– Wha’d’ya mean Ewelina’s (Ev-e-leen-a) is goin’ to work and you’re gunna stay home and look after the kids?
– I dunno mate… What part didn’t you understand exactly?
– What, what what? So Ewelina will go to work fulltime and you’ll just be staying at home with the kids during the day?
– Eh……..pause………eh……………..longer pause……………………eh………… Very long pause……………………………Well there ya go.
What else is going on over there?
These aren’t awkward pauses. They are pauses just to take everything in. Many people when listening to myself and my old man speak on the phone are in wonder as to the fact that we are actually ‘on the phone’ together. Pauses for 15/20 seconds are not uncommon. 30 seconds is definitely not unheard of either, one time I counted 50 seconds. But there definitely was a tone of confusion, disappointment and bewilderment.
His son who had been a professional rugby player for 10 years was now a….. Stay at home dad! Oh no, what the hell was he going to tell people back home in Dubbo?
A lot of pro rugby players would probably be too embarrassed to consider the idea of becoming a stay at home dad, especially as their first job after the end of their career. Me? I couldn’t give a fuck.
There was probably not going to be a more disapproving or patronizing person than the old man, and it didn’t bother me telling him. It was understandably probably just hard for him to fathom. This is a man who had been a drover, head stockman, bronco rider, truck driver, amongst many other roles. None of which involved sitting at a desk, wearing a tie and definitely not being a stay at home dad.
I knew after the follow up appointment with the specialist that that was all she wrote. The knee was no good. He said it was a lot worse than the scans initially showed once he opened it up. I was thinking to myself what exactly is he trying to say? Think Tommy’s reaction in Snatch when Turkish is describing to him the fate of the rabbit in coursing. “Proper F*****?”
If I was a football player in the Premiere League who would get an insurance pay out, at my age, he advised all of them to take it. I definitely wasn’t and there was definitely not going to be a pay out. He informed me that I had to consider that I wasn’t playing football, that I was playing rugby, and it’s not like in my position I was sitting on the wing doing sweet FA. The position I found myself in when this most likely occurred I could find myself in again up to 20 times a game. I could tell he didn’t want to use the R word, but he had a considerate way of going around it and implying it without actually saying it. Maybe he had found himself in this situation a few times before and hadn’t had good experiences or memories.
I had a few weeks to think about it before I told the Mrs exactly what I was thinking was going to be the next step. When asked about the appointment I simply replied that he said it wasn’t as good as first thought and would take longer than expected. A somewhat open response.
I had decided I was going to pursue coaching courses and follow that path. I had already enrolled in a lot anyway whilst laid up on the bed recovering from surgery and aiming to make the most of a shit situation.
Ewelina and I sat down and talked about what our new plan would be. I informed my manager/agent of what I wanted to do and to start putting the feelers out and chasing up opportunities. Ewelina and I discussed what we would do once the contract was up, should no opportunity have eventuated. A plan B. I always had a plan B these days, even a plan C and D.
She had always said that when the time should come for me to hang up the boots she would be more than willing to go back to work and let me stay at home to look after the kids whilst I found my feet and worked out what I wanted to do. As we had decided we were going to stay where we were and that this was definitely going to be temporary, I wasn’t necessarily looking for or considering what it was I wanted to do.
By the time it came around to it, she was almost insisting that I would be the one to stay home with the kids. She had always said to me about how I had no idea how tough it was looking after the 2 kids all day, I had never really given her much sympathy, I’m simply not a very sympathetic man. That’s not to say I don’t have sympathy, it’s just hard for me to give it unless I truly believe it’s a worthy cause. I was willing to put myself in her shoes, I mean this was only going to be for a few months, we had absolutely no intention of staying here for longer than, say a year.
What also worked in her favour was that her CV had a lot more real world experience than mine over the past 11 years. Mine had included footy player (footy, footy, footy!!!), Garbo (rubbish collector) and barman. I wish I could say she was off to join a law firm or something and bring in some real dough and that’s why we did it, but nope, she was again looking for a somewhat temporary role with no intention of being there long term. Even though she has a Masters it was more than likely that she’d simply be picking up a minimum wage job just to bring in some money to cover costs for food, rent and bills for the moment. She got a good admin role within half an hours walk from home.
These days, my days consist of walking to the playground, either outdoor or at the local shopping centre depending on weather, going down to the local markets to buy meat and groceries as well as cooking dinner, bathing the kids, washing clothes, making milk bottles and changing way too many nappies. I’ve got myself into a pretty good little routine actually.
Fridays are probably the toughest, after Ewelina’s finishes work at 5:30 she meets me out the front of my new job. In a bar. She’s usually there at 5:55 and I start at 6. Although I think it might be 6:30 this weekend. I now find myself picking up glasses, sweeping up smashed glasses, pouring beers and making cocktails such as ‘Jelly Baby’, ‘Porn star Martini’ and ‘Raspberry Woo Woo’. Last Friday saw me finish up there after 2, which does make for a solid day. Saturday last weekend was a 4-4 effort. Sunday’s I’m bloody exhausted, but you simply aren’t going to cover living costs on 1 minimum wage over here. In saying that, no one has forced into this situation, I chose it, so don’t think I’m looking for sympathy.
I’m a big believer in finding a win in life no matter how bad the situation, no matter how bad! Did it last year where I found myself once again in the wilderness without a contract, so we decided to move to Poland and go and live with Ewelina’s parents in their 2 bedroom apartment. It was an unbelievable experience to live in the apartment she had grown up in and experience the real Poland, not simply Warsawa (Var-shar-va) or Krakow (Kra-koov) like most people’s experience of Poland. It was an opportunity that I realised would be highly unlikely to present itself again and it was very rewarding, our little girl was even born over there.
That’s why I was so excited to be the stay at home parent. This will probably be the only time that we’ll be in a position where this makes sense. Don’t get me wrong I’m all for equality, yet women were created with the ability to give birth to children and produce breast milk and I have no idea why we were created this way… But this will play a part in our future roles should we have more children.
For the moment it’s just about enjoying this precious opportunity I have to spend some great quality time with my kids that most fathers won’t get to have. I think Ewelina has found it tougher than she expected, not the work as such, but the reduced quality time with the kids. She leaves around 8:15/20 and doesn’t get home ‘til 6. Mornings are a bit rushed as she getting ready for work doing the usual thing women do and by the time she gets home our little girl only has an hour left before she goes to bed. But she appreciates that I’ve taken on the challenge, she wouldn’t have allowed it if she didn’t think I was capable, and I do think she is enjoying the mental break from it.
The mental challenge is probably the toughest part of this. The injury and the fact that the career is over hasn’t affected me greatly…… As yet. Maybe it simply hasn’t hit me, which definitely could be a possibility, I’m quite mindful that this could realistically be an issue that once I settle down and get into the real world it’ll finally blind side me. I do happen to get told pretty often, especially over here in the England, that I’m pretty laid back, ridiculously laid back for the situations I find myself in. One mate even referred to me as ‘laid back Larry’. Maybe it’s my perspective on life. You can only change the things you can change, plain and simple, so you might as well get over it and get on with it if it’s out of your control.
Mentally challenging at the moment means you have to tell your boy off for the 20th time in the last 5 mins to not body slam his sister whilst you are preparing them lunch as they were both screaming in hungover 5 minutes ago as you had spent too much time at the playground. That starts to wear thin real quick and get to you. Especially when it’s a regular occurrence, like several times a day. But seeing them play together in peace is something special. My little man was crying the other day after falling off the coffee table, Ori crawled over to him, took the dummy out of her mouth and put it in his and patted his head. She’s 10.5 months. Seeing moments like that is what makes the decision to be a stay at home dad the right one and so worthwhile.
Anyway this has been my third attempt at finishing this and got to go again now, one of the monsters, I mean kids, is waking up and calling out for ‘Daddy’….