Distributor: Nine Network
Release Date: Sundays, 8:30 PM
has all the hallmarks of a middle-of-the-road Australian drama including slightly larger than life storylines and a cast of the usual suspects.
However the producers may have hit on one anxiety that will keep Sunday audiences switching on: the male fear of parenting.
The Nine Network’s new series centres on the lives of four men with some tenuous work-life connections but primarily united by being responsible for the care of their children. However the reasons for having ankle-biters attached are as varied as Australia’s social landscape.
Gary Sweet plays Lewis, a retired builder who’s been divorced twice already and keen to ensure that this time around he gets to know his children. Rhys Muldoon is Mark, a part-time marketer holding down the fort while his wife’s medical career blossoms. Gyton Grantley is Kane, a gay baker who’s caring for his boyfriend’s niece. And completing this motley crew is Justin, a disgraced footballer played by Firass Dirani, who’s hoping to prove he’s responsible enough to gain joint custody of his children. But do they fairly represent the parenting struggles of the average Aussie male, or is Nine simply trying to cobble together every audience group it can think of?
It should come as no surprise that the ‘traditional’ family unit – housebound mum, working dad and their 2.4 kids – has been dissolving for decades. In May this year the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that male participation in the workforce is also on the slide from 82% in August 1961 to 72% in August 2011. Alongside other factors the ABS pointed to the increased employment of partners as one reason why men find themselves at home. House Husbands certainly reflects that trend, though the series just as readily mirrors the lives of everyday fathers as it does stay-at-home dads.
The expectations we place on fathers have probably changed more than any single employment statistic. As Gary Sweet’s character arrives to take part in a classroom activity he comments:
“There was a time when you dropped your kids off at school and picked them up when they were twelve.”
And if there was a place where fathers were more involved, it was probably a sporting field. Now dads are expected to take a much more hands-on approach to homework, they need to know their child’s dietary requirements, be on deck for nightly reading and lend a hand with an increasing number of after school activities. You say things were tough in your day granddad? At least it stopped when you got home…
One of the most interesting scenes in House Husbands
so far has been has been watching these four dads handle the ‘Parents’ Show & Tell’ exercise – mums and dads coming into a classroom to explain what they do all day. “As if society wasn’t career focused enough!” says Kane, but the real issue is what opinions their kids will form.
Parenting is one of those activities that can often challenge our self-worth because it brings us into contact with families that seem to be doing it so much better. More than once we dads have confessed to each other that we feel like we’re ‘making it up as we go along.’ More than once my own prayers have contained requests that my boys will not remember my performance on that particular day.
hits the nail on the head when it shows just how helpless dads can feel, like Justin on the outside of a bedroom door wondering why his daughter just won’t sleep. The truth is, though, that we don’t tend to make much up. We either do what our dads did for us (sadly even the bits we hated), or we choose a different direction.
This is why I think that Christianity has so much to offer fathers. Parenthood provides a real opportunity for men to find themselves in church. That’s where we’ll meet the Father who shows us what we’re supposed to be like. Do you want to know what discipline looks like? Look to Him. Need an example of generosity without spoiling? He’s there. Most of all, do you need to know the lessons your kids really need to learn? Those begin with Him too. Take on God’s example and you’ll follow the model of a father who Jesus was proud to call his dad.