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You've heard of have-it-all mums, well I'm a have-it-all dad.In the evenings I work, but for most of the day I'm at home being a dad and, you might even say, house husband. When we first found out we were expecting Jack, the first thing I did was ask my boss if I could carry on working evenings. The plan was that I'd be at home with the baby and my wife Sara could go back to work full time. It's saved us a fortune in childcare, and cost me a lifetime in sleep!Every parent will be familiar with the travails of those early months, the sleepless nights, the 3am feeds (I used to watch Steve Irwin programmes in those other-worldy early hours), the terrible anguish of teething, the regular trips to the doctors every time the baby did so much as sneeze.But for me, the real hard work started when Sara's maternity leave ended. I soon began to appreciate how hard Sara's day to day routine had been while I was in the office. In those early months after Jack and I were left to fend for ourselves in the daytime, I didn't start my shift until 3pm, and by the time I got into the office I already felt like I'd done a days work, what with nappy changes, chores and children's TV.But I also felt, and still do feel, every day, incredibly lucky. Lucky that I had a job, as a journalist at the Daily Post in North Wales, which I could start so late in the afternoon, having already spent the best part of a day with my little boy. Lucky that I didn't have to be out of the house at 8am, not to return until teatime, only getting to spend quality time with Jack at the weekends. I could take him out in the pushchair, to the park when he got a bit older, out for lunch with my mum, all before starting my shift sub-editing sport stories.Of course there have been downsides. My wife and I hardly saw each other, at times it felt like we were sharing the duties of being a single parent. We've constantly had to remind ourselves that Jack was getting the benefit of the two of us being like ships in the night, the little guy almost always having one DAD about the HOUSEJuggling the pressures of a job with the demands of childcare. Dad Gareth Bicknell reveals why he thinks he's got the best of both worlds. NETWORK HeGareth with wife Sara, son Jack and latest edition Leo84Network She I Autumn/Winter 2012

www.networkshe.com85of mine when women assume that a dad with a baby must be just giving his wife or partner a break before returning the child to, phew, the safety of his mother's bosom.Anyway, rant over. So, where are we up to? At the time of writing, Jack is three and almost a quarter, and ready to start part-time school in September. He is obsessed with cars, an interest engendered when my old banger fell to bits and he came with me around all the second hand car lots looking for a replacement. Sara is now at home because, by the time you read this, we'll have another baby. So it's back to the nappies, sleepless nights and teething. I wouldn't have it any other way. Are you a stay at home dad? Let us know your views and tweet us at @networksheAt a second birthday party we went to, one of the boys from the playgroup called me "Daddy" from across the other side of the room, he'd obviously heard Jack calling me that and assumed it was my name! Cue awkward laughter from both sets of parents!And of course, being the only dad at playgroup, I found myself cast in the role of handyman. Almost every week I had to fix the gate that stopped the toddlers from running out into the street, if it wasn't that it was getting the door to the playhouse back on its hinges after one of the toddlers had been a little over enthusiastic.The role of dads has undoubtedly changed over the generations, with more women going back to work after having children. Workplace cultures becoming more understanding of family priorities, and employers allowing more flexibility.But I believe a patronising view of fatherhood persists in some sections of society, with dads expected to be amusingly and endearingly incompetent until the time comes to teach a child to play football, rugby or cricket. I've seen TV documentaries about childbirth portraying dads as useless buffoons who you wouldn't trust to look after a hamster, let alone a child.I had to bite my lip when I encountered an example of this on a day out with Jack one time. I was queuing in the bank with Jack in his pushchair, when I stepped up to her desk the cashier asked me "are you babysitting today?" I mean, babysitting, really! Do you babysit your own child? It was well-meant enough, but it's a pet hate of his parents with him, even if he rarely saw both of us in the same room together.And then there was the lack of sleep. After a late night at work (and there have been many) I look forward to relaxing in front of late night telly before snatching a few precious hours shut-eye then peeling myself off the mattress to do the day to day routine all over again. In the tea v coffee debate I used to be firmly in the tea camp. But now I drink tea only when I want to relax, using coffee as a stimulant to keep me going through the day. Like Margaret Thatcher (although I hope the similarities are few) I've managed to train myself to survive on about five hours sleep per night, as long as I get a lie-in at the weekend.I wonder, if I'd had to do a 9-5 job like so many dads, would I have the same bond with my boy that I have had since before Jack could even walkBut I wonder, if I'd had to do a 9-5 job like so many dads, would I have the same bond with my boy that I have had since before Jack could even walk. Maybe I would have, there's no way of knowing. But we're like best mates and have been for as long as I can remember.We've been to everything together, swimming, toddler sessions at the library, music classes, playgroup. I was frequently the only man in the playgroup I took Jack to in order to help him socialise with other children. I was often uncomfortable making small talk with the chattering mums, so I played with Jack instead, becoming like one of the kids. NETWORK HeReady, steady, mow. Gareth with son Jack