Motherhood hasn’t come naturally to Daisy Leverington. Three-and-a-bit years in and she remains wide-eyed, terrified and in awe of the little person she’s responsible for. This week she’s pulling focus on fatherhood.
A man enters.
Toddler: “DADDYDADDYDADDYDADDYHIDADDYIGOTANEWBOOKANDIWILLREADITTOYOURIGHT NOWANDTHENWEWILLBEHORSES!!!!”
Man: “Well hello, ladies, who wants some of……THESE?!” The man produces a bag of chocolate eggs from behind his back. The mother turns a peculiar shade of red; imagine burnt orange with a hint of fuchsia, like a discontinued feature wall colour from a DIY shop.
Mother (quivering): “She’s just brushed her teeth.”
Man: “That’s okay, we can splash out on a ‘Daddy’s-late-home-from-work-night’, can’t we?”
The toddler has climbed the father and is perched on his shoulders like a fizzy gargoyle; noises and saliva hiss from its mouth. The Mother leaves stage right. A door slams. No one notices.
This is the opening scene to my Olivier Award-winning play How to Maintain a Relationship AND Have Kids. It’s currently in rehearsal in millions of households across the UK.
“The pressure of a newborn, him being two hours away and a hefty dose of postnatal depression left us unable to work on being ‘us’. We drifted apart and stayed that way for a long time, like resentful ships in the night.”
Now, I don’t wish to paint my husband in a disparaging light; he’s an awesome dad.
He is a fight director, teaching actors how to punch each other and swordfight without severing major arteries. He’s a doctor, (a doctor of swordfighting!) so I thought I’d picked the right person to impregnate me and pass on his intelligence, which hopefully balances out my inability to remember my kid’s name.
He’s also the person I want to dropkick most often, even more than the child.
We had a fairly carefree lifestyle before he knocked me up, so the change wasn’t just the usual ‘bit of time off work and more nights in’ that most folk have. We moved 200 miles, both changed jobs and had a kid all in the space of a year.
When our daughter was born, he had just started a job almost two hours’ drive away, which meant I spent the vast majority of the time on my own. Sod the fact he was frantically trying to put food on the table, I wanted him home to help me.
The pressure of a newborn, him being two hours away and a hefty dose of postnatal depression left us unable to work on being ‘us’. We drifted apart and stayed that way for a long time, like resentful ships in the night.
Our kid ADORES him, so even after a 14-hour day of horrific playgroups and singing and naps and tears and feeding and gritting my teeth at all the stuff that babies need, she would squeal with delight at his return, usually five minutes before bedtime.
Being away so much meant he often brought a treat home, so in her eyes, this man was an absolute god. She was a horror for me and an angel for him. And that pissed me right off.
A couple of years and job losses later and it’s me who is working long hours and him who is at home with her, and the schadenfreude I feel at his tired face at the end of a day is horrifically wonderful.
“OH HAS SHE?” I reply, twirling around the house like an idiot, having had what feels like a paid holiday by going to work.
After deciding to develop a small theatre company together and give ourselves more job flexibility, we’ve found that working together has brought us and our plans back into focus, rather than drive us insane.
“Being away so much meant he often brought a treat home, so in her eyes, this man was an absolute god. She was a horror for me and an angel for him. And that pissed me right off.”
Having our kid along for the ride has made it a lot more fun, even if she is a tiny attention vampire. She has taken part in most of our shows, we’ve made her teeny versions of our costumes and tested props on her in case they injure other kids during a performance (safety first).
She’s our crash test kid, our successful human prototype, and I’m amazed and proud of both her and my husband’s ability to adapt to all the shite and grief life has thrown in our way over the last few years. They are my A-Team. But if he ever brings her sweets at bedtime again, I’ll bury him.
Daisy Leverington - Actor, mother, expert at winging it.