Children: Melody 9, James 6 and Joni 4
Location: Withington, Manchester
Expectations of Fatherhood: I didn't have any expectations. I think I was always aware that no matter what was going to happen it wouldn't be anything like you expected and that it would be different from anything you had ever done before. It annoys me when expectant parents claim that they will continue their lives as normal once a baby arrives. For a start your life is turned upside down by the arrival of a baby, but also if you try to continue your life as before you are not only selfish but, in my opinion, a bad parent. Once you have children you realise that you are a grown up and it is a huge responsibility.
I strongly believe that once you commit to having children you need to make the choice that you are now a parent and that you have to take responsibility. I'm not saying that you shouldn't have fun anymore but to think everything is going to be the same and you can just bring your baby along to all your pre-baby activities is very naïve. I do think me having this attitude (and I appreciate it can sound a bit judgemental and old fashioned) did help me prepare for parenthood. I was well aware that many of the things I used to do I could no longer do and to be honest I was happy about that.
Reality of Fatherhood: I think I have covered much of what I found to be my reality in my previous answer. Every little part of your life is, in varying degrees, effected by the arrival of children. From the incredibly mundane things – like being able to go to the toilet whenever you want, to the big things in life, like where you live and how you spend your money – children influence almost every facet.
Your list of priorities is completely rewritten. Things that once seemed very important suddenly become meaningless and things that one had previously never even thought about suddenly become very, very important. Where is the best place in town to change a babies nappies for example? (Debenhams cafe in my experience)
Taking your children home for the first time: I'll be honest and say, after three children, I cant really remember coming home very much. Melody, our first, was quite ill when she was first born so she and my wife stayed in hospital for a long time after she was born. It sort of took the edge off the big homecoming a bit because I obviously had to come home every night whilst they were in hospital. I think me and wife just always liked having a baby in the house so that's why we kept having them. For the first few years of our marriage there always seemed to be baby on the go in one shape or form – which was lovely (for me at least).
The best/worst advice: As a father who was staying at home I had no real role models and never got any advice. I probably wouldn't have listened anyway to be honest. No man gave me any advice because I didn't know any stay at home dads and I don't remember any women offering me any advice. I think many people just thought me staying at home was a novelty and it would wear off. Three children later.............
The only advice I do remember and one I tried to follow was 'Sleep when they sleep'. After the first six months our three have all been quite good sleepers and I've always stuck to quite a strict routine to when they slept. I always tried to be in charge of when they slept, putting them down at the same time, so always enjoyed trying to have a nap in the day if they were having one. I think I would have gone mental otherwise. I do love my sleep.
The hardest parts of being a father: For me the practical things were easy – as a stay at home dad the hardest part was the boredom and the monotony. Also, as a man, I didn't have a support network of other dads to call on. I was pretty much on my own during the days. I craved grown up conversations with intelligent adults. Thankfully my children's arrival coincided with the growth of social networking so Facebook saved me from a fate worse than death!
The best parts of being a father: Just the obvious things – hearing the words 'Daddy' and when a baby is first able to put its arms around your neck when you carry them always melts me.
When you have more than one child I think many people think you may love one less once more come, but I've found that the love just multiplies and in some way you love the others even more. There is no limit on how much you can love your children – its like an All You Eat Buffet! We have been very lucky and had three lovely babies that didn't really have to try very hard for us to fall in love with.
How has becoming a father changed you? I would hope it has made me less selfish. Before you have children, by its very nature, almost everything you do is about you.
There is nothing wrong with that - that is basic human nature - but once you have children it becomes increasingly difficult to do entirely selfish acts. Its very hard to turn off 'parent mode' because your children are never far away - both literally and emotionally.
As far as how it has changed me as a man - it has changed me on several different levels.On a very basic, primal level it is very satisfying for me to be surrounded by my brood and to almost say, "Look at me - I produced these children - I am strong and virile - women desire me and men want to be me" (I'm exaggerating but you get my drift?).
For someone who has achieved very little in his life and spent most of it messing about that is quite important for me. I am proud of my children and i am proud of my marriage.They are the two most important things to me and hopefully I am doing a good job.
As far as my masculinity is concerned I don't think not having a 'proper' job and raising children has undermined my masculinity. In fact I believe that there is nothing more masculine than caring and protecting my children. They are my legacy and I am help nurturing them - once again on a purely primal level that is very satisfying for me as a man.
I also hope it has helped my relate to women, especially mothers, better. I don't know how some mothers react to be given advice from a man about raising children - they have every right to be sceptical but being a man or woman doesn't really come in to it with the fundamentals of looking after babies. There are obviously areas I can't relate to or give advice on to women but I wouldn't even attempt to offer advice on such things!
Hopes for your family: I don't really want to think about that right now. I think you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you have too clear expectations of your children. There is a thin line between that and being a pushy parent. I hope I've worked hard at raising decent human beings and I can only really build the foundations for their lives. What they do is up to them and I would hope that just being honest and fair with them and providing them with an environment where they can prosper and be loved is all one can do up to a point.
What advice would you offer to new and expectant fathers: That there are no rules. Babies play by their own rules and you can read all the books and websites you want but when that baby comes it all goes out the window. You have to find what works best for you. Be open to change and rely on instinct. You also have to remember that you are in charge. You should not be a slave to your child. Children thrive on routine and order and if you make sure you are organised and prepared the child will be a lot happier and consequently you will be too. If all that sounds like a mass of contradictions - then it is – Welcome to Parenting -The Land of Contradictions !