The problem with my policy of doing fatherhood, rather than being a father. was that it forced me into direct competition with Jo’s terrifying, unflagging industry. To this day, she strides through the door at around 6.30, kicks off her shoes, drops her smart jacket on the floor, gathers up a child, and whisks them off to talk through their troubles, while she puts a wash on.
She’ll also be working on her phone, in snatches, between supervising piano practice, checking homework, arbitrating in sibling disputes. She’s checking and sending emails, talking to colleagues, researching government policy, writing memos… I’m always walking in on the tail end of conversations that go, “To be honest, John, if the government white paper proposes half the measures they’ve been threatening, we’ll have to rewrite the whole capital bid…” She uses the language with ease, now. She says, “If you could get Catherine to action this…” and “The steer from the Home Office is…” I once heard her say, of a presentation, “I think you should tee off…” “TEE OFF”!? Jo’s never played a game of golf in her life!
As she does this, she’ll be striding around the kitchen, her phone held uncomfortably between cocked head and raised shoulder, emptying the dish-washer or cleaning the surfaces.
It’s not all hot air, either. Jo and her people devise and implement multi-part strategies, managing and co-ordinating any number of people, to respond to complex and varied problems and thus measurably better the lives, and future prospects, of large sections of society. They are highly effective, and, for all its business speak, their language is also meaningful and effective. It gets things done.
I, on the other hand, am a lazy fucking arsehole. I’ll have been in all day and still not have got the bloody wash on, because I’d been “trying to write” (sitting on my fat arse). If I was following my instincts, I’d lounge around all day in my jim-jams. When people came home from work demanding their tea, I’d say “get it your damn self!” But then, I’m a worthless prick.
Nowadays I know not to try to compete with Jo. I just haunt the background “being” a father. A morose and selfish one, like some inanimate object with “father” properties. If people don’t like it, fuck ‘em. I tried to be useful and it went horribly, horribly wrong, didn’t it?