This piece is scheduled to appear in the latest issue of the Charlbury Chronicle. A small, local newsletter that is distributed to the residents of Charlbury in West Oxfordshire.
When I was first introduced to Laura she explained that the Chronicle needed someone to take over the writing of the popular Tot Bits column. I was very interested. It’s a fantastic project to be involved in and I promptly volunteered on the spot. It was only after arriving home and thinking about possible topics that I realised I had absolutely no idea what to write about. I have my own blog on which I post very occasionally and this is centred around the sports of boxing and football. My daughter, Dolly, is too young to be interested much in football and it’s a little bit too soon to be regaling her with tales of Frank Bruno and his pugilist peers. You often hear people talk of ‘having a angle’ when writing pieces like these and I wondered what mine could or would be, after all I am just a stay-at-home Dad………bingo!
Some of you may have seen Dolly and myself on one of our daily walks around Charlbury. We’re hard to miss. I’ve got a walking stick and tattoos and she is far taller than most 2 year olds have a right to be. Walking is an important part of our daily routine. It is good exercise for both of us, (I’m not getting any slimmer as the years progress) and it is a chance for us to enjoy the beautiful town in which we’re very fortunate to live. My family and I moved to Charlbury in September of last year. We had been living in Witney for 12 months after relocating from London. The move to Oxfordshire was a huge change for us, not least because I gave up work to look after Dolly.
Living in the capital meant that my wife and I both had to work full-time and our daughter was in day-care for 40 hours a week. This isn’t unusual in today’s society and I wouldn’t for one moment think that we were a special case. However, from a personal point of view I found it very hard. I would see Dolly awake for about 30 minutes each day and as a result she wasn’t used to me. It became impossible to even sit with her in my arms as she would scream and scream. In the interests of fairness I should point out that she wasn’t the first woman to complain loudly about being in my company but something definitely needed to change.
When the opportunity to move to Oxfordshire arose we looked at the facts and figures. By virtue of the fact that my wife is far more intelligent than me she has always been the main breadwinner and when we factored in the cost of childcare against my wages it became apparent that we would be virtually no worse off financially if I were to stop work and become a stay-at-home parent. With absolutely no thought as to whether or not I could do the job, (there is a definitely a pattern forming here) I decided that I would give it a go. That was 18 months ago. I have never been happier and now have a fantastic relationship with my daughter.
It has not all been plain sailing although in typical male fashion I have a habit of exaggerating stories. Going food shopping is on a par with solving the crisis in the Middle East and calling the NHS Helpline becomes the equivalent of an emergency tracheotomy using a biro and a butter knife. One of the hardest things I have found is the world of parent and toddler groups. We had tried one whilst living in Witney and it was a bit like gate crashing a Freemasons meeting. Lots of furtive whispering and disapproving looks. I don’t think I have ever felt so unwelcome in my life. I did once get on with one of the mothers and suggested meeting up so the children could play together. I was greeted with a look that said the lady thought I was going to show up with half a dozen carnations, a bottle of Blue Nun and Chris De Burgh’s Greatest Hits.
Luckily moving to Charlbury changed that and Dolly and I discovered a fantastic baby and toddler group. I have met some wonderful people there and we even get together socially! It has been run superbly but as Laura mentioned in her last column the lure of work has got too strong and Sarah is handing the running of the group over to someone else. I can only assume that the early spring sun clouded Sarah’s judgement as that person is me. I can’t promise that the stories will be read as well or that the singing will as tuneful but I vow to try to emulate the enthusiasm and goodwill that has been my experience of the group to date.