‘Do you remember Bron’s sister, Jess?’ Reservoir Mum asks, over the sound of running water and ceiling fans and our four raucous boys. ‘The one that lives on a farm in Swan Hill?’
‘Yeah?’ I say. It’s bath time and as I remove Maki’s nappy he pees directly onto my sock.
‘He gotcha!’ RM says. ‘Well, I was talking to her on the phone and she asked if you watch House Husbands and when I said you were reviewing it on your blog she said, “What’s he think of it? Is it like a McLeod’s Daughter’s for farmers?”’
‘What’s that mean?’ I ask, as Tyson finally sits down in the bath. He waits for a nano-second and then says. ‘I need to go to the toilet too, Daddy.’
‘Of course you do,’ I say, as I hand Maki to RM, take Tyson out of the bath and place him on the toilet.
‘I’m finished!’ he says, almost immediately.
‘But you haven’t done anything,’ I say.
‘I’m finished,’ he says again, smiling.
‘Farmers find it hard to watch McLeod’s Daughters,’ RM continues, as I deposit Tyson back in the bath and watch the arc of wee breaking the surface of the water, ‘because it just doesn’t depict what actually happens on farms.’
‘We better wash Maki’s hair quickly,’ I say, ‘before Tyson’s wee gets to his end of the bath.’
There’s only an hour until House Husbands starts. Archie and Lewis are filling up jugs with water and pouring it over themselves in the shower. There’s water all over the floor and my knees are wet. Maki is kicking his legs furiously and squealing as we form a team to wash his hair and Tyson is “helping” by pouring a cup of water directly onto Maki’s face and just as I’m thinking I might actually loose it, Lewis yells out, ‘Dad!’, and I turn to see that he and Archie are doing circle work on the shower screen with their bums, which is just blatantly hilarious.
‘I guess Jess is on to something,’ I say, as RM reaches for a towel to wrap Maki in. ‘Look around us, this is just a five minute snapshot of a day with kids. I know it’s called House Husbands and not Stay At Home Dads but this is the sort of craziness the show needs – a family or two with multiple young kids and all the struggle and joy that brings.’
‘I’m hearing ya,’ she says.
‘I mean, just outside this bathroom and down the hall is a kitchen filled with dishes and crumbs and craft stuff and a pile of clothes to sort, and before that can be tended to there’s hair to wash and nails to cut, a baby to soothe and settle, school readers to read, a toddler who’ll fight against his body’s natural desire to sleep, and…’
After a second of silence RM looks over to see that I’m admiring the way she’s bending over the bath. ‘What are you doing?’ she asks, knowingly.
‘I’m looking at your plumber’s crack,’ I say, making sure to convey my approval by raising my eyebrows twice.
‘There’s got to be a sexier way of saying that,’ she says.
‘Has to be. And that’s another thing House Husbands is missing – the battle to keep the passion alive. Real Mums and Dads negotiating the daily pressures to maintain intimacy and stay focussed on each other. By the way, I’ll be pressuring you for some…’ I say, lowering my voice and trying for a sneaky replacement word for sex, ‘…Ramadan.’
‘That’s a Muslim holiday,’ RM says.
‘Hunakkah?’ I say.
‘That’s a Jewish holiday.’
‘Alright, let’s just keep it familiar – at some stage tonight I’ll be angling for a little bit of Christmas.’
RM laughs before saying, ‘You won’t have to try too hard. I’m feeling good. I might be coming after you later on.’
‘Yeah? Well don’t pressure me too much,’ I say. ‘I’m feeling tired and emotional and there’s a lot to do.’
We’re reclining on the couch watching the final ten minutes of Channel 9s House Husbands and when RM runs her hand over my leg, lewdly, it shakes me from an unexpected reverie. ‘The strangest thing happened,’ I say.
‘Yeah?’ she says, squeezing my knee and biting my neck.
‘I forgot I was reviewing House Husbands and was… just watching it.’
RM sits back and nods. ‘It’s a bit better than last week, isn’t it? Do you like it?’
I’m too shocked to answer her question directly. ‘Some things have worked; a few one liners that have aroused my inner smile, some character development… I’m really warming to Lewis and… I think Lily Jones, the girl who plays Poppy, is cute as hell and a real star. She could be the next Nicole Kidman.*’
I pause as we watch Rhys Muldoon’s character, Mark. He’s drunk and dancing in front of his daughter’s prep class for ‘Parent’s Show And Tell.’
‘Mark reminds me of you,’ RM says.
‘I dance much better than that,’ I say. ‘At first I thought he was a bit of a wus-bag around his unbelievably cold and semi-verbally abusive female boss, but I like the way he’s gone about it this episode. There are no apologies about his dedication to his role and he’s still discussing school pick-ups and talking about the household basics like clothes washing. When he was carrying the washing basket and tripped over the laptop cord I actually gasped, RM. I gasped. Because that’s the kind of shit that happens.’
‘I like it when you gasp,’ RM says, clawing at me now, like a tiger.
‘We’ve also been given some insight into the relationships. Mark and Abi are good fun… I can relate to the way they interact. Lewis and Gemma are a little more cautious and measured – their humorous back and forth seems to be diffusing some real tension in how they’re adjusting to Lewis’s new role as a House Husband – but it’s clear they really care for each other, and I like that.’
I’m feeling a strange mixture of enthusiasm and sadness as we watch Firass Dirani’s character, Justin, take his turn for ‘Parents’ Show and Tell’. ‘I’m a Dad,’ he says, and when it cuts to the smiling faces of his twin boys, RM stops unzipping my pants provocatively and says, ‘Are you crying?’
‘I’m very tired,’ I say, clearing my throat. ‘Don’t worry, I’ll recover once Justin punches his wife’s new partner right in the face.’
‘How do you know that happens?’
‘Saw it on the preview.’
‘I thought you were against the portrayal of men as violent animals.’
‘I am,’ I say. ‘But the writers of House Husbands have made it okay by naming the guy Rodney. It’s a shit annoying name. When the violence occurs I won’t see an actual person being hit, I’ll see the name Rodney copping the treatment it deserves.’**
‘You’re crazy,’ she says.
‘My biggest disappointment so far is that there is just not enough House Husbandry. Life is too cruisy and easy. There will be too many Australian men saying, I’d love to be a house husband and hang out with my mates all day. I mean, after they drop the kids off at school they’re not really House Husbands at all. You’ve got Lewis the retired guy, Mark the corporate guy, Kane the pie making guy and Justin the ex-footballer and they’ve got so much time on their hands, and obviously aren’t getting up to kids during the night or dealing with mountains of housework, that they can hang out all day chasing rabbits and playing darts and catching up every night for a game of poker.’
‘Yep,’ RM says. ‘I don’t think we’ll see any of these Dads being piddled on by a baby.’
‘No. And baby wee is exactly the sort of thing the show needs to prevent it from becoming a McLeod’s Daughters for farmers,’ I say. ‘Well, I guess I better go write this review.’
‘Not just yet, House Husband,’ she says, as the name Rodney cops it square in the nose. ‘Dry your eyes. It’s time for some Ramadam.’
‘Maybe just a little bit of Christmas.’
*We are related to the girl who plays Poppy but everything I said about her is true.
**Apologies to anyone named Rodney who does not accept that their name is annoying and shit.
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