Here in the UK, Father’s Day is celebrated on the 16th of June, so in honor of Dads, instead of doing my monthly Chats with Moms, I’ll be doing a June Chat with a Dad instead. And my first feature is a really cool and funny Dad who is known in the blogosphere as the Secret Dad. If you want to know more about him, read on and then head off to discover the secret life of this Dad on his blog.
Tell us something about yourself and your little one(s).
My professional life has largely been as an emergency humanitarian aid worker (which means I get deployed in international disasters like floods and earthquakes). When I was much younger I did some incredible jobs such as working on a farm (superb), working in a high performance car manufacturing business (brilliant) and on the conveyor belts at a chicken factory (cold).
My three favourite people in the world.
My daughter is 3 and my son is 15 months. They are both incredible and quite different personalities. I love them both dearly, and differently. My daughter is a force of nature – beautiful, charming, charismatic, funny and loving at best. And at worst a screaming banshee of emotional turmoil. My son on the other hand is a chilled out little soul, perfectly content to play on his own for hours on end. He is so quiet we often forget where he is. In fact where is he…….?
What was your little one(s) birth story(ies) like?
I am actually in the process of writing a blog about the birth of our first, my daughter, because it was such an incredible experience. The arrival of my son was a very different affair. My wife went into labour on Boxing Day and had a beautiful, straightforward water birth. It was such a calm experience after the craziness of my daughter’s birth. I often wonder if these birthing experiences had an impact on their early personalities (see above).
What you wish you knew about being a Dad before becoming one?
That it would be really hard work. I mean REALLY hard work. I actually doubt that there is anything that could have truly prepared me for how challenging it can be – except perhaps for attaching a pneumatic drill, with no off switch, to my hip and carrying that around for 4 years.
How do you balance your time between work and fatherhood?
With great difficulty. While I am in the UK I have become better at keeping my work hours fairly reasonable so I can be back in time to get the dinner ready / help with the dinner, play with the kids and take them through the bedtime routine.
However I travel a lot with work and that is a real process of negotiation between my wife (who also has a professional career), my company and the rest of the family. This leaves very little time for me, which if I am being honest I often do find hard to reconcile.
How do you manage to arrange child-free time with your wife/partner? Do you have date-nights?
While having children cemented our relationship and bought us closer together in many ways, having children has also negatively impacted on our relationship in many other ways.
There is often little opportunity to connect in ways that we used to. A lot of our day to day conversations are very pragmatic and centre on logistics and planning. We rarely have time to check in with each other on an emotional level and talk about hopes, fears and dreams like we used to. Sleep deprivation can be tough for everyone too, and it can make the smallest things seem like major obstacles.
However, we are just starting to get out again now that the little one is a little older. Up until recently we hadn’t been out together on our own for about 2 years. The thing is I found that I didn’t really want to. By the time I was getting any spare time, I was just using it to catch up on jobs around the house, personal admin or simply catching up with sleep.
Recently though we went out to a rock concert together which was great and we have found a trusted babysitter, so we are hoping to get out some more in future.
Any favourite anecdotes about your little one(s)?
I am generally a pretty good, organised and hands on father, with strong emotional intelligence that can cook for, look after and nurture his kids.
My favourite anecdote is describing the look on my wife’s face when she walked into the room after a calming and reflective week away on a residential leadership course.
She came home (unplanned and hours early I must add) to find toys, cushions and books strewn everywhere. She came in to find my daughter head first in the laundry basket, cackling and laughing as she was throwing clothes out all over the floor. She came in to see my son screeching and head banging the wall to relieve teething pain. She saw me burning dinner in the kitchen. The smoke alarm was going off. The room was thick with smoke.
Even though I was in the middle of it, the look at my wife’s face made me realise that to her it probably looked and sounded like a war zone. Her face was a picture, and to this day it still makes me laugh to think about that.
What is it about fatherhood you love?
I love the moment I walk into the house after a trip away or a day at work.
My daughter will be the first to come running, arms pumping furiously, huge dimpled smile, curly hair bobbing. She will crash into my knees, sticking like a limpet to my legs and screaming with joy.
My little man will come crawling soon after, head down, hands slapping on the floor, little bottom waddling like a duck, big gummy grin, squealing with happiness, arms outstretched imploring for a hug.
I literally get bowled off my feet with a tide of pure, sticky joy.
It is at these moments that I’m reminded that fatherhood is the most important job in the world.
It is these moments that I want to last forever.
If there’s anything about fatherhood you dislike about, what would it be?
I dislike having lost my old self; the old me who used to stay fit and healthy playing soccer three times a week; the old me who used to cycle everywhere; the old me who used to go running; the old me who always had time for people; the old me who used to be so spontaneous and carefree; the old me who used to be an excellent friend, son, husband and brother.
I guess it is about coming to terms with the death of my old lifestyle and the old me. I have read that you need to set time aside to mourn the passing of your old self when you have children, and equally set time aside to celebrate your new role as a parent; and I think that is true.
However I still have to come to terms with the fact that the old me has gone now. In truth it has taken a lot of time for my own expectations, and those of others close to me, to adjust to this new reality – the reality of fatherhood.
If you were given the chance to be a stay-at-home-dad would you take it?
I love my kids, really I do, but no, I couldn’t do that, not at the moment. It would drive me insane! I wouldn’t rule it out in the future though and I would like to reduce the hours I currently work, so I get to spend a little more time with them
Best advice you’ve ever received about fatherhood/parenthood?
The best advice I ever heard, and would like to share back is simply to trust your instincts. By all means read books and listen to advice and opinion, but at the end of the day there is no one who knows your child like you do. You are THE world expert on your child. That is a powerful and empowering statement, when you think about it.
I also wanted to share the best thing I ever heard about being a parent. As an eternal pragmatist (and optimist) I know this following statement may sound a little pessimistic (to some readers) but it truly spoke to something inside of me.
“Neither the good times, nor the bad times, will last”
That statement has got me through some pretty dark times, particularly around the arrival of my second child, when I was getting NO sleep and my day job was becoming incredibly stressful. It helped me reflect that it wasn’t forever and that it was just a phase. I saw light at the end of the tunnel when I accepted this.
And it has also been good to reflect on this statement during the lovely times, when everything is perfect, because it has helped me to live in the moment, take nothing for granted and enjoy everything while I can, while it lasts.
If you could give yourself advice before becoming a dad what would it be?
Quite practically I think it would be to give my first child (my daughter) a little more space, and to pay attention to her body language with a little more mindfulness. It was only after 3 months that I started to realise she was giving me important information through her body language.
Up until that point we had struggled with what we thought was a colic-y, temperamental, emotional child. In hindsight, we probably misread a lot of her cues, and she might have simply been tired. We (think we) got it right with number two though……..
Also a key reflection is probably that I should have liked to have become a father a little earlier. At 38 I was quite old to be a first time father and it breaks my heart to think my father never met either of my two little ones (he died just before my daughter was born). I know he would have loved them, and they would have loved him.
I also would have liked to have become a father a little earlier because not only would I have been able to deal with the lack of sleep much better (I had incredible stamina in my late twenties and early thirties) but I realise that my time with them is precious, and I want to spend as long on this planet with them as possible.
You can connect with The_Secret_Father via twitter or email
Or check out The_Secret_Father blog for more tongue in cheek posts and musings on modern fatherhood.
Thank you so much The Secret Father!