Stay-at-home fathers are not losers and they're not martyrs. They're just ... ordinary. And that's how they'd like to be treated. By Robert Teed
I am a stay-at-home dad. Sorry for such a clumsy expression but I went to the epithet cupboard and it was quite bare. "Househusband"? "Primary carer"? "Super-dad"? I like the last one, yes, but it's hardly a fair description: I am after all just a father doing his share.

So dad is bringing up baby. Big deal, I hope you say. This is 1997, after all; even Nick is Holding The Baby in mainstream sitcom-land, even the Mail sometimes suggests dads can be more than shadowy wage-earners.

At least, that's what you would hope. But apparently it still is a big deal for dads to choose to stay at home. It's the little things that remind me of this - the packaging of Heinz Baby Starter bowls ("Non-slip handles make it easier for Mum to feed me"); my local Mother & Toddler group ("I suppose we really should change the name but we never seem to get round to it"); changing facilities only in the "ladies", looks of surprise and suspicion from mothers in the park. Singly these irritants don't matter, but collectively they start to grate.

Why does society still make an issue out of my status? Why, when I turn up at coffee mornings, am I still seen as either a freak or a saint? It's boring. Talk to me as an equal. After all, dads worry about the same issues as mums - safe parks, dips in the kerbs, good pre-school groups, drugs, sex, pushchair access, chocolate and blackberry stains, drugs, sex, whether non-bio powder really works, drugs, sex, dust mites, Dettox vs Savlon sprays, whatever happened to neighbourliness, whatever happened to drugs, whatever happened to sex. Please, just talk to me normally.

Not much of a revolutionary clarion call, I know ("Fathers of the world unite! We demand ... er, to be treated normally ... er, that's it"). But I think it would make a difference, for the problem is an attitudinal one. Society needs to stop treating us like the exceptions, so that people can stop looking at us as either sad losers who can't get "proper" jobs or martyrs to the cause of female advancement.

If social attitudes could be shifted to regard child-rearing as an important, "proper" job whether undertaken by mothers or fathers (or childminders for that matter, but that's another issue) there might be less macho talk from drunken strangers at parties - not to mention fewer guilt-ridden mums and dads shying away from telling their partners that looking after the kids all day is as tiring as any "real" job in an office.

And if fathers could be brought equally into the equation, that might help to quieten the sickeningly shrill voices calling for that enemy of civilisation - the working mother - to be locked back in her 1950s kitchen.

Perhaps we should network more, establish more formal support groups, instead of staying in our homes watching the kind of daytime television that assumes we're all dead from the Marigolds up.

Or, as I suspect a lot of us do, shoring up our confused identities by tapping out articles on fatherhood while the baby plays ("No, Miranda sweetie, that's sharp").

Don't get me wrong. I love my job and see it as the best in the world. And it's been such a relief to discover that I can do it. Before Miranda was born I would catch myself wondering if I'd be able to cope - there seemed such an infinite number of skills involved, and I think somewhere deep inside me lurked a suspicion that only a mother would be able to succeed properly.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I find myself craving a bit of let-up. Then I recall Kramer scribbling "NO LET-UP" at the end of his long list of "cons" - there were no pros, remember, but that was before he learned how to make French toast.

Miranda has to make do with Marmite soldiers, I'm afraid - but my boiled eggs are to die for.

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