Ben Wakening, Dad and author behind the popular blog Goodbye Pert Breasts: Diary of a Newborn Dad to which he turned into a bestselling book of the same title not to mention the many books he penned after as well. Yes, I too wonder where he gets the time to write all those in spite having three kids and a regular job! Pure genius that’s what! Read on to find out how he does it all.
Tell us something about yourself and your little ones.
I’m a dad of three – two boys and a girl who already has me wrapped around her little finger! I’m 31, which is perhaps on the younger age range for most dads with three children; I was changing nappies and wiping sick off my arm with a handful of wet wipes whilst most other people my age were out clubbing! But I’m going by the life begins at 40 rule, and if I get to 40 and life doesn’t begin there’s going to be trouble.
Seriously, though, it was always our intention to have children young. When the children are old enough to be a bit more independent we wanted to still be young and agile enough to have a life of our own. We might just have to take some Tena pads with us wherever we’re going!
My two boys are Isaac (8) and Noah (5). They’re like chalk and cheese: Isaac is intelligent, loves history and is a complete nerd. Noah isn’t the sharpest knife in the box but has so much energy and charisma he’ll always land on his feet whatever he does. Jemima is just 3 but she already knows how to get me to do whatever she wants! She’s hilarious and is such a daddy’s girl.
What were your little ones birth stories like?
They were all pretty straightforward, but that’s just coming from me – I didn’t do any of the work! I was a bit useless during the first birth: I felt a bit helpless and at one point broke a Digestive into quarters and put them on the pillow next to my wife’s face so she could just turn her head and eat a bit when she wanted. She told me afterwards it was the dumbest, most irritating thing I’ve ever done.
Thankfully there were no scare stories. Isaac and Noah were both delivered using just a TENS machine as pain relief. By the time Jemima came around my wife had decided that she wanted to take everything the NHS had to offer, so she had an epidural. Apparently, it was brilliant!
What you wish you knew about being a Dad before becoming one?
That it would turn you completely soft. I’ve never been a particularly manly man, but before having kids I’d rarely cry. Now, though, I start blubbing at those charity adverts with the sad donkeys.
How do you balance your time between work and fatherhood?
I have a standard 9-5 day job, so it’s fairly easy to split my time. I do have to work most evenings, but I’ll wait until the kids have gone to bed. If I do have to work overtime I’ll make sure I get into the office early instead of staying late – I hate getting home after the kids have gone to sleep, and they’ve not seen me all day.
How do you manage child-free time with your wife? Do you have date-nights?
Now my children are a little older we’re finding that we have a bit more time to ourselves – they are happy to stay overnight at their grandparents’, and so whilst we don’t take the mick we do try and have a few evenings a month to ourselves. But often there’s no need to make grand gestures to have date nights; it’s not all about candlelit dinners and romantic meals. A date night can be as simple as watching a good film with a bottle of wine in those few minutes when all three children are asleep!
Any favourite anecdotes of your little ones?
It’s weird – my kids make me laugh every day but it’s difficult to bring a particular story to mind! There was one time when Noah tried to take himself to the toilet to do a poo but ended up making a huge mess – I even found a couple of turds in the bath!
Perhaps not the most endearing story…but like I say, all of the kids do or say daft and hilarious things every day. They’re exhausting, but there’s never a dull moment!
What is it about fatherhood you love about?
Watching the kids grow up has been amazing, and now they’re all old enough for us to have little conversations. They ask some weird and wonderful questions (how much water does an ant need to take a bath in?), and it’s fun to try and figure out the answer. When they laugh, I laugh, no matter how bad a day I’ve had. There’s not many people who can do that.
If there were anything about fatherhood you dislike about, what would it be?
The lack of freedom is something which took a lot of adjusting to. I can handle the lack of sleep, and we’re scraping by with the financial squeeze that children bring, but now and again the inability to do something as straightforward as nip to the pub on a nice evening can become quite frustrating. Instead I just drink at home – once the children are asleep, of course!
If you were given the chance to be a stay-at-home-Dad would you take it?
No. It sounds awful, but as much as I love being a dad, I’m not cut out for full-time parenting. I love my children; but they can be exhausting and stressful, and I just don’t have the patience to keep up with them. Some Sunday evenings after a loud, raucous weekend I find myself longing for the peace and quiet of my office! I think there’s a lot of pressure on parents to pretend like they live in some kind of blissful existence where their wonderful children are a constant blessing, but it’s often just not the case.
Best Advice you’ve ever received about Fatherhood?
Don’t be afraid to give yourself a bit of time every now and then. Parenting is an all-consuming, often exhausting task, and being immersed in the parenting business 24/7 can end up having negative effects, I think: you become stressed, frustrated, and as a result your parenting suffers. So, even if it’s just a case of walking the long way home if you have to nip out to the shops just so you have an extra few minutes to enjoy a bit of quiet, that’s okay – whether you’re a mum or a dad.
If you can give yourself advice before becoming a Dad, what would it be?
It sounds cliché, but I’d tell them to take a step back every now and then and take it all in. It seems like yesterday that I was holding my eldest for the first time. He’s 8 now, and I don’t know where the time has gone!
Thank you so much Ben!
Do check out his blog and author’s page to get to know more about his work.
And if you’ve missed last month’s chat with a mum, click here to have a read.
And here for a catch-up on past Chats with Mums and Dads.