When I first thought about having kids I was really over confident about it. I thought about lazy Saturdays, sleeping baby in my arms on the sofa and watching movies for hours. I thought about leisurely walks with the stroller and feeding the ducks before returning home for dinner while the baby played on the floor. Bliss. What could be so hard? I didn’t know what all the fuss was about. My plan was to be there to support my wife through pregnancy, be a #dadboss during the labour and then the hard bit was over. The little human would just grow itself and all I had to do was be a role model and guide them into being awesome. My plan was to show the baby some letters and sounds everyday so he/she would be reading and/or writing by age 2, then by 2 ½ they would be saying the 6 times table because of course I would have been repeating that every bedtime from 3 months old. By the time 3 hit, I planned to have the baby enrolled in piano and violin lessons so they could become a child prodigy and perform at the Albert Hall. Not to mention acting and singing lessons after pre-school then basketball training on a Saturday morning. I had it all nailed.
My wife would try and inject me with a dose of reality and talk to me about changing nappies, terrible twos and sleepless nights – blah blah blah, but I was so confident in my unproven abilities to be a fantastic dad that all of that was secondary. I was yet to fully realise that those scenes I described were the scenes that people spend hours setting up for the perfect Instagram picture and very rarely were they reality. I wasn’t completely naive, I knew the realities, I just didn’t want to hear or overthink them.
Almost 5 years ago when I found out we were expecting our first child my mind immediately diverted to practical concerns, the type of concerns that many families go through, like how will we pay the mortgage on one salary? Will we have space for everything? Do we live near good schools? And what do we pack in the hospital bag? Quite legitimate thoughts for first time parents. This is when I started to get on edge working out how everything would fall into place. However, I was still confident in my undiscovered dad skills.
All the way through the short but crazy labour I was fine, still unfazed by the whole thing. I cut the cord, had cuddles, dressed his tiny body and attempted skin-to-skin. I was bossing it just as I thought! Then reality hit and I wasn’t expecting it… the first nappy change! I was cowering just outside the room peering around the corner like there was some kind of tragic scene unfolding and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. My wife and mother-in-law were in hysterics at the fact there seemed to be some kind of invisible force field stopping me entering until the clean nappy was on and the area was secured. It was then I started to realise I was moving into a very different world and I had to find my own groove.
My wife on the other hand, from the moment he was born she was on autopilot. She knew exactly what to do and when to do it. I would go into panic mode if he started crying or if he STOPPED crying. ‘Whats wrong with him, is he ok?’ was pretty much my go to sentence for at least the first year. My wife was like Superwoman – feed, bath, sleep, change, repeat. She would go nights with no sleep and act like it was normal while I walked around like a zombie. It’s like she had been reading some kind of secret mum manual for 20 years or plugged into a human app store and downloaded the mums Instinct app. I am honestly in awe of what she did. She definitely takes the lead when it comes to parenting, I’m not ashamed to admit I follow her lead 70% of the time. Not because I am not able but it’s just because she gets it so right. It’s safe to say most mums get it right, because they pave their own way; I see it on Instagram, conventional mums and unconventional mums alike are displaying their skills and inspiring others.
What I ask myself is ‘where on earth does a role of a dad come from?’ There’s no strong universal blueprint for the role of a dad, we are not guided by anything in particular like being pregnant, breastfeeding, pelvic floor exercises(!), maternity leave, Mary Poppins or good old maternal instinct. I can’t really name a famous dad character from my childhood unless they are little bit hapless like Cliff Huxtable from the Cosby Show or Ben Harper from My Family. I mean there was Mufasa from the Lion King but he was a cartoon (plus didn’t last beyond 30 mins of the film), or Uncle Phil in Fresh Prince but he was, well an Uncle! What I suppose I’m trying to say is that there’s often not even a generic basis for a father-like role on which to build, so we’re forced to make our own based on our experience, good and bad, and also based on mothers.
So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, I’ve made mistakes over the past 4 years but I’ve managed not to seriously injure or psychologically damage anyone in the process – yet. I’ve tackled nappies, sick, poo, wee, snot, messy play, nursery runs, tantrums in public and all the other things parents have to face, so I often get ahead of myself and feel on top of the parenting world! So with the birth of our second son, my feet have become really comfortable under this dad table and I’ve started to overstep the boundaries or explore the boundaries as I like to say. The over confident me has come back and I’ve started to make some really annoying statements that take my wife by surprise and earn me a ‘know your place’ look. Phrases that only sound right in our household when they come from her or phrases that I should never say… ever. So I thought I’d compile my 10 #OverConfidentDad phrases. Here goes:
- Giving some advice after the birth of baby no.2 – ‘Make sure you support his head babe’
- While I’m at work – ‘When he gets home from pre-school can you just make sure he is bathed and ready for bed please?’
- Also while I’m at work – ‘When you’re out, we need some nappies, thanks’
- When she is breastfeeding – ‘I’m shattered babe, you kept me up all night’
- Also when she is breastfeeding – ‘He’s got quite a good suck there, well done’
- During active labour – ‘Just doing an Instagram live’
- ‘Make sure you’re not overfeeding him’
- The first time you put him to sleep – ‘shhh the baby’s sleeping, can you try and keep your voice down’
- Before passing the baby to her – ‘Did you put hand gel on?’
- ‘I’m going out on Saturday, could you look after the kids for me until I get back?’
These top phrases are guaranteed to get me ignored but I love it.
Dads, head over to my Instagram @this_father_life if you are now comfortable in your role, let me know what overconfident phrases you come out with or some of the over confident things you do now your a ‘veteran’ dad by using the hasthtag #OverConfidentDad in the comments.
And mums, also hit me up on Instagram and let me know what over confident dad things really wind you up by using the same hashtag.
I want to hear it all and maybe even try some out myself, the only rule is, don’t get overly deep about it… It’s lighthearted.