A Dads View.
This blog isn’t completely written by me. I thought it was important to get a Dad’s perspective of life with a baby and then children. How it impacts them and the expectations that are put on them either by society or by their partner or relatives. This doesn’t mean it’s going to be every Dad’s story at all, but this is my husbands.
So, when Jo asked me to write something for her blog about being a dad, my first thoughts where “What? I don’t have time to be writing a blog, I’m too busy, too tired and any moment of downtime I might get, I need to maximise it, not spend it writing a blog…” So, there it is. Welcome to being a dad. I’ve been a dad now for 12 years and have four amazing kids which bring me so much happiness. But, as a result, I am busier than I ever thought I could be pre-kids. I’m often tired and feel like I don’t get any ‘me’ time, but would I change it? Not if it meant I had to give up my incredible kids and getting to be part of an amazing family. And getting to see Jo being such a great Mum to our four kids while also putting herself out there to use her training and experience to help other mums to be able to enjoy their journeys of motherhood.
Great things take effort. Whether its building a family, building a career or building a hobby car in the garage. But the pride and satisfaction you get when you see it coming together, is priceless. I guess that’s why it’s so important that you make sure you stop to smell the roses along the way. To not appreciate the small moments of seeing your kid’s drawings, listening to the poem they’ve just written or watching them play sports, is to miss out on the reason why we put so much time and energy into our families in the first place.
For me, during the week I’m usually the one who spends the day out working and only gets to see our kids for a short time in the morning and before bed, when I get home. Depending on how their day has been can be the difference between that being a great moment when four kids run up and group hug me, or a rather stressful one where they’re all upset, shouting and I have to jump straight into ‘supporting mum mode’ to help get the family through what has been a long day for them all. I don’t get to choose so while I often find myself feeling like I don’t get much say in what happens during the week, that comes with the responsibility of performing my role in the team. I have employees at work, but when I step through the door of the family home I very much appreciate that the ‘other boss’ has spent her day managing the kids and the household. In order to maintain peace, I fall into line along with everyone else. I know my role in the team is a supporting one. Knowing when to take the lead ‘Honey, I’ll make dinner tonight’ and when to stay the heck the back, comes with experience… But appreciating that we’re all a team and what your role in the team is, helps give that perspective of how best to contribute.
In the early days, the idea of being a dad was awesome. However, it really scared me the concept of being responsible for a tiny human. Before I met Jo, I had never even held a baby. I remember going to see Jo at her job. Jo passed me the baby she was looking after, not realising I’d never held a baby. Jo laughed saying “she’s not a rugby ball”. That’s when I knew Jo was a keeper, subconsciously I knew my future kids would be in safe hands! A few years later, when we did have our first child I had so much faith in Jo I came up with the ideal solution. I would be in charge of cars and computers, Jo would be in charge of babies. This worked great to get through those early days as I could comfortably resign myself to being the best helper ever, without the need to feel that I had to be in control of everything that was happening. I could focus on getting the basics right, and then try to find the little ways of making life easier for Jo when I could. A cup of tea. Take baby for a long walk in the buggy so Jo could get an hour’s sleep/rest. Taking turns getting up in the night. Over a period of months I would find that the little things would eventually add up while I could never do enough, Jo tells me that she did appreciate the things I could do. Eventually though, over several years and several babies, I got more confident with little kids and once, even told Jo how best to wind our youngest… that only happened once…
These days, I occasionally find myself indulging in memories. Like the other day for example, my 9 year old daughter showed me her favourite music video and while watching it together, I found myself watching her, watching the video, thinking about how amazing she was and compared her to when she was two years old - At that time she was covered head to toe in bandages with full body eczema, in pain every night as she scratched at her sores, wondering if it would’ve ever pass… Our now 5-year-old didn’t sleep for the first two years due to sleep apnoea. It turned out she had enlarged adenoids. Once removed, she started sleeping almost overnight and suddenly we rediscovered what a full night’s sleep was, and how that suddenly changed our lives. Now she’s a princess who (and knows it!!) can melt your heart with a glance… Our one boy, well he was a dream baby. The angel that every parent dreams of. Until he turned 4 and got a little sister – now he’s – well, he’s a typical boy. Gets his attention by doing what boys do best; jumping on furniture and winding up his sisters… As for our eldest, she also came with her own challenges, different, like every child. We lived and we learned with each of them. Every challenge which we thought at the time was insurmountable, we survived. We came out the other side of babies and now we have the teenage years to navigate. A whole set of different challenges. But with everything that’s difficult, we get the happiness that comes with having a full house, knowing that the tears of laughter and life are all worth it.
I’ve never really been asked advice on kids before. We all know that Jo is the one I defer to. But, if I could give advice to new dads, what would it be:
1) Best supporting actor is what to aim for.
2) There are so many right ways to do it. Don’t get hung up on one, let the mother of your child be aware of your suggestion, but let them pick the one that works best for mother and child.
3) You’ll be amazed at how the human body can still function after weeks and months of disturbed sleep. So, don’t let it stop you from being on that journey with mother and child. Take your turn getting up to bubs, it’s worth it in the long run.
4) Babies don’t cost money, parents do. Don’t get dragged into the belief that you have to have the best of everything. If you have the money, great, enjoy it. But babies get brought up on all budgets. Get the basics right with feeding, bedding, sleepwear and air quality/temperature, but don’t get caught up in the fashion race – it can pinch!
5) It’s true when all the oldies you know tell you to enjoy it, as they’re not little for long. In a couple of years’ time, they will have different qualities to enjoy, so enjoy them while they are tiny too. We were told early on not to let babies sleep on you, they should always be in their beds. Well, as a dad who works 40+ hours a week, we don’t get the same bonding opportunities that mums do day in and day out. I say let them sleep on you when it feels right as that is special time for you to bond with your babies. Look down on their tiny sleeping bodies and smile, thankful for what you’ve got, what you helped make and the new beginning that they represent.
I would just like to add that I am so proud of my hubby. He is an awesome father to our babies and has been a great support to me throughout our journey. I think he has slightly talked down his role as a father. We very much share discipline and ideas around activities and what we should encourage or discourage. We talk a lot about ideas and expectations for our children, at the moment a lot of discussion is around screen time and social media. We are in this together and definitely work as a team, it’s the only way you can navigate through this new journey. Also, yes I have lots of training with babies and children, but this is the first time of being a Mum, a journey that can never be completely prepared for as it comes with so many emotions that you can’t always anticipate. There are always bumps in the road and times when we might say to each other, calm down, perhaps we should look at other ways of tackling this behaviour etc. It’s about communicating with one another and loving each other.
My top tip for being a new parent is to make time for each other. Date nights whether in the house or out are so important. Make an effort for one another so you don’t become consumed by the daily chores of family life.
Happy Father’s Day to all you amazing Dad’s and Dad’s to be! We are so grateful for your support. And single parents make sure you celebrate this day too, as you are doing both parts of this journey and you’re incredible!