Fatherhood in 200 Words #10 - Dave

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given.

About:

My name’s Dave Steell, I'm the leader of a community called One Church Brighton and I’m engaged in lots of transformational projects that serve the city.  I’m also dad to Jake who’s 15 and laughs at stuff as though he was 6, and Reya who is 12 but behaves like she’s 23, and I struggle every day with the wonderful task of trying to be a good parent.

Prominent memory from first year of fatherhood:

The first year of parenting seems like a distant memory and I know it must have contained sleepless nights, messy nappies and all that stuff, but I remember very little of it, other than wishing I could have it all over again!

Best fatherhood advice received:

Easily the best advice I have ever received about being a good dad happened on a long walk, where all best advice is given in my experience, and it was from a friend who didn’t have any kids at the time but she turned out to be spot on.  She told me that even with the best intentions you cannot decide what you want your children to become, you can only create the atmosphere for them to flourish in and allow them to become who they already are.

Message for men expecting their first baby:

If you’re about to become a new dad I’m very envious of you!  My encouragement to you would be to make sure that you don’t wish any of the time away, even and especially the tough stuff because that’s where your character and the ties of relationship with your child will be most deepened.  It’s the oldest cliche in the book but time will fly and when these days are gone, they’re gone.

Fatherhood in 200 Words #9 - Matt

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given.

About: 

I am Dad to three; Pixie (6), Olive (3), Otto (4 months). Husband to one (10 years and counting). Community Gardener. Micro Poet. Coffee Geek. Fantasy Football Fanatic. Trying to slow down, live simply and notice more.

Prominent memory from first year of fatherhood:


Missing New Year '09. At midnight I was inside comforting a 5 day old crying baby whilst everyone else was celebrating around the camp fire. I remember having this deep sense of 'this baby changes everything' and 'I wouldn't want to be anywhere else'. It was a real bonding moment.
 

Best fatherhood advice received:


Practice Presence. Everyone craves attention, especially children. It doesn't matter what you end up doing together. What matters is regularly giving kids your 100% undivided attention; ditch the devices, forget the to-do list and be fully present to them.
 

Message for men expecting their first baby:


Get your hands dirty, literally. Sometimes you've just got to man up and get stuck in; change nappies slowly, choose the 'wrong clothes', swaddle them badly, carry them in an unorthodox position, run the bath too cold... learn through doing. And don't be afraid to do some reading...

Fatherhood in 200 Words #8 - Tim

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given.

About:

I’m an aspiring adult and work in East London for a charity called Spear. I’ve got 3 boys - a 5 and 3 year old and a 3 week old and a wife of 10 years. I’m an expert at starting things but not finishing them and particularly enjoy making new things out of old bits of wood.

Prominent memory from first year of fatherhood:

A lot of the first year is a blur of tiredness, happiness and a realisation that it’s not all about you anymore. Leaving the hospital as a 3 rather than a 2 is a pretty stand out moment though.

Best fatherhood advice received:

Try not to stress. The milestones will come - your kids will be able to read, go to the toilet, use a knife and fork etc by the time they’re 18.

Message for men expecting their first baby:

Enjoy yourself. I think that the more you invest in your relationship with your kid, the more you get out of it. You only have a few years of your kids being around and wanting you around, make the most of them.

Fatherhood in 200 Words #7 - Steve

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given.

About:

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After many years in the Telecoms Industry I’m currently assisting in the sale of a large telecoms projects. I have two sons (14 and 18) and a daughter (22).

Prominent memory from first year of fatherhood:

I remember coming home with our daughter after several days in hospital, placing her in the middle of the lounge in her car seat and thinking “Wow, its just us two and our baby…” and thinking how scary that prospect was. The scariness soon past and we began the exciting task of “Parenting”.

Best fatherhood advice received:

Don’t look at other people’s children wondering why they appear to be perfect when yours are maybe not so well behaved, you don’t know what they are like at home. Its very easy to try and make your children fit a mould, don’t try… let them be themselves and encourage them to be their own character.

Message for men expecting their first baby:

Parenting is something we make up as we go along, hopefully to the best of our ability – other than when we are so tired, or stressed that we don’t quite act the way we would want to - even at those times always try to treat your child the way you would want to be treated (whatever their age or yours).

Fatherhood in 200 Words #6 - Judah

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given. 

About:

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Homeschooling, single father of three children.

Prominent memory from first year of fatherhood: 

That I am not enough.

Best fatherhood advice received:

Do not be afraid to ask for help, buy help (eg: dishwasher) or read about help.

Message for men expecting their first baby:

Make sure you know who you are & you are happy with all that you see, if not make changes, as very soon you will become a role model.

The first months of fatherhood might be more important than we ever realised...

When I saw the headline 'MORE CONFIDENT FATHERS HAVE HAPPIER CHILDREN, SAYS STUDY'  it's fair to say my interest was, unsurprisingly, piqued. Some of the standout highlights for me include:

"A man's attitude to fatherhood soon after birth. This can influence later behaviour more than undertaking childcare and chores."

I take attitude and time to both be important, but it is interesting that this study suggests that attitude is the most important thing. At The Dad Course we're all about preparing and getting ready for fatherhood, something that isn't really on the agenda in the wider public (at least that's how it often feels). We do the practical skills, we learn knowledge but ultimately it's the confidence, hope and attitude that the guys go away with that is important. As a Dad you will learn to put on a nappy, one way or another (hopefully!), whether before or after your child is born, but as this study shows, getting off on the right foot is crucial.

"How new fathers see themselves as parents, how they value their role as a parent and how they adjust to this new role, rather than the amount of direct involvement in childcare in this period, appears to be associated with positive behavioural outcomes in children."

It's fair to say that becoming a dad is no trifling matter, it's impact is seismic, which is why we so often hear (unhelpful) messages like 'kiss goodbye to *insert thing you love here*', 'sex will never be the same again', 'be prepared to be knackered for *insert inordinately long amount of time*' and so on.

Becoming a dad for the first time is full-on, but my observation is that a lot of the horror stories/negative things people say possibly spring from a place of unpreparedness, or lacking confidence, of feeling lost, of not having healthy rhythms, relationships and boundaries. What we do isn't going to magically make everything amazing, but the more prepared you can be, the more likely it is you will enjoy and embrace fatherhood rather than simply survive it.

And that's why I think The Dad Course is good for everyone, no matter how little or much they know. Some dads go away feeling like they've learned tons of knowledge/skills they didn't have previously, while others perhaps pick up relatively less in terms of knowledge (perhaps they have nieces/nephews etc) but just as much in terms of confidence and preparedness (which is a whole other thing). 

We wouldn't attempt to undertake anything rigorous or tough without doing a lot of prep. If trekking across a desert we would check and double-check our route, ensure we had all the right equipment and knowledge, ensure we knew where to turn in difficult times and so on. Why shouldn't it be the same for fatherhood?

I'm so grateful for studies like this. They remind me why I do what I do and why it is valuable. It also keeps me going towards the bigger goal, to offer every dad-to-be the opportunity to prepare themselves for fatherhood. When I read a study like this I can't help but think how transformative it could be for men, their partners, kids and wider society if every dad-to-be was offered the opportunity to truly prepare for fatherhood so that they can embrace and flourish in it rather than simply get by. And that's what we will continue to work towards.

Will you join us?

Read the full BBC article at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38076493

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given. This week's advice comes from jazz musician Dan Forshaw, who lives in Cambridge.

About:

I’m married to Katy and we have two kids, a girl aged six and a boy who is about to turn four.  I’m mostly self employed and work as a musician and music tutor, running my own teaching website that has students all over the world, (including one in Antartica!) 

Prominent memory from first year of fatherhood: 

The most emotional, inspiring and tiring year of my life. Seriously, your world and everything in it gets turned upside down. You will find your emotional ‘compass’ stretched beyond belief,  in a positive and negative way. 

Best fatherhood advice received:

Go with your instincts. Everyone will have endless advice, but go with what you and your partner feel is right. The other thing is to prioritise your relationship. You will both face incredible strains and may have some terrible rows but stay strong and make time for one another.

Message for men expecting their first baby:

Sleep!  And learn that your wife / partner is going to be a very different person both emotionally and physically after the birth, don’t say the first thing that comes into your head, no matter how tired you are!

Fatherhood in 200 words #5 - Fraser

This is part of our fatherhood in 200 words series where we asked dads to share a little about themselves, their most prominent memory of their first year of fatherhood, the best parenting advice they have received and a message for dads-to-be. Each answer was limited to 50 words and you find them here unedited and as given.

About:

I'm a research project manager at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, mixing my time between working from home in Brighton and commuting to London. My baby boy is almost 1 year old. It's a great achievement to have got him safely this far. 

Memory of first year of fatherhood:

The roller-coaster sleep deprived nights. I could get/still do get totally frustrated and angry with him for not staying asleep, but then as soon I see him smile in the morning that all melts away. 

Best piece of parenting advice received:

Before he was born I remember other Dads saying attachment and love isn't instant and bonds take time to form. That gave me low expectations, but I was pleasantly surprised at how amazing it was when I did meet him... seeing this mini, cuter version of me was just awesome! 

Message to new dads:

Take as much paternity leave as you can!

Advocacy vs. Abandonment - 3 pitfalls for partners to avoid when using a birth plan and how to get it right.

Advocacy vs. Abandonment - 3 pitfalls for partners to avoid when using a birth plan and how to get it right.

I'm not going to lie, I felt a little scared about my son's birth. As much as I knew that birth can be an amazing experience there is also all that uncertainty and potential risk and the underlying essence of the thing which was that a baby was going to come out of my wife. Out of her. 

We had thought quite a bit about the birth, how she wanted it to be and how I could support her best. We were encouraged to put together a birth plan - basically some ideas of what we did and didn't want, preferences and hopes that we could share with the midwife who came to the birth. We found it a helpful experience but a word of warning - it's not a Christmas list, things don't always go perfectly and I think it's important to not cling too tightly to the perfect birth. 

That said, Abby (that's my wife, to the uninitiated) was pretty clear on what she wanted in birth, to be at home if at all possible, to have the environment clear and relaxed, with soft lighting and music - trying to create as calm and peaceful an experience as possible. To describe birth in these terms might sound ridiculous but it really can be possible. 

We were also both realistic about the possibility of having to go into hospital to give birth and although Abby was not at all keen on the idea of certain pain relief or having a C-section we were aware that things don't always happen as you hope so we ensured we also had something of a plan if this happened too. We also decided that if things didn't go as planned then it would be up to me to try and make sure things went as positively (I.E. as Abby would want it) as possible. With so many different possibilities that felt like quite a responsibility...

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Opinion: Fire your work! Why it's important for dads to think about how work fits with family life.

Opinion: Fire your work! Why it's important for dads to think about how work fits with family life.

There is an interesting contradiction in the way that the 'traditional model' of parenthood has changed in our society. 

Traditionally dad goes off to win the bread while mum stays at home to nurture the children. Dad may contribute at times but clearly the nurturing and raising of children is primarily the woman's job. For a long time women with children were restricted - the arrival of kids also signalled the end of their career as their world narrowed down into a small child-shaped box.

Happily, women are no longer expected to 'just' stay at home or give up their careers. There is not the pressure that a woman with a child can 'only' be a mum. More and more women are working as well as caring for their child. While things could be better and there is still progress to be made it's great that women have more freedom than they previously did. 

It's interesting that we haven't seen a similar transition for men...

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