“Daddy why aren’t you at work today?”

I had a peek into the window of the life of my wife today having had the first of many days to come off work to look after the kids whilst she went back into the classroom to teach. It’s an exciting time for her as the kids are now that little bit older, at 18 months and almost 4, so she can have a day for herself and her career and not feel guilty about being more than just Mum.

I chose the word guilty carefully to highlight not only the mother’s guilt they bestow upon themselves for wanting to do something for themselves, but mostly as it is society’s expectation placed on mothers to be the primary carer of the kids until they are old enough to be independent themselves. Whilst her school was stoked to have her back and very accommodating, most workplaces seem befuddled by fathers wanting to share the parenting load and reduce our work hours to spend their own time with the kids.

When a woman announces she is having a baby the workplace, without a second thought, goes about organising the maternity leave and will be accommodating when they intend to return to work with whatever hours they can spare. To be fair, workplaces are legally obliged to coordinate with mothers returning to work, which is great.  However, as the father in this scenario, maternity leave aside, when we ask to cut back out hours for our family we may as well be asking for a million dollar salary in most cases.

At the time of birth, with respect to all the companies I have worked with, the father is entitled to one week of unpaid paternity leave. I had thought this the norm until I started hearing of companies who still pay as per normal for that week, or others that allow 2, 3 or 4 weeks. My Brother in Law was able to take a belated 3 months off when his wife was ready to go back to work. But sadly these are the exception not the rule.

Interestingly, from what I have experienced the stereotypical point of view that the mother sacrifices everything and the fathers work, is not isolated to a male managers. I know of female managers who struggle to grasp this concept just as much. I can’t help but feel that the workplace is falling behind society with fathers wanting to be more hands on in the raising of their kids.

From discussions I have had and also from what I have read there seems to be a common thread of misunderstanding when it comes to fathers asking to change their work hours. It has nothing to do with our work mindset, for me I am very happy and constantly challenged in my job. It doesn’t even really have anything to do with our wives wanting to go back to work, although this is a happy consequence. What we really want is to spend as much time with our kids whilst we can.

At this age they’re completely innocent and naïve, they are constantly learning and they don’t even know it. They are immersively impressionable and miss nothing.  They’re learning that Dad goes to work and is gone all day, whilst Mum stays with us and does everything for us. I can still remember the stage with both my kids that instead of crying when I had to leave that they just said “Bye Bye Daddy” and waved me out the door. Heartbreaking. Sadly, they are learning that this trend of parental inequality with work is just a part of life as it has been for the past century or more. Even though they have no idea about work, it is the routine that they adapt to and accept.

But today was the first of 6 days over the next six weeks (annual leave days) that I had with the kids, doing kinder drop offs, grocery shopping and all the home chores and kids stuff that needs to be done. It was one of the best days of my life. I got to see so much of the things I only hear about. It could be a small thing like Fletch going up to the lady at Bunnings and asking for a stamp, which for him is a big deal. Or seeing how close he and Immy are as they insist on holding each other’s hand as we walk along the foot path to the café for our afternoon hot chocolate.

I can’t help but feel that my time is fixed and that society won’t change quick enough for me to really experience fatherhood beyond evenings and weekends. I can only hope that by doing days like today as often as I can spare annual leave days, or carer’s leave days when they get sick, that by the time Fletch and Immy have kids that it was dads like me that helped to create parental equality in the workplace. After all they are equally ours too!

[Sorry no photo today, sometimes the moments are just to good too capture]

“Hey, I wonder what’s in there?”

Just past Yering Station right before you get into Yarra Glen there is an area we always wanted to investigate. It’s called the Yarra Flats Billabongs, which has been curated back to life after it was almost overrun with noxious weeds and was left to dry up over many years. Now it is full of native plants, some still on the younger side, but it is already a nice little bushland walk area with of course some billabongs scattered throughout.

One of the first things we noticed though was not the bushland or billabongs, but the blocked off section of old bitumen road that wraps around the reserve. We regretted not bringing Fletch’s bike as it would be the perfect practice ground for a ride. Its pretty hard to find a decent spot for him to practice riding thanks to all the hills in our area, so I can see us coming back to this spot a lot over the next couple of years.

At a couple of points you can leave the bitumen road and head onto the walking track that take you into the billabongs, through the native bush and past the open grass areas. One of these seemed to be a viewing platform that I assumed looked out over a large waterhole, but it was full of tall yellowed reeds (pictured), which still captivated the kids. They were certain there were lions and tigers in there. With Immy “Rarring” like the tigers, Fletch thought she might have scared them away, but it was hard to tell “because of the camouflage”. Pretty awesome to stand back as the kids let their imagination expand past the place they’re in, but it couldn’t last as we had to run away because the lions were coming!

There is heaps of open grass areas, which on a nice day would be great for a picnic with room for the kids to run around. Apparently there is a good population of birdlife , frogs and lizards, which could keep the kids occupied more so in the Spring time. However, we did see a massive wombat burrow, which Fletch wanted to crawl in to see if he could spot the wombat. But it was a freezing cold day so we were the only living things silly enough to be out in the elements!

I’m a bit of a sucker for anything historical and can’t resist reading any plaque with a story on it. Amongst the signs and plaques that speak of the billabong and the work that has been done to bring it back to life there is one that tells the story of a battle that took place in the area back in 1840. The battle between the local Wurundjeri people and the city troopers, which [spoiler alert] the Wurundjeri won.

The weather turned super cold so we headed back to the Oaks on Melba for some hot chocolates and scones, to the kids delight. The owners there are great, even giving the kids a free Nutella scone for being so polite. I was super impressed with Fletch wanting to go up to the lady after, which we did and he said “thanks for the scone it was yummy” in his quiet mousey voice. Pretty big deal for our shy lad who is coming out of his shell more and more these days. The other nice surprise is the new kids play area with climbing and balancing equipment that the kids were all over!

I look forward to adventuring back to the billabongs as the season turns for the better.

 

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie

 

The Adventures of Duth

My wife and I have lived in Lilydale for around 8 or 9 years now and although we live on the doorstep of the Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs we rarely ventured out to explore either region until recent years. Pre-kids we were catching up with friends mostly and central meeting point was always around the CBD. Now that we have kids our eyes have been opened to the adventure filled backyard we’ve been living in all along.

When our first came along, little Fletch who is now  almost four years old, we decided to keep our outings close to home rather than risk the long harrowing trip to the city with a baby. Somehow the CBD went from being an accessible 45 minutes to an excruciating hours long trip. As new time parents it hardly seemed worth it when we got there, especially as most of our friends at the time had no kids of their own. So it was time to see what the Yarra Valley and the Dandenongs had to offer.

I have always been an obsessed Instagrammer, my social media outlet of choice, so I decided to create the tag #adventuresofduth so we could follow where we had visited and look back at the kid (now kids) over this time. It is now coming up to four years since the first post, our boy Fletch was only a couple of weeks old and we had to leave our safety net of home to travel to Sorrento for a wedding. Since then our adventures have taken us around various areas of Victoria, but mostly around the Yarra Valley where there is still so much to explore.

At this point I’m not sure what this blog is going to be, it’s likely to be a mix of babble about our little adventures and my experiences of fatherhood, but I hope it can be a place where people can check in to find spots for themselves to visit within Victoria and especially the Yarra Valley and maybe have a giggle along the way about my family life.

At the bones of it the driving factor is more than just sharing the places we visit, the plan is to go into more detail on the Instagram pics I have already taken mixed with those we visit in the future. I have a pretty bad memory so I’m hoping to capture these moments in more than just a pic before I forget even where or when they were taken.

I look forward to looking back over the past number of years  and sharing our ongoing Adventures of Duth.

The best place to follow Josh’s adventures with his family is on his Instagram site @josh.duthie. You can see this post and more Adventures of Duth by clicking the link below.

www.instagram.com/josh.duthie