This is a brief blog to share my thoughts after my son’s first week of nursery inductions. My wife and I have taken him to three sessions this week and the feelings it evokes are a mixture of pride, anxiety and sadness. I was so proud to see him venture off to discover new people and experiences without having me or his mum next to him. I was very anxious this morning to make sure the first trial run of taking him to nursery in the morning (solo) went well (it went fine). I am sad this this marks the end of the first stage of his life within our close family. For the last 11 months he has spent afternoons with grandparents on a handful of occasions, and a few single hours in a gym creche, but the rest of the time he has been with either me or my wife. After next week, he will be with new carers from Wednesday to Friday each week and will explore a new world with new people. It is exciting for us and he seems to love it already, but it also signifies the start of a new phase for me and my wife as parents. From now on, he is going to be increasingly learning independence and social skills away from us. It is a strange feeling.
As a parent I am conscious that this experience is part of his growing up process, but it also influencing my growing up and masculine self identity too. Today was one of the few occasions that I have solely cared for my son in the outside world (apart from the odd walk around the block). The sense of responsibility I felt when boarding the bus into town and going up to the nursery was very different to how I usually feel when I am with my wife. I realised that my sense of caring masculinity had been constructed with the security stabilisers of his mum’s presence, which meant I had not fully experienced the full scope of caring masculinity. Today was my first step into this new world and it felt great to look after my son.
I think the process of solo care is a vital learning experience for new parents, especially partners (and particularly fathers). It is most important to fathers who are socialised around the idea of patriarchal male roles in the home and workplace. Things are gradually shifting in some social circles, but I still think (from anecdotal and cultural references) that most men take an almost complete secondary role in childcare in the early role. By this I mean they rarely look after their children in the early years apart from the odd evening. This is why we still hear the grinding reference to fathers ‘babysitting’ their children. It is a problem with our perceptions of roles and responsibilities as parents and fathers.
I will end this brief blog with the personal hope that my time dropping off and picking up my son from Nursery. To consciously organise his day bag the night before and ensure I am there on time every day for pick up will serve as an experiential process of masculine re-embodiment (as per Connell’s concept). This will mean I learn the caring competencies necessary for a parent to independently look after their child, something I feel all parents can benefit from!