On waking up each morning, it is common for many folk to thank their maker for allowing them to enjoy another day.
Me? I am usually too busy looking for car keys, buttering toast and agreeing with John Humphrys to be thankful for anything, but that is slowly beginning to change. In the coming weeks, my life, if only for a matter of months, will transform forever and I have one person I will have to thank for my change in fortunes. But rather than getting down on my knees before God, , the focus of my gratitude is an unlikely one, a man more associated with the self destruction of a major political party, step forward Nick Clegg.
It is nearly 12 months since a crestfallen Clegg trudged out of public view after the former deputy Prime Minister and his fellow Liberal Democrats were given the mother of all kickings at the ballot box. He was the man who took his band of blue-sky thinking dreamers into the Promised Land of Government and was surprised when it quickly turned sour.
Politically, he was a dead man walking the moment he tore up his manifesto promise and backed his coalition chum David Cameron’s decision to raise tuition fees. But nowadays I won’t have a bad word said about about Clegg because he is the guy who made it possible for me to spend quality time with my infant son, having been the politician who introduced shared parental leave.
At the beginning of May I will be joining a small band of dads who have taken a giant step for for trainer wearing mankind by opting to look after their tiny children while mum returns to work earlier than she might have done in the past. Last week it was reported that a miniscule proportion of working men had taken up Clegg’s offer to spend more time with the family, with some commentators dismissing the policy as a failed gimmick. Although I am yet to begin my four months at the porridge splattered coalface, I think the criticism is a tad premature and very unfair because most people I talk to about my decision are, at first, surprised before expressing their envy of my opportunity. The last twenty odd years have seen a massive sea change in the role of the father in British society with most dads today not batting an eyelid at doing a night feed or changing a dirty nappy in public, while their own fathers offered their support from the nearest public bar or armchair.
But taking the next step of putting a career on hold to spend one’s days speaking in a very silly voice to a very small person is not something which currently occurs to dads, nor is it financially viable for many families, where the man is still the principal wage earner, but that is slowly changing.
I am shamelessly taking the advantage of having a wife with a successful career and know that this summer promises to be the best one I have had in years. I am also confident that in decades to come, men everywhere will raise a pint to Nick Clegg, the patron saint of stay-at-home dads.