Work, work, work, dad, dad, dad
In my humble view, the role of the Dad has dramatically changed in recent years. I’m 36 and I know my Dad wasn’t particularly hands on. He went to work, he came home, had his dinner and then watched the TV. There was always a lot of talk about being quiet as ‘Dad's asleep’ or ‘Dad's on the phone’.
When Henry was born I remember asking my Dad to change his nappy quickly and he had no idea, but to be fair I showed him and he never looked back!
I have no idea when it changed but I must point out that firstly I am well and truly glad it has. I love being hands on and I love knowing silly things, like how long the milk takes to cool down, what temperature the bath needs to be, what colour socks don’t go in with the white wash and I can make a mean cheese and spinach pinwheel.
Now having triplets I had no choice but to 'muck in' as we were outnumbered, but with Henry, from the moment he was born I just loved the cuddles, the baths, the bedtime routine and I wanted him to be proud of me as his Dad. I also didn’t want him to look at Charlotte for the love and affection and me to teach him how to cut the grass or just kick a ball. We never had that conversation but we worked well as a family unit of 3 and we both got up in the night. I remember being excited (after the initial feeling of waking up at 3am) if he cried and we would both jump up to give him a cuddle or because he needed changing.
With Henry we decided that when he was 1 and Charlotte's maternity was up she would return to work full time and he would go nursery full time – Monday to Friday. That wasn’t an easy decision and the day we left him we both cried as we boarded the train to London. We just knew it was something that we both needed to do in order to have the life that we wanted for our son. In time it got easier and the nursery became a massive part of him growing up, they taught him behaviours that meant he learnt to share, he learnt to be independent and the best part was the time we got together like weekends and after work we made the absolute most of it. I think we felt guilty deep down. But on the plus side we could afford to take him to magical places, on nice holidays and most importantly provide for him. Could we have financially managed without Charlotte working? Of course we would have had to but we were in debt as most people are and we just had to push on and do what we felt was right. Rightly or wrongly we did it and Henry has grown in to such a sweet boy who I would say is as in love with us as his parents as we are with him.
When the girls came along it was different, it was all hands on deck. I felt relieved that I had been hands on with Henry as I knew vaguely what I was doing, I knew what different types of coughs meant and what to look for when the girls weren’t well. I could change 3 nappies in 10 minutes and talk on the phone with my other hand! I wasted my paternity leave as the two weeks I was given the girls were in hospital, I don’t regret it but looking back I sat up there day in day out as any Dad would, but there wasn’t an awful lot I could do. When the girls came out of hospital I was back to work and that’s when I started to find it even tougher.
Henry was at school by this point which meant looking after the girls was easier as he was looked after and doing very well, nursery put him into a routine and opened his mind to learning so he took it in his stride.
The hardest part and of course I am only talking from a Dad's perspective is the guilt. Whilst at work I felt guilty that Charlotte had to look after all 4 of the children, I also felt guilty as she was there and I wasn’t, I was missing out on seeing them grow and the early months. I then had to go to work barely able to open my eyes. I knew it wasn’t my fault and as with Henry I knew I didn’t have a choice but it was so hard. I also could see from Charlotte’s videos and pictures that they had the fun and the smiles and the laughs in the day. I would come home to a rightly so exhausted wife, a Henry that was an hour from going to bed and the girls that were either about to go to bed or playing up as they were so tired. I basically missed all the bells and whistles and just got the up all night cries, the sick bugs, the guilt of not being there and then a 12 hour day in London doing my 'day job'.
The worst part for me was the amount of people that kind of pointed me out as the 'lucky one'. Now let me explain I do have a hot cup of coffee at work, and I do go to the gym etc and I do enjoy my job, but I wouldn’t say that its easy. I also point out that Charlotte definitely has the harder challenges and I appreciate that but I sometimes would sit at work wishing I could swap as I’m sure she did.
I hope this blog doesn’t come across negative as its not, it’s merely pointing out that whilst the role of the Dad has changed and we have stepped up to be there more for our children and partners, it is still hard and you never feel like you’re actually winning.
At one point after about a year the girls got a little easier. Henry grew up even bigger and things got better. I think you just get used to it and you realise that you’re not a machine and you have good and bad days. I still feel the guilt, the worst is if I have a day off and Henry and the girls aren’t there. I feel so bad like I’m choosing not to see them but the reality is in my opinion you have to work on your marriage and me and Charlotte need to laugh and watch a movie or have a bite to eat together so we can give the kids exactly what they need.
I do however also think that work is recognising the above and shared paternity and flexible working are a really key part of this. I often work from home one day a week and I’m considering taking extended parental leave when the new baby is born in September.
As for the future … I don’t know … I’m sure when our new arrival comes I will feel guilty again whilst I’m at work and I’m sure I will feel bad that Charlotte has to deal with it on her own. But I know the time I will and do spend with my growing family I will make sure it can be the best and most valuable it can be!