A completely average Wednesday morning, around 9:30AM. Rushing around my local Sainsbury’s with little L screaming, juggling piles of grocery shopping on the pushchair. Queuing at one of the few tills that hasn’t been turned into a ‘self-checkout’, I dare to look up and count annoyed co-shopper’s looks against encouraging fellow mummy-smiles.
Result: one cashier who looks like wanting to kill me, a drunken dosser who just about manages a smile, two annoyed grannies disapproving my parenting abilities, four silently smiling mums and six dads. SIX DADS? Now, what is going on here?
It’s too early for summer term break, so why are they shopping at Sainsbury’s at mummy time? This being the UK and not Sweden, paternity leave can be ruled out in the majority of cases. So who are these smug looking, corduroy-clad guys with the three-day stubble?
A recent article in Grazia magazine named them SUGs, i.e. smug, unemployed guys. And with men being hit harder than women by the current recession, the yummy mummies are in for some new teammates. The rise of the yummy daddy is nothing new as such. There have always been and always will be couples that decide to share the childcare between them or to reverse the traditional roles. And some of the male carers copied, imitated and even perfectionated the art of yummieness: carrying little Sunshine-Lou in her fair-traded organic cotton wool sling to and from yoga classes, chai tea latte in one hand, iPhone in the other hand.
What’s new is that this particular spawn of daddies doesn’t only have time to spend with their children; they also have quite a bit of money to spend. Being laid off by one of the bigger companies often goes hand in hand with taking an interesting amount of money home. But in contrast to the average mummy that works hard to leave the house before 2PM, preferably fully dressed and combed, this kind of yummy daddy is all about looking sophisticatedly neglected. A creased shirt (Etro), a pair of distressed jeans (Replay), designer shades and a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ (model’s own), et voila: you’ve got the look! Their approach is more laissez-faire than Gina Ford, and they – unwillingly or not – mock the efforts the army of stay-at-home parents make every day.
Where so many mummies struggle to leave the house in clean clothes, preferably without the missing breast pad sticking to the bottom of their jeans, it just isn’t fair that these men make no attempt whatsoever to keep up their appearance and a certain countenance. They turn all the effort made by their mostly female counterparts into a joke. Their look screams ‘I can afford being messy’ and reminds me on the grunge trend in the 90’s, when spoilt middle class teenagers thought wearing worn out clothes would manifest their being bored with society. And instead of thinking about which home cooked meal to fill their family’s bellies with in the evening, they reportedly fill their own with beer in the afternoon, leaping the laundry pile on their way in.
In this case, emancipation again means that men have discovered the upsides, i.e. afternoons at Starbucks, of a former female dominated domain, without picking up the downsides, i.e. the dirty socks. Let’s see who is looking smug when the paycation is over.