Daddy life: 5 reasons why being a dad gets easier as your kid gets older

A new dad walks into a baby class. The mums start talking about their difficult labours and breastfeeding horrors. The dad has nothing to add. The class ends. The mums go for coffee. The dad goes home.

Welcome to daddy life. Daddy life isn’t something every father experiences. It’s an existence lived by the small band of men who become the primary carers when their child is born. These individuals come in all shapes and sizes and speak a number of different languages, but they tend to tell a similar story. Namely: that things start with a bump (literally) and then get more difficult.

So what’s the problem? Surely bonding with your kid and watching a bit of a daytime TV while your partner keeps you in Converse is tantamount to living the dream? Congratulations for repeating a much-aired misconception. As this Vice article excellently details, the reality of being a dad who is heavily involved in bringing up a child can have more in common with a nightmare.

My personal story

I’m lucky. I’ve never experienced any kind of mental health issue, but I can see why a number of stay at home dads do. First, all of a sudden we are living a very different life to our peers. Second, all of a sudden we aren’t contributing as much, or possibly anything, to the family finances. Third, strangers tend to assume we are a) babysitting or b) out of work. Fourth, we find it tough to bond with stay at home mums. Fifth, we struggle to assemble a support network of ‘dad mates’. And sixth, we find it almost impossible to make time for ourselves. Add in a dollop of sleep deprivation and it is easy to appreciate why full-time dads are ready to break.

Sadly, although the online resources for dads are getting better, none of the above is going to be fixed overnight. Happily, things do get easier as your kid gets older. Why? Sit down and relax while I tell you why…

1. The chat changes

As detailed in the introduction to this article, I found that a lot of the chat in the baby classes my son and I initially attended revolved around breastfeeding and giving birth. And since I had no experience of either, it left me with two options. I could joke about “how difficult labour was for me” – 27 hours of waiting, uncomfy chair, no phone reception, only two packets of Haribo etc (note: this is a terrible idea). Or I could stay silent, nod sympathetically and wait for the conversation to change to nurseries, local farms, day trips, holidays and other stuff I could offer a decent opinion on. The good news is this did happen. The bad news is my kid was one by the time it did.

2. Your kid develops

In addition to the aforementioned mummy chat, my son’s first baby classes tended to feature foam animals, bubbles, moving lights and high-pitched singing. On the plus side, they offered a break from the daily daddy life grind. On the minus side, they didn’t exactly get my juices flowing. Then, bang, the Bubster started walking and a whole new world of pre-school entertainment opened up. Classes like Tumble Tots, which taught him how to climb obstacles. Little Kickers, which introduced him to football. And Click IT, which showed him how to use a computer.

This was far more like the father-son bonding I’d imagined pre-birth, and the older he gets, the more we’re expanding his physical and mental horizons – from golf to gymnastics via baking and exploring. It’s exciting and fun, and for those reasons it’s easier.

3. You grow in confidence

Looking back, my early parenting style could best be described as apologetic and flustered. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing, I perceived myself to be an outsider in a world of mums and I was hurt by the fact the Bubster preferred his mum and grandparents. Now, things are very different. I feel more relaxed, more accepted and more like I belong, and I’ll tell you the five secrets behind my change in attitude for just 12 monthly payments of £17.97.

Just kidding. The price is £24.95. Joking again, I’m charging you absolutely nothing, and revealing all below.

  1. I’ve watched other parents (note: not in a sinister way) – and the more you watch other parents, the more you realise that we all have nightmares at some point or other.
  2. I’ve talked to other dads, online in Facebook parenting groups, and in person at events like Dadcon – and the more you talk to other dads, the more you realise that you’re not alone. There are other guys who live your life and have your back.
  3. My son told me he loved me – admittedly he has said the same thing to the kitchen floor, but I’ll take it.
  4. I’ve realised why I am doing what I’m doing – credit for this revelation goes to leading dad blogger The Dadventurer. When I asked him for a quote that I could use in an article I was writing about whether nursery dads asking nursery mums for playdates was okay or a bit weird, he responded: “I can see why some would class it as weird. But as a sahd {stay at home dad}, I need to do what I do for my daughter. If I hid away or didn’t speak to mums as I’m ‘different’, then she’d miss out.”
  5. I’m in a Whatsapp group with the mums I’ve met at the local park – and if that doesn’t scream, “We accept you, you belong,” I don’t know what does.

4. People begin to see you are the real deal

According to the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt. According to my experience of daddy life, familiarity breeds respect. And what I mean by this is:

  • A) The more I’ve attended baby classes, the more the person running the class has gone out of their way to address us as the “mums and dad” or “carers” rather than just the “mums”.
  • B) The more I’ve dropped off and helped out at nursery, the more the staff have been inclined to chat to me at the end of the day and call me if there is an issue.
  • C) The more the mums in my area have seen me playing in the park or pushing a buggy around the shops, the more they have begun to wave when I walk past or stop for a chat.

Yes, all of these things should be given, but at present they aren’t. So stop moping and start earning your place at the respected parents’ table.

5. You start making parent friends

Whoa. As in couples who you’ve met through your kid’s nursery or local groups who call you or your partner and suggest having a playdate? Yes, that’s right. And better still, sometimes they suggest doing things that don’t involve the kids, like meals out or games of golf. It is an ever-progressing social situation that I never imagined arriving during the early days, but it has and do you know what? It makes daddy life a whole lot easier.

 

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Daddy life: 5 reasons why being a dad gets easier as your kid gets older”

    1. Thanks for the comment and it’s great news that you’re thinking about the dad in your baby group. I’m sure any conversation he can get involved in would be most appreciated.

  1. You have made into the realms of a hitherto mum-only Whatsapp group? Woah. That’s impressive. In my experience, yes things do get easier (although I am building up to a but). People are more accepting of a man looking after older children. But…..your kids start school and then you have to go through it all over again! Oh, yeah, and your kids grow up and the challenges get more serious. Another “but” though….I genuinely think things have changed over the past few years. it is getting more normal to see dads looking after kids of all ages. Making parent friends is, I think, essential but it does take time and it is harder if you’re male and the kids main carer but it can be done.

    1. Thanks for the comment, John – and yes, check me, in a mums’ Whatsapp group. I imagine there are lots of hurdles ahead, but hope the change you mentioned has happened and it’s not as hard for my generation of dads. Thanks again for reading, it means a lot.

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