Tell us something about yourself (your blog) and your little ones.
Well I began my blog a couple of years ago because emotionally I had reached a point where I needed an outlet for my grief after I lost my wife Mair to cancer when our son Merlin was ten weeks old and our daughter Martha was three and a half. I had (I thought) coped well for the first 2 years but a move from the house we shared and her second anniversary opened the floodgates so to speak.
I wanted to shed some light on what grief is like for a young dad bringing up children but also how the joy they bring in itself creates a balance.
People be it friends, family or otherwise were seeing a happy, smiling active person but underneath it I was curled up in a ball, in the corner of a room crying out for my wife to be back.
Martha is now seven (going on 17) and Merlin is about to turn four and they are a joy. Funny, cheeky, mad, full of personality and performance.
They have more activities than I can keep track of. We love our rugby. Martha has long since chosen to support Wales because that’s who mummy shouted for. Merlin, has of his own volition, chosen Ireland which I’m very happy about. We have the perfect Celtic balance. The girls (one in spirit) are Wales and the boys are Ireland
What were their birth stories like?
Ha ha ha – Martha was our first and I guess, as is often the case with the first, she arrived late but not before putting my wife through 6 days of labour. We had a home birth planned and my wife went into slow labour on the Monday evening…..which continued until the Saturday. I have funny images of my wife walking around the communal garden at the back of our terrace with me following her around carrying the oxygen for when the contractions came. Martha was as stubborn then as she is now at 7 and just wouldn’t turn enough so in the end we had to go to hospital and the bumpy ambulance ride was enough. She arrived very promptly and then we were back home again.
Merlin was very different because of what surrounded the entire pregnancy experience due to my wife’s cancer diagnosis.
She was induced in hospital to minimise the gap between chemotherapy but that said, the experience was a warm and wonderful one nonetheless. He arrived at exactly 8pm just as the midwife had predicted a few hours before. Both healthy, happy babies
What you wish you knew about being a Dad before becoming one?
Hmmm it’s a tricky question because my experiences of fatherhood have been of two extremes. The first, like any new dad, of the huge change it brings to your life, how identity changes, priorities change for good, for the better.
The second though is the loneliness, the isolation, the sadness of doing it on your own on a permanent basis. I know there are loads of single parents out there just like me and we do an awesome job be us male of female. Those moments when I cuddled our 10 week old, feeding him placing him in his moses basket, knowing that my wife would never again be there to do it too were heart-breaking in the extreme
How do you balance your time between work/blogging and fatherhood?
I am very fortunate in that because I work from home I am able to get a great balance between the children, work and blogging. I’m not a prolific blogger by any means. Mine is more a case of when my head/emotions begin to spill over and I get a thought in my head and just start to type and before I know it theres 1,500/2,000 words down in front of me. It’s just how my head works.
What is great is that if the children have an activity or a club or sports or an assembly I can just be there 9/10 times and I love the joy on their faces when they see me there with the other parents, or being able to join in. Its something I am very grateful for and I think it gives me balance too because the nature of what I am talking about, what I am hearing and seeing in my work with Mummy’s Star is understandably emotionally difficult at times.
Any favourite anecdotes of your kids?
Merlin was being a bit whiny one afternoon in the car and I just said “Oh come on Merls, stop being such a whingebag”
Martha for some reason then responded to him with “Yes Merlin, stop whinging! Do you want to be put in the washing machine!”
I really should have said something responsible at this point in response to what Martha had just said but I just couldn’t stop laughing
What is it about fatherhood you love about?
I love seeing the interaction between my children, how they develop their own personalities, how what I teach them helps them develop.
Above all though I love the bond that the three of us have.
The loss of my wife has changed us all forever. I had 10 years, Martha had 3.5 years and Merlin had 10 weeks. But we bonded together to help us get through it together. Yes many people will say, but what understanding will he have with being so young when she died. He has what is explained to him. He has what he sees about her, the images of her. Martha has many memories.
Yes there are times when we share the loss and the hurt it causes us and we’ve cried together but there is also the joy knowing how proud my wife will be of them and how they know now when they achieve something that she is incredibly proud.
There are things in life that are simply unmistakable and one of those are when a parent personality shows through in a child. I know when I see my wife in my children. Martha much more so than Merlin but he definitely has her influence too and it is so heartwarming to see and feel.
If there is anything about fatherhood you dislike about, what would it be?
Doing it alone!
Don’t get me wrong, I have long since got used to it as it’s nearly 4 years since I lost my wife but each day nonetheless has heartbreak at some point. When you are happily married or in a relationship you look forward to bring your children up and watching them develop together. There are days when the kids are doing something funny and I want to shout “Mair, come here and watch this” and then there is that realisation that she can’t because she’s no longer here physically.
Those conversations that you can’t have like “Oh she’s getting that from you” or “he looks just like you when he does that” Words can’t express how painful that feels like.
If you were given a chance to be a stay-at-home dad, would you take it?
A few years ago I would have said no because I found that the balance of parenting and going to a workplace ensured that I retained my individuality. That I was Pete, who is also a proud Dad, rather than a Dad who is also an individual called Pete if that makes sense
However because of how our life has changed against our will over the last few years I guess I now effectively am a stay at home dad to a large extent, and knowing the balance it gives me which I talked about earlier, then yes I think I’d have taken it
Best Advice you’ve received about Fatherhood?
I don’t think I ever really got advice about fatherhood because amongst our circle of friends we were probably the first to have a child.
If I were giving advice to someone about fatherhood/parenthood the thing I would say is don’t let it stop you doing anything. Yes children change your life, yes things need a bit more planning than when it was just two of you but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still do the things you did before (with a few exceptions).
I like to think that my children get to see and experience a wide range of things because I do what I want to do as much as I always have and the kids have learnt to love those things too as well as the things they enjoy
I find my children very intuitive in the sense that they know its tough without mum around for them and for me but they see what gives me peace and that peace is rather infectious
They are becoming more rounded as individuals
You can be as impromptu with children as you were without. We regularly have no plans during a half term/holiday period then within an hour. We’ve chucked a load of stuff in the car and disappeared somewhere for the day, for a night, a couple of nights, whatever
If you can give yourself advice before becoming a Dad, what would it be?
Enjoy the first 12 months. Yes you feel wrecked, yes you can both be at the end of your tether at times but don’t wish it away because its actually gone in an instant. Get out and do things, get the fresh air. Like I said above, do things you enjoy as well as baby
Thank you so much Pete!
And it would be lovely if you could also support Mummy’s Star, a charity founded by Pete in memory of his beloved wife. It is the only UK charity that is dedicated in helping women and their families affected by cancer during pregnancy shortly after a birth. Do drop by.
Click here if you’ve missed last month’s Chat with a Mum.