It’s hard not to be a proud parent. Children have that effect on us.
I think it is important to make the point that I don’t think being a parent in itself is something I should be proud of. Whilst I would shy away from judging others’ parenting I don’t hold that all parents are ‘good parents’ and above reproach. I think it is more accurate to break down the role of parenting and assume that we do some things we might be proud of and others we wish we had done differently.
But few parents I know actually feel much pride in their own parenting. It is our children themselves that make us proud. It is not dissimilar to how I feel proud of my friends and family when they achieve things, even when I have not really contributed to them. Just heaps more intense.
Who knew staying fit would be so difficult as a dad? Apparently everyone, based on the predictions many people made about my dad-bod.
As I wrote earlier, I was determined to prove them wrong and to never use my daughter as an excuse for not achieving anything.
It was hard work, but I managed to squeeze time to train into most days. Many times I didn’t ant to do it and no doubt it added to my overall sense of fatigue, but I knew it wouldn’t be forever. As my little girl became a less-little girl, she would sleep more and presumably so would I.
A big shout-out to all the single parents out there. It must be a very challenging experience. As much as I am loving being a parent and certainly wouldn’t change it, it is definitely harder than I expected it to be and certainly harder than anyone told me it would be.
And that is with the good fortune to be married to my amazing wife whose love and energy for her daughter seem literally limitless and who seems to intuitively know what to do in any new situation.
So when she had to Canberra for a three-day work trip, I was a little nervous, but also interested to see what the experience of solo parenting would be like. With our little girl less than six months old I knew it would be my wife that would be suffering the most through this period so I tried to approach the challenge as positively as I could.
So before parenthood I didn’t think I took myself too seriously. I was always happy to share a laugh, even when it was at my own expense and never thought I spent too much time worrying about what others thought about me.
But while I’m usually very comfortable in my own skin, Fatherhood taught me that I was more self-conscious than I had thought and that I needed to lighten up further.
Without ever having interrogated the underlying reasons, I had assumed I wouldn’t use a lot of baby talk or silly voices when talking to my daughter. In fact, the thought of the activity made me a little uncomfortable. Why
So I mentioned before that the early weeks of parenthood were an emotional rollercoaster (if the cliché fits…) and I thought we were just coming to terms with the situation.
The emotional extremes began to flatten out a little and I felt relatively calm, even when my daughter became unsettled or distressed, and was usually able to problem solve a way through challenges as they came up, without losing my composure.
And then she got sick for the first time.
Wow. What an awful experience.
And she didn’t like it much either.
So it is no secret that I am pretty enthusiastic about sport and fitness (hence the entire section of my website related to it) so I wasn’t surprised at the number of people who found the idea of me getting a ‘dad bod’ humorous or ironic when they found out I was expecting a daughter.
For those like me who miss half of the pop culture references that seem to flood the internet from people who have trouble using full sentences, a dad bod refers to the common change in shape that men get when they have a child. We’re meant to get a gut.
My first reaction was to stubbornly insist I could maintain the same level of fitness and that my dad bod would be just the same as my physique pre-parenthood (I can imagine lots of parents reading this and chuckling to themselves).
Not that I really expected it to be easy, and no one ever said it was, but I still wasn’t really prepared for it.
At some level I was kind of terrified at this great unknown adventure that was about to begin. And academically, I understood I was going to be a lot busier and would suddenly have a lot more things to worry about.
And whilst I had received no shortage of warnings about the joys of sleepless nights, I remained kind of optimistic. This optimism was probably born of being an older first-time dad and having seen many of my friends have kids before me. Almost every new parent that I had asked about it had given a slightly wan smile and admitted that it was a bit tiring, but great.
Most of them lied a little.
It’s been less than a month since I first held my daughter in my arms as a tiny ball of life and potential. Even in such a little time the changes in her have been hard to believe. Every now and then I find myself imagining the person she may grow up to be sharing my love of the Tasmanian wilderness and some of my other passions with her.
The moment life changes.
I’ve heard a lot of often hyperbolic descriptions of how a parent’s life changes the moment their child is born. While I wasn’t exactly struck by a bolt of realisation that nothing in life would be the same again, it was certainly quite an experience. I was exultant and deeply appreciative of all of the medical professionals who had helped us through the pregnancy, as well as my heroic wife who had done an incredible job carrying our baby. At the same time I was also hit with a powerful sense of relief that the worst of my wife’s ordeal was over and my little girl had finally been born safely and all the terrible complications I had imagined had not come to pass.
And while I wouldn’t go so far as saying everything was differently, I quickly became aware that I was thinking about a number of things differently and my priorities had been significantly rearranged. I’ve heard about many people who lose all interest in their previous hobbies and just lose themselves in fatherhood. I still expect to continue many of my interests, although I do expect to be writing less on this site.
I haven’t had much chance to write much over the last couple of weeks. This has largely been to do with the birth of my daughter, which has had a profound impact on my life. As a corollary of this, a fair amount of my thoughts and observations may shift to the new topic of parenthood. I’m not planning on stealing from Sonia Kruger’s playbook and use the phrase, “as a parent,’ to make claims with no factual basis, but parenthood is a complex and fascinating area so I will be making a few comments about my experience of it.