Sunday Mail Column: Smart Thinking
It was the last thing I expected to find. Two nights before Christmas in a backyard in the suburbs amidst the noise and fairy lights and is-that-Jim-dressed-as-an-elf? mayhem of a friend’s party I found a little bit of inspiration. I found a real live role model.
Brissie bloke Tony Smart is best known for his popular Smartmen range of men’s skincare. You know, moisturisers and shaving gels – that kind of thing. But it’s Tony’s other role that got us chatting.
You see Tony is a stay-at-home dad to three boys. His wife is Robin Bailey – host of 97.3FM’s Breakfast show. So Robin does the full time work gig and Tony juggles stay-at-home parenting duties and the demands of his own business. Gee, sounds familiar.
So Tony tells me what its been like being Mr Mum for the past ten years. There’s been the fish-out-of-water nature of it. The big burly bloke trying to navigate his way through mothers’ groups and playdate protocol. The challenge of making school lunches and organising play dates for your toddler without looking like you’re trying to hit on the mothers’ group mums.
But the bit that really grabbed me was the mini- revolution Tony has started. Tony Smart is doing what many thought was impossible. He’s getting dads into that traditionally female domain: the school tuckshop. Suddenly dads are buttering pikelets and handing out fruit salad at his kids’ primary school.
It started innocently enough. Tony decided he wanted to have a go at tuckshop duty. (Well, his boys wanted him to do it since it automatically means they get ice-blocks at lunch.)
“As it turned out I was the first dad anyone could remember volunteering in the tuckshop … I’m sure they gave me the simple tasks first up to see how I coped!”
That one experience planted the seed. When the tuckshop convener bemoaned how hard it was to find new volunteers, Tony suggested a “Dad’s Day”. The event took on a life of its own.
The Principal started promoting “Dad’s Day” on Assembly. The event was advertised in the school newsletter. Teachers pledged to buy their lunches from the dads on the big day. And suddenly security guards, financial planners and advertising managers were signing up to cut sandwiches, sell poppers and be a part of their kids’ school for – in some cases – the first time.
“I think it was the first time ‘disc brakes and footy finals’ were mentioned while preparing ham and cheese sandwiches! But we managed to do the second biggest money take thanks to all the hype. But the highlight was the beaming smiles from our kids as they bought their friends up to the counter to meet the tuckshop dads. ”
(And, not to waste an opportunity, Tony picked the fathers’ brains for more ideas for his Smartmen range!)
Too often we go role model hunting in the wrong places. Like Hollywood. Or Suncorp Stadium. Sometimes the best role models are just next door – starting mini-revolutions in the suburbs.
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Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.