Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Gareth, Leo and Clement

Name: Gareth

Leo and Clement (5 and 2)


Expectations of fatherhood:
I expected things to be hard, for there to be sleepless nights, and lots of crying. The amount of times I heard, "Ooooh, you're not going to know what's hit you," during the pregnancy from other men perturbed me and I have to admit I wasn't looking forward to it. I blocked things out and probably pretended it wasn't happening. It's all a little bit abstract for men; they don't suffer any sickness, have any pain, feel someone kicking inside them. All I felt I could do was offer sympathy and nod and smile because it wasn't effecting me, yet! 

I had never had any designs on becoming a father; it made me feel uncomfortable if I got involved in conversations at work about the subject. I can probably trace this feeling back to an event that happened when I was 10. Holding my newly born cousin for the first time and the whole room seemed to scream at me because I wasn't holding her head properly. That episode really effected me and I always politely declined to hold babies, if the opportunity arose, for years after.

Reality of fatherhood: The reality was incredibly different from what I thought it would be. I found the transition to being a father fairly easy, much to my surprise as I'd expected to be a bit of failure. The enjoyment I get from spending time with my boys is unparalleled. Of course you have to make certain sacrifices and I thought that giving these things up would bother me a lot more than they actually did. I've described the feeling to my Wife, Jane, as a door shutting on my previous life, and I honestly can't remember what I used to do with my time before the children came along! Don't get me wrong, it isn't always easy, life isn't it it? It's far more interesting though, and second time around, with Clement, has been made the whole experience of being a father of two energetic boys, simply fantastic. 

Taking your children home: Bringing Leo home was a surreal experience. We left the house on the Wednesday morning about 6am, in an ambulance - we had been due to have a home birth and had a water bath set up in the living room. Things happened rather quickly though and I only managed to get about 6 inches if water in it. Jane gave birth some 3 hours later at 09:01. We were home, with our baby, just after lunch. We didn't have a manual, no one to give us any training we just got on with it I suppose! We had a couple of visitors, drank some Champagne and started being parents. I do remember one particular day, the Sunday after Leo was born, we had visitors all day. Every time someone left, someone else seemed to arrive. When the final visitors left at 6pm we were both worn out and emotional. When we brought Clement home, things weren't as strange, we actually knew what we were doing. We did get help from Janes Dad and Stepmum, they were incredibly supportive and their help in the first few days was invaluable. 

The best/worse advice: I didn't really get any advice. Just the negative comments on how it was going to ruin my life!

The hardest Part of fatherhood:
Wondering whether I'm being a good dad, especially when I'm out and about you feel the world is watching you and judging you on how you deal with certain situations! I put this down to the lame stereotype of dads on TV who can't control the kids, burn dinner etc. Just for the record, I'm a good cook and I can control my children...most of the time! Vomit is one of the hardest things to deal with, In the middle of the night. It's always in the middle of the night.

The best parts of fatherhood:
for me it's the laughter, the silliness, the hugs, the conversations. Leo asks so any questions, he has a real interest in transport and the world around him. I love his enthusiasm. Clement loves to be out and about amongst people, he has a real lust for life! Chasing him around the shops is always good fun. I love how different they are, but share many characteristics.

Has it fatherhood changed you?
On the whole, yes. I used to be a bit of a raver, I love house music and would spend most weekends in clubs. For obvious reasons I had to hang up my dancing shoes, although they do sometimes get an airing for special occasions. As I mentioned earlier, the thought of having children used to bring me out in hives, but now I have two boys that I adore and love working with children (having recently worked as teaching assistant).

Hopes for your family:
I want us all to be happy first and foremost. I've recently given up working as teaching assistant at a school in North Manchester to become a stay at home dad. Two of us working just wasn't practical and was causing strain in our marriage. Thankfully, almost over night, the stress has gone and life is much easier. Jane has recently been promoted at school and is working 10 and 11 hour days at the moment. I'm pleased I can do all the housework, drop kids off at school and nursery and have dinner on the table when she comes in! I will return to work in the future as I have a real passion for working with children. I really want the kids to do well at school, I was never pushed, never encouraged and pretty much left to drift during my time at high school. I was bright enough, I just needed a bit of direction. It worries me that could happen to my boys, Leo is a sensitive soul and the thought of him at high school does concern me a little. It's up to Jane and I to ensure they are both on the right path.

Advice for new and expectant fathers:
Love is the most important thing you can give your child, don't get bogged down in books, don't get overly concerned about buying gadgets that tell you how wam or cold it is, ignore any advice that starts with a deep influx of breath, breast isn't always best, be you, stay calm, enjoy the ride.

More info: "Breast is best" is a slogan you might find in George Orwell's '1984' and it's a slogan that, quite frankly, gets on my tits. Not all women can breast feed; it's just not going to happen, it's one of those things. However, these women are treated as some kind of pariahs. Both our boys weren't breast-fed, (we had planned too) it meant I did my bit. I did my fair share of night feeds, Jane and I were a team. I didn't pressure her, unlike the midwife who wasn't going to let us leave the hospital unless Clement had latched on. Another thing, co-sleeping. There seems to be a huge deal about it in our culture. We co-slept with Leo from 6 months onwards and often felt, on meeting other parents who's children were programmed to go to bed at 6:30 every night, that we were some how being week and doing things wrong. We weren't.

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