Tuesday, 1 July 2014

What's all the fuss about?...

When I decided to write a blog reflecting on my experiences as a father, I recognised that there may be some expectant fathers out there who would be interested to listen and share their experiences too... So I decided to try and promote my blog on the wider Internet.

I read a few dad blogs myself, and found Paul over at Gifts from the pirates. I kindly asked him to help promote my blog and he came up with a fantastic idea. He suggested we write a joint post... I would discuss my expectations and he would respond with his experiences. Here's what we both came up with.


How bad can it be?

I’m going to go out on a whim here… I’m going be a Dad, but none of the horror stories scare me or phase me at all really. Could it be that I’m being naïve? In 7 months’ time, when baby does pop out, will l find myself in utter shock? I can’t help but question, “what’s all the fuss about?”...

There are a few phrases that any Dad just HAS to say when sharing their experiences of fatherhood. Things like, “get some sleep while you can” and “say good bye to your social life”,  "that'll be the last time you get to spend any money on yourself..." But it can’t all be that bad can it? Surely the positives make up for the negatives?

Sure, your whole life changes, but surely that’s a good thing? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what being a father means and how my life is going to change once baby enters the world. I’m going to break down 3 of the most obvious changes and discuss them individually.

Losing sleep

I can’t think of too many positives about losing sleep. But then I think of it this way… 

If it were a toss up between sleeping for hours (which I’ve been terribly good at throughout my teens) and having no child vs. a messed up sleep pattern and having a child, I have absolutely no problem choosing. Besides, I work shifts, and so 06:30 starts are not unknown to me. I also think that the whole “no sleep” thing will only last for say 11/12 years… and then after that, the opposite happens. From 12 onwards, you buy bombs and grenades and sirens to rouse your stroppy teenager from their pit… All in all, it’s not ideal, but I can think of a lot worse.

'I have been so lucky in regards to the subject of Losing sleep. When extended breastfeeding is the path you chose as parents there is little us dads can do physically and much of our time during the evenings is support. The routine in our relationship was that Mrs M would feed through the night and when Opeie was ready to get up (no matter what time it was) i would get up with him, this was usually around 5am but ranged from anywhere between 3-6am. Not having to be at work was a blessing for me though as it meant i could close my eyes and drift off with him for an hour. The lack of sleep issue can be hard, all you need to remember is to support each other, the last thing you want is sleep deprivated arguements. I found dishing out a foot rub here and there made all the difference to Mrs M's well being'.

Losing social life

I love doing ‘stuff’. I’m a ‘stuff’ specialist. I love trying new things, going to new places, engaging in new hobbies. My wife will tell you that I have ADHD, which I don’t, and that I’m obsessed with everything, which I am… So when people say “say goodbye to your social life” I worry a little. Is thisguna be the end of my fun? Am I house bound to wipe bums and clear away toys for the rest of my days? I’m not sure that I will be. I won’t be saying goodbye to my social life per se… it will just be changing and heading in a different direction. 

Instead of evenings sat in the pub socialising with friends… it will be evenings spent playing with my family, creating memories. Instead of going out to a gig with my friends… it will be a day out having fun with my wife and my children. Instead of buying myself a new toy… I will be buying toys for me AND my children ;) … You get the point.

Naturally, throughout our lives, things change, we change, ourinterests change, and so on. When I was 5, there was nothing better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Power Rangers… and then when I was 15 there was nothing better than knocking on neighbour’s doors and running…  When I reached  18 and got older, there was nothing better than getting tanked up… 

My point is that our interests and desires never remain the same. I have always been aware that one day I will be a Dad and that that would mean yet another shift in the direction of my attention. I’m not scared of losing my social life, and to be honest, I’m not scared of it changing… In fact, if anything, I’m excited to begin my new social life- one that revolves around my wife and my children

But wait… I also like to think that there has to be some ‘me’ time even when you do have children. Whether it be half an hour once a week, or one day a month, or whatever… I would like to think that my wife and I will be supportive of each other’s need for ‘me’ time. Surely you do what you can. I think it’s hugely important to designate regular time for yourself… I don’t think this is selfish, I think it’s absolutely essential to being a focused parent.

'This is the subject i get a lot of aggro from Mrs M about. You may be thinking its because I'm a party animal and I'm out all the time but its quite the opposite. i don't generally make much time for myself. When Opeie was born i switched off from everything and it was all about him. I'm a huge geek when it comes to comics, superheroes and action figures, so those hobbies work out well having two young boys. Also being into custom LEGO building, fits in perfectly for the role of a hands on dad. 

Before i had children my spare time was taken up by drinking and being out partying, you are right when you say that 'interests change', it is important to make sure you keep your own interests but you start taking on the things your children are into to. If they are anything like my boys then these interests change intermittently. some times these new interests are actually old interests brought to the surface, buried deep from our childhood. It turns out i still love climbing trees, skateboarding, making a bow and arrow, digging huge holes, obviously Lego building and many many more.

Being a dad is a great way to take all those interests and the things that you learned as an innocent child and installing all the fond memories into them. The best thing this time round though is having a mini version of yourself looking up to you and shaping the way that you play.

Its only been recently that i have been making new friends and branching out but my socialising still involves my family, all of our close friends have families and the ones that don't are old friends that are more like part of the family anyway. The only time i go out without them is on the odd occasion where there is a movie i want to see. I can see the impotence of having time to yourself but i waited so long to be in the position I'm in with kids and a great relationship that its all still fresh and I'm fully embracing that. In the words of Mrs M though (an it applies to you too)."You need to be a little selfish sometimes, no one is going to hate you for it!"'.

Losing money

Tricky one. It all depends really doesn’t it? If you are minted, then money isn’t an issue. If you are poor then you might struggle and provide with what you can. Sarah and I are neither rich, nor poor… we are comfortable. Will that change once we have a baby? I think it probably will; but only as much as we let it. If we insist on spoiling our child rotten to the point that we have no money, then we may find ourselves struggling financially… If we lock our child in the coal shed, feed them bread and water, and buy them nothing then money won’t be an issue at all. Fortunately for our children neither of those are mine and Sarah’s intentions - we don't have a coal shed for starters.

Obviously we will have to start paying for things that we have never had to… child care, nappies, days out, more food, baby essentials etc. etc. etc… That will mean sacrificing some of our luxuries. But I don’t have a problem with that if it means our children will grow up comfortably.

I have no doubt that it will tighten those purse strings a little more than now… But I’m not worried about it. The last thing I want to be doing as I raise my children is worry about money.

There are certain things that you can do to soften the blow financially when having children, breastfeeding is one of the biggies! imagine all that money that many parents spend on formula milk, now imagine if you could completely take that cost away! Breastfeeding is the best thing for your child, it builds a relationship between mother and child that cannot be compared to anything else. it supplies your child with all the nutrients and antibodies that they need for the start of their healthy life and to top it off its free. If this is a route you decide to take though it is so important for you to be supportive as it's exhausting for mom.

Nappies is also one of the high cost items, to lower the cost here reusables were an enormous help, there's obviously the disadvantage of having to handle what comes out of your child rather than just rolling it up and throwing it out but its so much better for the environment aside from being a bit of relief on your weekly out goings.

I just asked Mrs M of any other money savers we have used over the years and she just pointed out two worth mentioning. Making baby food from scratch rather than buying jars etc is a big money saver. we always made extra and froze it so we were never short. Also Mrs M was and still is awesome at buying clothes a year ahead. As seasons clothes go in to the sale Mrs M snaps up the bigger clothing for the following year, genius. Don't be scared to buy second hand too it can save you a small fortune.

And I still don’t feel concerned…

Maybe I’m looking at Fatherhood through rose tinted glasses? Maybe I am being naïve? And I guess until baby arrives, I can only assume how massive these changes are going to be. However, having a positive attitude going into this is surely a good thing?  I am not worried, I’m excited. I recognise that change is afoot… but I want to embrace that! This is singularly the most life changing event of my life… Bring on the change. After all, it’s not about me anymore, is it? It’s about my children.

'It sounds to me like you have absolutely nothing to worry about, of course there are going to be some huge changes but you are fully aware of that. No matter what changes there are or what hardships you may go through that look on your childs face and those words 'daddy i love you' will out weigh it all. Being a parent defines me as a person. Meeting Mrs M And starting this adventure is where my life began'.