posted on: Tuesday, August 6, 2013
It's our first 'meet the papa'! The papa in question is 34 year-old British expat Matt from Dad Down Under. His blog is an entertaining chronicle of his stay at home days in Melbourne with his son Max (2) along with his hilarious observations on family life with his wife, Anna.
It's refreshing and relatively rare right now to read about this parenting caper from a papa's perspective but as it turns out Matt's capers are pretty similar to the everyday experiences of mums. (And anyone else relate to Matt's tendency to squeeze some writing in instead of getting stuck into housework?) I asked Matt how he's found fatherhood so far. This is what he told me.
What did a normal day look like before you became a dad?
I suppose I fitted loosely into the category of young(ish) professional. I embraced the work hard play hard logic that came with that tag and was quite indulgent, self indulgent even. Fun came in the form of food, film, fashion and fitness – it also seems I had a ‘f’ fetish.
What does a normal day look like now?
My days are a heady blur of parks, libraries, beaches and swimming pools; all of which take place after a very important visit to a coffee shop – it sounds so ideal doesn’t it? I will force my way into as many adult conversations as I can, my days are about keeping my son and myself happy. When Max has his little siesta this is my time to write, I’ve always loved to write and feel privileged to have both time and an outlet. I am also incredibly adept at ignoring housework.
What has surprised you most about becoming a dad?
I’m surprised by just how much love I have to give this boy of mine. I’m surprised by how instinctive parenting feels, it just happens. I’m surprised by how quickly a child’s personality can emerge and present itself. I’m surprised by how mundane a zoo can be when you visit them on a weekly basis, “oh look Max another lion”.
Is being a dad easier/harder/very different than what you thought it would be?
It’s undoubtedly harder than I thought it would be. Not so much being a Dad but being a Stay at Home Dad. You hear the old cliché that “life will never be the same again” I thought that was just what parent types say to scare the rest of us off from getting in on the fun. It’s been made harder by the fact that we live on the other side of the world from our family and friends, we are our support network. Having said that I love that me and Anna have raised this amazing little boy all by ourselves; it’s something to be proud of.
What do you wish you’d known before your child was born?
I wish I’d known that those early months are the time to keep indulging in your own passions, babies sleep a lot. I wish I’d known that everything happens in little phases of about two weeks, to embrace the good times and ride out the bad. I also wish I’d known to ignore the Mum who suggested sucking the goo directly from Max’s nose was an acceptable means of treating a cold.
What is the hardest part of being a new dad?
Learning to let go of life as I knew it and accepting there are new definitions for things like fun, relaxation and sleep. The moment I fully embraced my new role was the moment I fell in love with parenting.
What do you love best about being a dad?
I love that I have a connection with my son that for me feels so normal and routine but when people observe us together they sometimes comment on how deep and rare that bond is. I love that being a Dad is so utterly selfless, it’s my first dabble with total selflessness and I quite like it. I love that I am raising a gentle and happy soul.
What helps you parent well?
My instincts. This may sound terribly old fashioned to some but I know my son better than anybody else and I know what sort of qualities I am trying to instill, the rest is common sense and trial and error. I also observe good parenting in others and I refer back to my own childhood and things that my parents did particularly well.
What is the best parenting advice you’ve been given?
That children are an addition to your family not the central or sole focus. My relationship with Anna is just as important as my relationship with Max and I want to make sure that both of them are nurtured.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to other stay at home dads?
I would ask that you ‘own it’. Don’t apologise for what you do. Don’t allow social stigma to inhibit you in your role. Don’t look back on your old life and feel like you’re missing out. Own it, be proud of it, enjoy the good times and weather the bad.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Matt! You can find Matt over on Dad Down Under, as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.