There are several golden rules of parenthood, but the most important one is that only the man is allowed to be ill. If I have a mild virus I think nothing of retiring to bed for three days, during which time I'll suffer from intimations of mortality and become emotional when I hear birdsong (Goodbye dear world). If you're a mother, you could have terminal cancer and still be expected to do the school run up until the last minute.
I was tempted to remind my wife of this rule two days ago when she limped home from school after sustaining a leg injury on a tree stump. When she revealed that it took place in a school playground, I told her that she was too old to do things like that and it was probably only a bruise, so here were some Ibruprofen tablets. The following morning she limped back to school (with a pushchair) and horrified the other mothers, who insisted that she should go to the local hospital. She did and was met by a nurse who told her that she needed at least two days in bed otherwise the wound could clot and gangrene could set in. Gangrene!
My wife phoned me at work, mentioned the G word. I rushed home, naturally. Since then I have been looking after my sons whilst my wife lies upstairs like the invalid woman in Secret Army (later parodied in 'Allo 'Allo) barking orders from above.
I have tried to be a new man like the father in the Athena poster, but have failed miserably. Although I am no stranger to cooking, changing nappies, bathing and 'creative play', I am totally useless at coping with the sheer unmitigated boredom of being with a small child all day. My youngest son is 16 months old and seems determined to die. Every minute he is either climbing something, trying to touch a hot oven, eating unsuitable objects or pulling the lid of the piano down on his fingers.
If I had to do this every day I would probably become an alcoholic - I have certainly never craved alcohol as early in the day as today, when I opened a bottle of wine at teatime. Meanwhile my wife has had a wonderful time lying in bed, reading a book for the first time in ages. Good for her (but I hope she gets better soon).
I spend a lot of time with my sons, but it's always for a few hours at a time. I have been spared the relentless tedium of having to care for a child from morning until night, dressing, feeding, bathing, playing and nursing them. It's not all grim. He is a very sweet child with a great sense of fun, but I rarely feel equal to the task and struggle through the day. I am not the Athena man.
As for the Athena poster, I've read that the man who conceived it died of AIDS. The photographer made so much money that he went off the edge and became a drug addict whilst the male model claims to have slept with over 3000 women. The baby received a paltry £32 for his efforts and is now a very normal teenager in Cyprus.