Category: Parenting

Second-best blues: how it feels to be the least favourite parent

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I was inspired to write this post after the J had a crying fit because she didn’t want Mummy to put her to bed. She only wanted Daddy. And I have to say, it hurt my feelings (I may have the beginnings of PMT today, but I still feel this is a justified response).

We as Mothers don’t often have to play second-best with our children. In the traditional family model, it was the Mum who primarily looked after the kids (and so got to be the favourite) – it was certainly like that when I was growing up. These days things are very different and have certainly changed for the better in terms of shared parental duties etc. I always wanted Grump and I to have equal responsibility for the J and he is a very ‘hands on’ dad (I don’t like this phrase, as it implies that being ‘hands on’ is extra special and not just part of his job as a father, but you get my gist).

As Grump is a teacher, he has more time off than the average father to spend with our daughter. This works well for me, especially with freelancing, as it means I can take on more work in the school holidays, with free childcare to boot!

However, I have noticed that during those times when I am working more and Grump is in charge, the J goes off me. She constantly asks for Daddy, runs to him for cuddles and just seems disinterested in me.

She did this once before at around age 1. I vividly remember being at a friend’s son’s 1st birthday party that had a children’s entertainer. All the Mums were sat on the floor with the children, singing and joining in and the dads were stood at the side chatting. I tried to sit with the J, but she wasn’t having any of it. She wanted Daddy. And so I took on the role of a spectator with the other Dads and felt really left out. It hurts when you are not wanted. Granted it was nice to have a break and scoff down some party food, but I was embarrassed when every time I tried to pick up or cuddle my child she cried. I had spoken to a friend about this problem beforehand and she came up to me after the party and said that she had no idea how bad it was. Of course, over time things got better. Grump went back to work and Mummy was favourite again. But that party always sticks in my mind. I wonder if this is how many Dads feel on a regular basis?

As she has got older (now almost 17 months), the J has become more confident and now has close relationships with Grandma, Granny and her childminder. She is happy to be left with them, as well as myself and Grump. As her affections are split between more people, she tends to be happy with whoever is happy to play with, feed or cuddle her.

Over the last week or so, Grump has broken up on school holidays and he has become the firm favourite. I think this might also have something to do with the fact that he gives her more treats (fruit juice from his glass, chocolate etc), whereas I am perhaps a bit more strict (water only!!).

Tonight, it was me who spent 20 minutes singing songs with her, throwing balls down the hall way, and getting splashed during bath time. When we tried to get her ready for bed she kept running off and wouldn’t get dressed. Grump was unsuccessful at getting on her PJs and he admitted to me that it had taken him half an hour to get her dressed this morning. I decided to show him what I normally do, which involves firmly holding her down and putting clothes on her.

She cried a little, but nothing major and then Grump put his arms out for a cuddle and said “Horrible mummy”. Now I know he was joking, but the J is taking everything in at the moment and understands a lot. She looked at me with a heartbreaking stare as if to say, “I don’t like you”. Then she wouldn’t come to me for a cuddle. I had to tell Grump to leave the room and force a crying child to be cuddled until she had her milk and settled down. Not fun at all.

The only way I can describe that feeling is when you were younger and you fancied/had a massive crush on a boy, and you found out that they didn’t like you back. That sad sinking feeling. Your affections are not returned.

But when you’ve carried a baby for 9 months and gone through labour, you expect to get the best cuddles and kisses from your child – not Daddy who didn’t go through any pain (apart from a squashed hand). It’s not fair.

Now I’m sitting on the sofa, feeling put out. The answer…?

There isn’t one, except the knowledge that at some point the tables will turn and I will be her favourite again. Although it makes me sad to think that Grump will feel like this at some point, or has done in the past. Being number two just isn’t fun. A big shout out to all the Dads or Mums out there who know how I feel. But when they do run to you for a cuddle or desperately call you name, that feeling is so amazing and special that it makes all the other tough times worthwhile.

 

The five stages of buying your first children’s music CD

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Yes, some of us still buy CDs to listen to in the car. Credit: Mpho Mojapelo/unsplash.com

The J has spent the last year of her life listening to a bit of Radio 2 (first thing on my clock radio and at mealtimes), but mostly Kisstory when we are in the car. For those of you who do not have a DAB digital radio, unlucky for you. Kisstory is the most amazing mix of old-school garage, pop, RnB, etc. Basically all the songs that were in the clubs when I was a teenager. But, seeing as I don’t want the J’s first words to be “gangsta”, “flava” or “thong”, I decided to buy her a children’s CD for the car. After purchasing said CD, I went through what can only be likened to the five stages of grief (not in the proper order) when listening to it. Here they are:

Stage 1: Anger

The utter horror at how annoying listening to children’s songs are – bring back Kisstory, I don’t care if my baby can rap before she can talk!

Stage 2: Denial

I do not like this CD (or do I?). I think I can blank it out… la la la la. Then all of a sudden you are surprised at how many of the words you know and how fun it is to sing along. I should also add embarrassment when you wind down the window in public or are in a traffic jam and get caught doing to the actions to Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Stage 3: Bargaining

How about 10 minutes of baby songs and then 10 minutes of Kisstory? Or baby songs until she falls asleep and then Kisstory all the way…

Stage 4: Depression

Ok, so listening to baby CDs doesn’t make you depressed, but you do feel miserable at the annoying repetition in each song and the stupid happy lady’s voice (who is also Australian on this particular CD).

Stage 5: Acceptance (the best one)

The utter joy when you see your child smiling, clapping and doing the actions to Wind the Bobbin Up – it was worth it after all.

Why I love my mummy mates

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Mummy mates won’t judge if you turn up half an hour late, stressed, covered in baby sick, with no make-up on and unbrushed hair. Credit: Providence Doucet/unsplash.com

In this post I’m going to praise the NCT, but not because of their antenatal course content. It was informative, especially the bits about options for giving birth, labour and birth plans etc, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make and, to be honest, I forgot most of it when the baby came and went into a total panic about how to keep my small human alive. But, the one great thing about doing that course was the friends I made. Here’s why…

I remember the first group session, when we all sat around in a circle and introduced ourselves. I looked at these strangers and thought, “I can’t imagine being friends with you. I’ve got plenty of great friends and don’t need any more. This is a load of bollocks.” That sounds really harsh, but it takes me a while to like people. I’m fine with small talk and socialising, but when it comes to proper friendships, I am picky. For starters, I don’t like it when people are too nice to me. You don’t know me well enough to like me yet, why are you being so nice? It puts my back up.

I tend to go through three stages of friendship: polite indifference, annoyance/tolerance and then humour. If I take the mickey out of you it means I like you. So I was a little sceptical about NCT. We did our classes over a number of evening sessions spread out over a few weeks. By the end of the course, I felt I knew some of the people a little better, but we were still at the awkward stage where you don’t want to reveal your true self (in my case my inappropriate, disgustingly rude sense of humour) for fear of being branded a weirdo.

Then one couple had their baby six weeks early, which totally freaked everyone out (including the new somewhat unprepared parents!). The whole group went for a curry after the course had finished and they bought their new tiny baby along. It turns out the most scary thing for a heavily pregnant woman is to see a newborn baby in the flesh and realise that: 1) one of those will be coming out of you soon and 2) that you will be responsible for such a tiny helpless thing.

After that, I was the next mum to give birth, four days before my due date. We had arranged a walk around Knole Park to encourage labour and I had to cancel just before as I went into hospital with suspected waters breaking (see my post about the Week of Wee). After that the babies came thick and fast. Then the Whatsapp conversations began. Usually at 2, 3, or 4am. Random questions, cute photos and general chit chat. We started to bond. Going through such an intense situation at the same time makes you bond much faster than a normal friendship.

Once we had got through the newborn fog (the first two weeks or so), we started to meet up regularly at weigh-in clinics, for coffees, walks and baby classes. It was so refreshing to chat to women who felt the same way as you. Who were sleep deprived, unwashed, stressed, freaked out and stumbling through life like zombies. We were each other’s support network, agony aunts, life coaches and shoulders to cry on. We held each other up and made each other feel that we were doing a good job as mums. We moaned about our husbands, the state of our vaginas, our sore boobs and laughed at our weak pelvic floors. We ate cake and drank hot chocolate by the bucket load (we still do this quite a bit…).

There’s absolutely no way I could have got through this past year without my mummy friends. The women I wasn’t bothered about getting to know are now such an important part of my life. They are always there to listen to my moaning or offer advice when the J has a weird rash/strange poo/random mark on her body. We can sit and moan about how our children are little shites and joke about wanting to send them back. We can be honest and chat without judgement, because we know that we aren’t really being serious, we just need to vent.

So thanks ladies, you are awesome and I’m so glad to have you in my life. Oh and thanks for putting up with my gross jokes and weird banter.

When Grump and I signed up for the NCT course I was astonished at how much it cost – for a baby course! But a few of my friends with kids had said how great it was for making friends and how important that is for a new mum. Well I couldn’t agree more. That £250 (or thereabouts) was worth every penny, because it gave me so much more than a bit of birth and parenting knowledge, it gave me some proper good mummy mates.

 

Becoming Daddy

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Preface

So Grump has been meaning to write a guest blog post for me for a while. He actually got around to it the other night when I fell asleep on the sofa at 6pm and left him in peace. He is an amazing father to the J and I am so lucky to have him by my side on this crazy journey that is parenting. I would say that his post is a little bit soppy for my liking, but it made my heart melt to read things from his point of view and to hear how much he loves our little girl (and me, bless him). I hope this post resonates with some of your other halves and encourages them to open up about their experiences as a new Dad.

Becoming Daddy

G and I had been together for about 12 years before eventually tying the knot, but starting a family was something neither of us wanted to rush into. We enjoyed married life for a year or two but, as the old saying goes, ‘time waits for no man’ (or woman’s biological clock for that matter) so we decided to go for it. G actually fell pregnant a lot quicker than both of us expected, and I’ll never the forget the mixture of emotions I felt when she did a pregnancy test and found out that we were expecting. I was of course absolutely thrilled, but at the same time terrified that I would now be responsible for a new little person – this from someone who struggles to put his shoes on the correct feet in the morning…

As G’s pregnancy progressed I developed this deep, instinctive need to protect and watch over her; I worried when she went out that something terrible would happen, that something would go wrong and we’d lose little Peanut. From speaking to other Dads, I knew I wasn’t alone in feeling this. It seems nature is very clever in preparing us for what lies ahead: that need to protect and provide.

Each night before we went to sleep I would rub oil into G’s tummy (apparently, it’s good for preventing stretch marks) and chat to Peanut. Just silly little things, but I began to build a bond with my unborn child that would only grow stronger – especially when I saw him or her (we didn’t want to know the sex) for the first time at our 12-week scan. Then it became so real, and seeing that little heartbeat made me quite tearful. I’ve never been an overly-emotional person, but this was something different; it awakened an instinct in me that I think only expectant Dads can empathise with.

Feeling the first little movements was another great milestone for me, and I’ll never forget the look on G’s face as we lay on the bed together and I felt Peanut move for the first time. I’ve always adored my wife, but moments like that on our way to becoming parents made me love her even more; we were in this together and would enjoy many more special moments like this during her pregnancy that brought us closer than I could ever imagine.

I must admit I was very apprehensive about the birth, and the nearer our due date got the worse it became. This may sound a little stupid coming from someone who was going to be a mere bystander, but I was worried for my wife. I was nervous about seeing the woman I loved in pain, and worried whether I would be a hindrance at a time she would need me most. We had a false start or two, but when things got going it seemed as if I was on autopilot. I’d listened very carefully during our NCT classes and was determined to do my bit by helping G with her breathing exercises and making sure she got help from the midwives when she needed it – quite forcefully on one occasion as it happens!

I would say that there is nothing, and I mean nothing, that could have prepared me for that 12-hour stint at G’s bedside. She was absolutely amazing, and the strength and determination she showed through what is surely the most intense pain a human being can endure not only made me respect her so much, but it made me see her quite differently. Yes, she was still was my wife and best friend, but for the first time ever since I’d known her she was about to be something she’d never been: the mother of my child.

When the J finally put in an appearance, it was by far the most amazing moment of my life. They say you never forget the birth of your children, and now I understood why. I was allowed down at the ‘business end’ every now and again, and it was a strange feeling to see the J’s head emerge and see our child before G did – the person who’d been carrying this wriggling squatter for the last nine months! But the moment she was actually born knocked me for six. The emotion of it all completely overwhelmed me and I became this crying mess of a man who was now realising his world had changed forever. I was in such a state I couldn’t even cut the cord as planned – all the while G was as calm and collected as I’d ever seen her.

When I finally pulled myself together and I held this tiny little girl in my arms I was immediately in love; a love that is unbreakable and like no other, a love between a daddy and his little girl. As a teacher, I’d often got cross with those who I perceived as ‘over-protective parents’ who fussed over their children over insignificant things. But now, for the first time, I saw it from a totally different perspective. I understood from the very first moment I held the J that you’d do anything to protect your child. That in-built need to care and protect, and God help anyone who tries to harm them.

As I’m sure any new Dad will testify, the first few weeks (and months) of fatherhood are a complete whirlwind. I must confess I was a bit miffed at being moved down the pecking order – G’s priority was now the J and I had to fend for myself a lot more, which I genuinely found a struggle. The sleepless nights; the 1am trips to Tesco, searching the shelves frantically for wind remedy; the constant, non-stop stream of stinking nappies; and an ever-decreasing bank balance… not to mention a non-existent sex-life (made all the worse by the fact your wife’s boobs look AMAZING), all conspire to put you off parenthood for life. But I can genuinely say that I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Now that the J has reached her first birthday, things have certainly got easier, but there are now very different challenges as she begins to find her way in the world. The colds, the bugs, the moving of her own accord and the havoc that causes around the house… but it’s those special moments that she and I have together that make it all worthwhile. When she falls asleep in my arms as I rock her off to sleep. The beaming smile I get as I walk in the door from work. The fits of giggles she has as I blow raspberries on her tummy. Every now and again I have to pinch myself and remind myself that this is actually real; G and I actually made her, and not only has being parents brought us closer together as a couple, it’s made me complete. It’s made me a Daddy.

Unicorn day

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Last week, something rare and exciting happened to me. This sort of day is so unusual that, for some people, it might not ever exist and so will henceforth be known as Unicorn day.

Seeing as we had been house bound for much of the Christmas period due to illness, I thought it would be nice to take the J out for the day. I made plans to visit my friend who lives in Lancing. It is about an hour and 15 minutes drive from us, so I had to work out when I would be driving to fit around the J’s naps. There were lots of variables that meant the day could go very wrong: the J not going to sleep; her screaming for the entire car journey; her doing a poo in the car seat (they always leak out); her refusing to eat lunch/sit in her high chair/throw food at people, etc; so I was a little bit nervous, but had my fingers crossed that it would all be OK.

Instead, I had the perfect day; one of those days where everything went just right. I felt like I was winning at life and at being a mum. I don’t want to boast too much (please don’t hate me), but it all just flowed so easily. We set off after breakfast to tie in with the J’s morning nap and she slept for a good hour in the car. She didn’t scream when my friend wanted to cuddle her (she’s a bit hit and miss with who she likes at the moment – typical female) and she played happily on the floor while I enjoyed a cup of tea and catch up.

We went out for lunch and the food took longer to come than anticipated, but the J sat in her highchair nicely and only threw the odd bit of food on the floor. She was smiling at all the waitresses and generally being a pleasant human being. Then, on the way home she had another snooze in the car. She was a pleasure all day.

When Grump got home from work, the J greeted him with a huge smile and we were all in high spirits. I feel like this is the version of motherhood we are all sold. Happy mummies and happy babies all the time. We all know this is far from reality, but it was nice to just have one day where I felt I had done everything right; the first one in almost 11 months. Most days for me are a mix of moments of happiness and laughter interspersed with crying, poo and clearing up food that she’s thrown across the room.

So if you are having a bad day, a bad week or even a bad month. One day, hopefully, you will get a Unicorn day and it will make all the crap that came before worthwhile.