsing of Grays Online that has so often led to my downfall.

And it was among these very Mummy Files that, a week or so into Austin’s potty training, I discovered an article on how to get your child into underpants in just three days.

Yup, three days.

The basic idea is that you buy a heap of potties, scatter them around the house and have your child walk around without a nappy. If they look like they're about to go, you put them on the nearest piece of plastic.

If you make it there on time, praise your child using a consistent message (well done, pee goes in the potty). If you don't, teach and support using a consistent message (never mind, next time, pee goes in the potty).

Too good to be true? Only one way to find out.

Even so, I won’t be rushing into it. Rightly or wrongly, we’re quite proud of ourselves for getting Austin’s potty training underway at a shade over 18 months.

Still, it would be nice to get it out of the way and celebrate with the gift of a Monday through Friday seven-pack. Nice also to spare Kate exposure to this experience and I figure somewhere over the summer I’ll have those three days in me.

Famous last words, possibly. Only time will tell. In the meantime, read the full story here.

Monday, November 16

Sex Ed Hooters Style

Virginian stay-at-home dad Bob Elston is doing the hard yards. He has four kids to my one and the mother-in-law's living under the same roof.

He also has the US media on his back after he took his eleven year-old son to Hooters and published a story about it on his blog.

It was a post-football lunch that included root beer, large plates of food and Elston Jnr having his photo taken with their waitress and her large, er, smile.

That they went is news enough. So is why. Bob explains it like this:

“My 11 year boy has reached the age where girls at school are showing interest in him but he is not ready to reciprocate with equal interest in them. The trip to Hooters, I saw, as an opportunity to see how he conducts himself around women. If he drooled and couldn’t take his eyes of the waitress, then that would be an unmistakable cue to me to start preparing another birds and the bees talk. If he acted embarrassed and shy, then that would be a sign that such a pointed talk could wait a bit.”

When the time comes with Austin I don’t imagine I’ll share Bob’s approach. I mean, whatever happened to 'he's eleven and that's why I need to start preparing the birds and bees talk'?

That said, I do admire Bob for thinking outside of the square. And even the great innovators don’t get it right all of the time.

As for the son, he found the whole situation “messed up". He was also unlucky enough to be spotted at the restaurant by his football coach.

No wonder that even before the media caught wind of it the kid had told his old man that the issues surrounding his first Hooters experience “will take a long time to go away.”

Read Bob’s Hooters post in full here.

Sunday, November 15

The Sharp Edge of the Inner Circle

I walked away from Tuesday’s playgroup annoyed with the child who had so aggressively pushed Austin into the steel gate. I walked away from Thursday’s a signatory to the bank account.

What ever happened to see-saws and finger painting?

Still, I remain philosophical. Little Shover Boy will get his comeuppance and I don’t mind doing my bit to keep the Thursday group ticking over.

And perhaps like Austin, so skinny and mild-mannered, I was also an easy target. For the past three weeks I’ve been arriving early to open the hall and set out the toys. I also recently bolstered the take from a cupcake stall by raffling off a voucher I’d secured from our local celebrity pastry chef, Adriano Zumbo.

The one thing I didn’t do is attend last week’s AGM, but then it is important to maintain some sort of work-life balance.

Or is that just a Gen-Y thing?

The irony, of course, other than the fact that I can go to the beach when Gen-Y are at the office, is that it has taken the best part of ten months to be fully accepted by the playgroup’s inner circle. And that two of the best friends I’d made in the meantime upped and moved to another group closer to home just as I was getting drawn into the cake stall fundraiser.

Now I’m going nowhere, but at least I’ll have a say on how we spend the funds so stylishly raised. And Austin does so love those ride-in police cars.

Wednesday, November 11

Fork Me! He Can Do It!

It’s been a big week. A week of firsts. New tricks.

Tricks the little bugger has been keeping up his sleeve.

All of a sudden Austin is brushing his teeth, wiping his nose and eating with a fork. He’s even discovered how to get himself moving forward when atop ride-on toys.

A parent should be delighted, and I am. Proud too. It’s just that we’ve been working on these things for some time without any progress. To see each of them mastered in the space of seven days is, shall we say, a little unexpected.

A little suspicious, too.

Obviously he’s not shaping up to borrow the car, but it could be that he is a genius and using this developmental burst as a strategic ploy in the lead up to Christmas.

It could also be a coincidence, but the genius angle works for me so I think I’ll run with it.

What parent wouldn’t? Any Christmas shenanigans are obviously wasted on anyone who isn’t Father Christmas and there’s no reason whatsoever to complain if your child wants to brush their teeth.

The fork thing, however, is starting to become a real pain in the ass.

It’s not that we don’t want Austin to use one – they’re one-third of a mighty important set – but rather that we’d like him to also use a spoon.

Not at the same time; just when appropriate. Rice bubbles, for instance. Or soup.

Tuesday, November 10

Victims of the Recession

Self-described “Mr. Mom” Jeremy Melusky suspects that some of the stay-at-home mothers he meets at kiddie activities think he is gay.

So begins what is in fact a rather insightful piece on stay-at-home dads from The Longmont Times-Call.

That's in Colorado, by the way. I looked it up.

The opening is a bit dramatic - hard to believe too, in Colorado - but from there it takes an interesting look at the impact of the financial crisis, the challenges faced by at-home dads and some of the sweeter rewards that come with the job.

And Mr Melusky certainly makes for an interesting case study. The mothers who don't think he's gay take him for a bloke on the pull, apparently.

"I’m a happily married man. It bothers me,” he says.

Mind you, we are talking about a wrestling coach with a 21 month-old who knows their ABCs. I'm sure he could have his pick of the soccer moms.

Read the full story here.

Friday, November 6

Singapore's Telly Daddy Conspiracy

Singapore has a new television sensation - a show all about a stay-at-home dad.

Or so it has been reported by Star Gazing, one of several blogs featured in the online edition of Singapore's Today newspaper.

Of course, the network which airs the show is part of the same government-owned entity that owns Today - a free paper handed out primarily at government owned MRT stations.

Not that this means anything. Although it might. Just look at the main character.

Look at him, that is, and consider that this is supposed to be a drama. Hard to imagine when he looks like a cross between one of Microsoft's pointy hats and a Florida retiree.

The perm? The paunch? The shirt? The bag?

The government conspiracy to embarrass stay-at-home dads into returning to the workplace?

Then again, maybe just a case of cultural differences. I'll let you be the judge.

Monday, November 2

The Street Party and the Sullen Calf

Yesterday was the day of the annual Moore Street street party. Leichhardt Municipal Council kindly closed off a section of the road, a barbecue was fired up, corks were popped and young children took to the tarmac, for once devoid of cars, in a variety of ride-on vehicles.

Then they took to it with chalk.

In the midst of all of this mischief-making and love-thy-neighbouring, Austin made the most of the art table set up by the mum across the street and painted a picture I call The Sullen Calf.

I wouldn't read too much into this, though. There's not much point. Depending on its orientation, it could also easily be either The Galloping Grasshopper or Noah's Technicolor Ark.

Regardless, it's certainly a big milestone. Though not his first painting - that came at last Tuesday's playgroup - it is the first to be painted on a surface I could bring home.

Most of his debut work was done on the table. Some also fell across a doyley. The rest on a wee lad called Charlie.

A wee lad who thankfully has a very understanding mother.

But now I know what to expect. And, after his street party success, there's every reason to expect he'll make a beeline for the paint station when we return to playgroup tomorrow.

Until last week he hadn't even noticed it was there, so it will definitely make a welcome change. I just hope the roller coaster isn't offended.

And that Charlie is better prepared.