Out of the three basic baby needs: nappies, naps and nourishment, it's gotta be sleeping that feels the least predictable and the most fraught. Get it right, and your baby will be bubbling. Get it wrong, and either your baby will become an angry little troll when you want to play with them, or they'll want to play with you in the middle of the night, when you feel like the angry troll.
Security Guard: 'So you're baby-sitting today?'
[Post features in the book Dads Don't Babysit]
Why is being a bloke often lumped with not wanting to parent properly? What do we expect from dads? What do we mean by 'fatherhood', aside from a bloke who gave half the ingredients for a baby? And what impact do these ideas have on our jobs and the rest of our lives? People agree what 'maternal' means. Mums are thought to be instinctively nurturing and responsible. But things get a little more fuzzy when it comes to what being a dad is about...
What a week that was. One tiny little germ causing so many problems. The first few weeks with a newborn are probably the toughest because it's all so different from what you've done before, and so exhausting. For similar reasons, caring for a sick baby is almost as tough. I jotted down a few notes for myself for when another terrible baby-bug inflicts my family again [Please add your own tips as comments!]:
Note 1: Don't assume that terrible smell is a broken sewage main. It will only lose you valuable time to change the smelliest nappy you have every come across in your life. People around you will start looking awkward and moving away. If your sick baby looks happy, you are likely to see a brown mark spreading across their baby-grow
Little Bear darts across the floor on his belly until he reaches my feet. Maybe he wants a hug? No. He grabs one of his balls (not from between his legs, that's for nappy changing time) One of the plastic ones that fell out of the ball-bit. It's blue. He lifts it up and drops it. It bounces. He repeats until he feels sure blue always bounces. He shuffles to a corner where he's gathered all the red and orange balls under the TV (little autistic but we'll put that to one side) and begins repeating his experiment. Yes, these colours bounce too. Does the cuddly lamb toy bounce when dropped? No (cue shocked expression on Little Bear's face). The little scientist has come up with a hypothesis, and he's testing it.
These little creatures come out struggling with the idea of how black and white are different, and in 8 months, they've started running their own experiments. For us that's surely like going from working out the tip at a restaurant to understanding quantum physics in the space of a few weeks.
Public transport in a big city is essential for a good day out. For wheelchair and pushchair users alike, the big must is of course step-free access. As far as cities go, London is a pretty mixed bag. Where they've really tried (and where it was easy), it can be accessible for parents with pushchairs. But it's still a way away from being the baby-friendly city it aspires to be.
For London's underground and overground managers, I have a simple message: put yourself in a wheelchair and try to get around the city in the same way a walking commuter can. Let's not be unfair, several stations are a push-in-the-park for parents, but a lot of them aren't...
Ever heard the expression 'Mr Mom' when dads parent? Mums, ever noticed what a hard time mums get parenting compared to dads? Dads, ever felt over-indulged, patronized or like your masculinity is being questioned just because you're parenting? What if people saw dads like they saw mums and vice versa?...
Despite the name 'stay-at-home-parent', staying at home too long doesn't really work with an active baby. Little Bear loves his play-mat and ball-bit, but most days he (and Pappa) get a little bored and need to break free.
But lets not kid ourselves, we don't just grab keys and wallet and run for the next bus like we did pre-baby... No.
We grab milk, nappies, dummies, blanket, keys, pushchair, toys, and baby. Then we look for our shoes whilst baby wriggles out of the pushchair. We clip baby in properly following a lot of protest about the shoulder straps, then get ready to get out the front door, before a loud noise comes from the baby's nappy... We unclip baby from pushchair, missing the second bus you'd planned to get, run upstairs to change his nappy. Finish changing the baby, chuck the baby-carrier (almost forgot) under the pushchair and the baby in the pushchair. On the way to the bus, realise you forgot your wallet, etc, etc.
But despite the stress, it's worth it. Little Bear loves a good day trip. Whether it's visiting other babies and their mums (only met 1 other dad so far!), swimming, or trying something a little more adventurous like a baby-concert, another city or a museum, it's great for parent and baby to get out. But the tough stuff in a day trip doesn't stop when you finally get out the door (with your wallet).
Having learnt a few lessons the hard way, I was wondering what a parent needs to think about before they head out with the baby for a day trip. So here would be 7 tips I wish I could have given myself before I started parental leave:
After cleaning around 200 ml of baby vomit out of the taxi, Little Bear, his aunty and I took the plane. Of course, if it were possible I'd also suggest you avoid being in a plane, probably somewhere over Denmark, when you're baby might decide to do the biggest poo he's done in weeks. I carried him for the second time in 5 minutes to baby-changing room at the other end of the plane getting some sympathetic looks on the way. Then the stewardess asked me whether I 'wanted any help'... Odd I thought: why would anyone need help changing their baby? Then I realised the poo hadn't been limited to his nappy, or his own clothes...
The Daddy Tag Challenge
1 - Are you a Stay at Home Daddy or a Working Daddy?
I don't stay at home much as I try to take Little Bear out most days, and the two of us are currently visiting family in Sweden for the month! But I guess while I'm on Parental Leave, I'm a 'stay-at-home' dad. I was a working dad whilst my wife was on Parental Leave, which was great, but I'm enjoying my turn as 'stay-at-home' parent more than working!
Whilst I was dancing beside the baby-viewing cinema screen last week (trying to get Little Bear to sleep in the middle of teething and tiredness induced hysteria) I counted the parents. There were just over 100 watching the film. Out of them, there was 1 other dad on his own. I was actually surprised to see any other dads at all. Normally there are none. I've been to about half a dozen baby activities, and have yet to talk to another dad alone with their baby.
I'm certainly not complaining about there not being enough blokes to talk to. I really enjoy spending time with the mums and their little monsters. But where are all the dads on shared parental leave? Shared Parental Leave ('SPL') could just need more time to take-off, but there might be deeper problems.
Looking for some real numbers on how many new dads are taking shared parental leave is difficult, but the best estimate puts it between at 2 and 4% (Compared to 9 out of 10 dads in Sweden, Norway and Iceland)...
A relative or family friend comes for a visit, and his whole body starts shaking in excitement (especially his feet). Little Bear is then handed to said visitor and after a moment of skepticism or awe, he leans forward to claim his prize (normally punctuated with some gabbling). He needs to be a little more careful with other babies though!...
I'm Dave, dad of Little Bear. Also known as 'Pappa' to the little man as we try and bring out his Swedish roots