Diary of a Dad: Week 5 - Dad Flying Soloby Adam Riches
I think I’ve adjusted to having a newborn again pretty well. There are things we did last time through (inexperience and general naivety) that we’ve avoided this time, but regardless, you still don’t get everything right every single time. Something I noticed last time when I had a newborn was that people were always amazed when I was on my own with the baby as a dad.
Weirdly, this time is no different. I know you don’t exactly get a badge, or a medal, or anything (besides the irremovable eye bags and the thousand yard-no-sleep-stare) to show you aren’t doing this for the first time, but people are very quick to assume a few things about dads.
1. They are out of their depth without mum
2.This is a one-off occurrence / special occasion.
3. Being a parent is a hobby for you.
Now you can’t blame people for making assumptions about you, and I mostly think it’s harmless but strangely, prejudice can make you feel a bit deflated as you slowly emerge from the newborn haze that envelopes your life when your baby is born. Everything is out on hold and as you start getting back on your feet, the last thing you need is to be patronised.
Admittedly, I don’t have milk-baring breaststroke so I am a bit stuffed without milk. To that degree, I am reliant upon the baby’s mum, but besides that, as a dad, I can do everything that I need to to keep the baby safe and happy. When you’ve got a baby in a carrier or a buggy and people are cooing, the first thing they ask is, “How old?” closely followed by, “Mum having a break?” You feel like saying, “No I’m just out with my child...is that ok?” It’s so strange that if a dad is out with a baby you attract these sorts of comments.
Another thing is the concept that you’re babysitting. No, I’m not babysitting, he is my child; therefore, I am parenting. I think people just assume you are an accessory as a dad because traditionally, you have your paternity leave and then go back to work and then have nothing to do with the care or upbringing of your child...oh wait.
You also attract unwanted advice as a dad. Why, oh why does Doris in the Co-op insist on telling me what’s wrong with my baby when he cries?! No Doris, he’s not hungry, he ate 10 minutes ago, and no he’s not hot – he’s just being grouchy. Funnily enough, I know my boy pretty well, but of course, Doris has two of her own and when they were small… I don’t care Doris. Dads seem to attract even more unwanted advice than mums do, especially from strangers. I think I was quite lenient the first time around, but this time, it really annoys me.
So why is it important to highlight this somewhat hilarious (and slightly soul-destroying) input from strangers? Well both this time and first time around, there are times where I’ve felt quite fragile as a dad. Not for any reason in particular, but it’s a seriously emotional and draining time for parents and input from strangers can sometimes be the thing that impacts you the most.
It’s important to remember that most dads aren’t just surviving when they have their baby with them (there are times that they are - I know that) just like mums.