It’s time for me to be honest.

I thought I knew exactly what I was going to write in this blog. I really did. I had it all planned out. “What is he going on about?” I hear you cry (I don’t). 

Let me explain.

Today was Sam’s first full day at nursery. It was, not entirely coincidentally, my partner’s first day back at work after her maternity leave. So far, so predictable.

I had a blog planned, on how we were worried about mutual separation anxiety caused by Sam’s stay at the nursery. I was going to say that my partner and I had planned how she would balance her workload – which before Sam’s arrival had been considerable – taking into account the effort and tiredness that goes along with parenting a small child. I’d expected to build all of this up into a pleasingly tense crescendo, until, surprise surprise, it all turned out well in the end.

That’s what I’d planned to write. That’s not what happened.

I woke this morning feeling like I’d gone 12 rounds with Mike Tyson – boxing, not drinking. My head thumped and my throat was sore. “Never mind darling,” said my partner, “you can get a nap after the builders have gone.”

Did I mention we had builders in today too?

What kind of idiot books in builders on an already busy day (see above)? I did. But, to be fair, I didn’t. The building work was supposed to take place last week, but it drifted, as building work has a tendency to do, so that the builders were still with us today. Glorious.

This morning was supposed to be the family version of an exhibition match. A morning where I showed how smoothly it could all run, with me in charge of Sam then dropping him at nursery, while my other half got on with her job (she works from home).

I don’t know if babies have an inbuilt ability to know when important conference calls are happening? Sam was as happy as Larry (whoever he is) until 9 this morning (we decided to start him at the nursery at 10 – easing him in). From 9 onwards, just as his mum began the ‘back to work’ conference call in the next room, he screamed the house down. There was nothing I could do. All the usual appeasing tricks didn’t work. He screamed and screamed, the conference call listened and I became grayer and grayer. I couldn’t take Sam out of the house, because the builders hadn’t arrived (they were predictably late) and my partner was on her besieged conference call and so couldn’t let them in.

I’ve rarely been so frazzled as when I delivered Sam to the nursery. Handing him over I noticed a small – zit like – spot on his hand. I mentioned it to the care assistant, who agreed to keep an eye on it.

Stressed, but relieved Sam was in good hands, I made a mental list of all things I was going to achieve in the next 6 hours. 6 whole, beautiful hours. Time, when you’ve got a little one, is such a luxury. At least, I comforted myself, the worst of the day was over.

I’d just sat down with a coffee, – beginning a piece of writing I’ve put off for far too long – when the phone rang.

It was the nursery.

Sam needed to be collected, in the last half hour spots had broken out all over him. He’d only been a nursery 27 minutes!

I rang the doctors straight away. Had a I done the drinking glass test? I felt sick. It’s amazing how, as a parent, your mind races to the most dramatic conclusions.

Sam’s mum and I raced (literally) to the nursery. I was soaked with sweat when I arrived. True enough, Sam was gathering an impressive collection of red spots. I tried to seem calm as we raced him to the doctors. I couldn’t help but feel guilty about not being more sympathetic during his screaming this morning: clearly he’d been ill and I’d just taken it as grumpiness.

I’ll bring the story to a rapid conclusion. I see no need in drawing it out. It was a viral infection, nothing, thank God, more serious. Nothing, I mean nothing, is more likely to make you feel out of your depth than the prospect of a seriously ill child.

So now, as I type, I’m sitting with a spotty, but sleeping child. Nursery for Sam is out of bounds for the next week so I’m on permanent daddy duty (rather than my usual 3 days). As for my partner’s stress-free transition back to work. Well, that may have been too much to hope for.

I wonder if Sam has hit some kind of record – being removed from nursery on his first day after only 27 minutes?

Maybe not.

Either way, it’s not been a day I’ll forget in a hurry.

Must get back to the spotty boy.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.


Freefall 2: “Unwanted Advice”

“Where’s his mum then?”

I must admit I was startled by the voice, seemingly from nowhere. It’s one of the (many) problems of being my height (I’m 6 foot 5), very small people don’t feature on my peripheral vision. For a moment, I thought I was hearing voices. They say that happens, don’t they – overtired people have hallucinations? They’ve always sounded like fun to me, in the abstract at least. I quite fancy spending an afternoon talking to Shergar or being one of those daring men on a flying trapeze.

But I digress.

I wasn’t hearing things, I was hearing someone – a middle aged lady to be exact, keen to interact with me and Sam my son. She was tiny, almost professionally so – hence my confusion.

“Sorry?” I replied, woken from my day dream of flying through the air in a Big Top.

“His mum?” the lady looked around expectantly. “Where is she?”

“She’s at home, working.”

She gave me a look of “Oh you poor dear” and then stuck a grubby finger in Sam’s unsuspecting mouth.

“Please don’t do that,” I said, trying to control my temper.

“He’s fine,” she said, dismissively.

Whether Sam was fine, or not, was hardly the point – although I was simultaneously trying to remember if there was a way of disinfecting a baby’s mouth.

“See… he likes it.”

Sam also likes to throw all of his weight in the opposite direction when he’s being carried, meaning you have to lunge to ensure he doesn’t fall. My point is, just because Sam likes something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for him. In fact, as a 7 month old baby, the idea of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are not concepts he’s familiar with.

As politely as I could, I disengaged her finger from Sam’s mouth and attempted to carry on with the shopping. She didn’t take the hint.

“That face, he’s pulling right now, that means he’s tired.”

That made 2 of us.

“I know.”

She made a little clucking sound and shook her head.

“I mean what you’re doing taking him out when he’s tired is beyond me. Men…”

Here is the crux of the matter. For some reason, that I am yet to figure out, some people think it’s perfectly acceptable to come over and interfere when a dad is out with their baby. It drives me mad. It really does.

“Got to go.”

“What are you feeding him on?” she continued.


Before I’d removed myself she’d grabbed a can of baby food from my basket.

“He won’t like this,” she said, eyeing up the Chicken noodle mush.

Sam does like it. He eats it like it’s going out of fashion. I took another jar from the shelf and walked away.

“Some people are just rude,” she said, as I left.

I couldn’t agree more.

Unsolicited advice, has it ever been well received? I mean, ever? Why, as a father, am I destined to be the recipient of it, by the bucket-load? Perhaps it’s a generational thing?We really need to get over the idea that a dad, on his own with his child, is providing inferior care – so poor indeed that a complete stranger, who happens to be in the possession of a second ‘X’ chromosome, could do a better job.

I’m aware that I may sound like I’m ranting. Mainly because I am. But really, when you’re tired, it’s the last thing you want. I fumed about it for hours, while Sam on the other hand, was happily napping in minutes. The lady was right, he was tired and today so am I.

Back to Shergar and the trapeze.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad



Freefall: Going Boob-less

Life would be so much easier if I had boobs.

There, I said it.

So much easier.

It seems to me slightly unfair that only women are equipped in this area. Dads like me would certainly feel a lot more useful if we were given breasts.

Cue the jokes about how I’ve got man-boobs already.

Thanks for that.

The thing is, I’m being serious.

New dads, when you talk to them, often recite the same issue: the feeling of being useless.

Well not ‘useless’ exactly. We’re good at making cups of tea for mum and moving heavy things about. But when it comes to the bread and butter of looking after a baby – we’re often completely surplus to requirements.

I want to stop here and make an acknowledgement. I’m very well aware that there are a whole host of mothers who do not or cannot breastfeed. I am in no way implying that by not breastfeeding these amazing parents are surplus to requirements. Far from it. As someone who spent a good period of time in a neonatal unit, as premature son wrestled with the task of breastfeeding I do know how hard and frustrating it can be. Being able to feed a child by one specific method is not a mark of whether one is a good parent or not. Mothers everywhere I salute you and the valiant work you do.

Which brings me back to my point. For better or for worse, my son is being breastfed. Which in so many ways puts a massive weight of responsibility on my partner. A weight, much as I’d like to, I can’t take from her.

I’ve tried. Lord, have I tried.

You see Sam, like most babies, doesn’t just feed when he’s hungry. He feeds when he’s upset or feeling unwell or surprised or tired or bored…

…you get the picture.

It’s a comfort thing. Essentially Sam turns to milk at all the intervals when I would have a pint or inhale a tube of Pringles. This means that my other half gets all the extremes of emotion. This is exhausting for her and it’s exhausting to watch.

It’s a difficult position for the father to find himself in. It takes me back to Sam’s birth, in an operating theatre, via C-section. Sam wasn’t doing well and was rushed into intensive care. Meanwhile my partner had a large hole in her. Suddenly I had two people to care for, look after and protect. The thing was they were physically heading in different directions. I couldn’t be with both. So I did what any parent would and went with Sam.

I feel a similar strain here. I want Sam to be happy and content, but I also see how tired this makes my partner and frankly I want to protect her from it.

Hence the boobs.

Men with boobs may not be the best idea. I mean, as a teenager, I’d have never left the house! I would, however, like to be able to help more.

We’re weaning Sam at the moment and so going through the Titanic – I don’t use that word lightly – struggle to get him to take the bottle from me. We have screaming, arching of the back, bulging blood vessels and dry retching – and that’s just me.

Seriously. It’s not easy. Apparently, babies can smell milk from their mother if she’s nearby and will thus refuse to feed from a bottle. I’d heard that sharks can smell a drop of blood in an ocean, Sam’s sense has got to be far more powerful than this! My other half has hidden in the kitchen, gone upstairs and even out for a walk, but the little man still seems able to sense her proximity. I’m sure that, even in full camouflage gear, he’d spot her in an instant.

It’s been quite a battle of wills. I want to help the boy, I also don’t want him upset. None of this would happen if he could feed directly from me when his mum is at work.  I’m reminded of the man-boob that Robert DeNiro sports in Meet the Fockers. I’d thought it ridiculous at the time. These days if Amazon sold them I’d be buying one right away – no second thoughts.

I can only hope that as Sam gets older, I’ll be able to pull my weight a little more. I’ll be happy to sit through all those dull conversations about Power Rangers while my partner puts her feet up. I promise. I might even pretend to be interested in football if it’ll make him happy and give her some time off.

In the meantime I’m relegated to providing tea and sympathy. Mothers, breastfeeding or not, are amazing and I take my hat off to them all!

That’s all for now.

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

The Precipice…

So here we are then.

I knew this moment would come. I’ve been building up to this for over a year, but, as with many things in life, I can’t say that I’m ready.

Have I ever been ready for anything? Probably not?

Don’t worry I’m not talking about the birth. We’ve done that. Finished. My son Sam is now just under 7 months old. He’s a lovely little ball of liveliness – going through the screeching phase. If you don’t know it, this is the bit where the baby just screeches, for hours on end, for no other reason than to hear the sound of their own voice. It makes scraping your nails on a blackboard sound positively relaxing in comparison. Trust me. I do not exaggerate here!

So what’s all this precipice nonsense? Good question.

Let me explain my set up. I’m a writer, by trade – cue the “Couldn’t tell by this!” gags.

OK. Are we done?

Well that’s what I am, my partner is a scientist, and analyst with a proper job. So the plan was always that I was going to take over a lion’s share of childcare when she went back to work. It’s by far the most sensible thing to do.

It’s just… well… I never really thought that her maternity leave was going to end. And, well, it’s about to and I’m suddenly going to be responsible.

It’s a horrible word, isn’t it? ‘Responsible’. I’ve never really been the type to embody it. If the word in question was ‘sarcastic’ then, traditionally, I was your man. But ‘responsible’… I’m not so sure.

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not being thrust into childcare unwillingly,  I’m not. In one way I’m looking forward to it – there will be a nursery involved too, so I’m not doing this alone. It’s just my other half is so good with Sam and I’m… more than a little bit nervous.

I’m sure there are other dads out there that can feel my pain? You see, I’m part of a generation that somehow sees being ‘a dad’ very differently to how my own father did. I’m a different kind of bloke to my old man and his peers – I don’t have a mustache, pipe, Ford Sierra or mate called ‘Roy’ (who has all 3).

I spent ages in education and then went to the work in the media – God I do sound like a bit of cliche!  No, I don’t spend all my time in Hoxton – I live in Devon these days. I’m not what you’d call ‘handy’, I’m useless at DIY. I don’t spend my Saturday’s playing football, I can’t stand the game. I’ve never lent my next door neighbour jump leads – I don’t have a car (I am learning to drive at 37). Basically I see very little of my father in me. When things go wrong I still look for a ‘grown up’, I tend to forget I’m already one myself.

So when it comes to taking on long term part time parenting (while my partner works) I do feel a little out of my depth.

An Out of Depth Dad… about to go over the precipice.

I’m sure it’ll all go well. It’s just I can’t help feeling a bit nervous.

Don’t worry. I’ll keep you updated on what happens. Warts and all.


The Out of Depth Dad.