My first step into the world of stay-at-home dad involved joining my local playgroup. We arrived at the local community centre; my three year old boy went straight outside and immediately started work in the sandpit building a sand castle. I looked around and all I could see was mums: I imagined I was Fabien the lion king and all the playgroup mums were my pride of lionesses.
I then noticed a few other lion dads around the playgroup yard each in their own territory avoiding each other just like in the wild. If two lions were to meet they would have to fight to the death or until one was banished from the pride to the wasteland and at playgroup us lion dads call that wasteland the craft table. The craft table is SHIT!!!!! It is a bunch of stuff on a table with the purpose of giving your child a fun activity to do but what it really consists of is a bunch of fiddly crap that your child will cover themselves in or eat while you, the parent, do the activity.
So, I look around sizing up the lion dads preparing to defend my sand castle kingdom! There are a couple of varieties of the lion dad. You have the sporty dad trying to force his four year old boy to let go of the pram and dolly to play catch with him; the multiple daughters dad with his handle bar moustache acting like a warning signal to boys to stay away from his daughters; and you have the ladies dad – a well-built tradie type who can’t stop telling any mum that will listen that he has brought his little one to playgroup to give his wife a rest; every word he says eaten up by the ever increasing pride of lionesses surrounding him.
Then I realise the playgroup mums are not a pride of lionesses looking to serve their lion king but are a matriarch elephant like society ruled by a queen. The elephant queen; we will call her Linda, has more the look of a giraffe. She is tall and slim and walks with the confidence of a leader; she was probably school captain and would have married the local footy star. Her underlings: a group of mums who appear to be miniature less attractive versions of her all wearing slightly different light coloured immaculate tracksuits, as if that is the uniform of Linda’s royal guard, follow her on rounds of her playgroup kingdom. The group all clutching Macca’s cappuccinos would have been part of the popular group in school and appear to be on the top tier of playgroup pyramid of mums.
The second tier or middle-shelf mums have the appearance of a group of peacocks parading their colours for all too see. The group is made up of single mums looking to attract a mate and lonely housewives wanting attention. They strut from play area to play area like a suicidal herd of gazelles hoping to be preyed upon by the lion dads. Their over-the-top outfits are like the colours of the poison arrow frog to warn an unsuspecting lion dad that they may be easy on the eyes but contact is poisonous, either way they are far too overdressed for the sandpit!!
The third group of mums are my favourite. Their sloppy appearance tells me they are secure in who they are, their nonmatching dark coloured tracksuits gives out the vibe of if stuff gets messy they can handle it!! They could not care less about the power struggle between the elephants or being preyed upon by the lion dads. They sit in the sandpit covered in sand with the confidence of a herd of hippopotamus. They know that size matters and like an under the radar crocodile in the Nile River I play amongst them. When it comes to playgroup fun, I am one with the ugly mums.