Welcome to the first of what I hope is going to be a really interesting mini series. I wanted this blog to be somewhere new parents could come and find out as much information as possible. Seeing as I only have twelve weeks of experience of being a Dad I thought it might be useful to bring in some friends with a little more time under their belt. For this week I chatting to the awesome Daniel Young!
Here is how the conversation went down!
Hey mate! Thanks so much for answering some questions for me. I absolutely love your little family. Can you give me a little backstory about you, your family and what's been going on for you lately?
Thanks so much for involving me man, I love connecting with like minded dads, not many of us put ourselves out there so it's super cool to connect with you. Soooo, I'm Daniel Young. I recently turned 30 years old (although I like to think I still look 22). I'm married to my best friend and beauty of a wife, Bethany and I'm the father of two kids, our daughter River (3) and our son Cove (1). Having kids is something that I have always wanted, but I seriously did not expect them to change my life's trajectory in such a significant and amazing way. There are probably to obvious ways to describe me; a people person and a creative. Before our daughter came along, I was chasing down countless creative avenues to find something that gave me purpose. I tried playing in a band (rapping... I know...), song-writing, starting a record label, clothing design... When River was born in 2015 she became my inspiration for each day, and because I had fallen in love with her and everything she did I was filming it all on my phone. From there I decided to stitch these clips together and upload them to YouTube. Since then I've learnt a ton, graduated to a more professional set-up and our YouTube channel has grown to have over 36,000 subscribers. This year I started a videography business and I'm set to make this the year where I quit my office job to pursue YouTube and videography as my career. All this is because of River.
As a new Dad those first few months can be pretty overwhelming. Have you got any practical advice for people about to begin the journey? Any tips or tricks you've got for surviving and enjoying those special first moments?
I was so nervous when my wife entered the last few weeks of pregnancy. To the extent that I asked if we could practice carefully passing a teddy bear back and forth so that I could prepare for holding a fragile newborn baby! As far as the first few moments go, all I can say is that it is one of the most powerful and memorable moments in my life. I do regret one thing though. My wife was rushed away for surgery pretty quickly which meant I was left on my own with this brand new baby girl. I was in awe of her, but I was too scared to pick her up on my own in case I dropped her or hurt her! Granted, I was born with one arm so my concerns were normal. One thing that my wife said when I told her this really stuck with me... "She's your baby, you're not going to break her. I trust you and she trusts you. She even knows your voice". I wish I was more confident in those early moments!
Oh and one more tip - capture it - take pictures, film it, do whatever you can!
What's surprised you the most about being a Dad?
Your perspective just changes nearly immediately. The new life that you are now responsible for shakes up everything, I suddenly became aware of how selfish I was and how I spent my time, money and what I valued. The other thing that surprised me was how quickly I warmed to parenthood. This didn't come naturally to me and it's definitely something you need to work on and adjust to but it'll happen faster than you think.
Did you feel ready to become a Dad? Can you give us an insight into how you felt when you first found out and throughout the pregnancy?
You're never ready! I think if you are nervous about changing anything, you'll always find a reason or excuse to put it off. I know couples who say, when we earn more money, when we have a 4 bedroom house, when we've travelled a bit more... But the truth is, nothing can prepare you for a baby. I had always wanted kids, but life was comfortable so I was scared to let go of that. Even when Bethany and I had decided to start trying for a baby, you still get that "oh sh*t" feeling in your belly because you know your life is potentially about to change forever. Bethany surprised me one morning by waking me up whispering the happy news. I was absolutely over the moon, but also very scared! The hardest part for dads is waiting - the moment you get the news that a baby is on the way you begin a long 9 month wait. This can sometimes be hard for dads, because your partner is connecting with and bonding with the baby that's growing inside her, whilst all you can do is watch. I found it helpful to focus on the practical things I could do to prepare like cot building..
I know for me personally I found it hard to know what to do to help Ebony during the first few weeks. I wanted to be useful but didn't know what I could do, especially as she was breastfeeding. Did you have a similar experience? What things did you do to support your partner?
I found it hard too - it's easy to feel like a bit of a spare part in the first few weeks, especially if your partner is breast-feeding. I liked to just walk around holding her as she slept. Some of my favourites memories are of lying on our sofa with River fast asleep on my chest. We had a tough time feeding River at the start, the best advice I can offer is to take every opportunity to support your partner. For me that meant rocking River to sleep, staying up with her to let Bethany rest, changing the bed sheets, changing nappies and handling the washing. Anything you can do to support your partner will make her feel loved, rested and confident - it's easy to think that having a baby is only a shock to your system, but it's equally new for your partner. As a dad I accepted that in the early weeks my primary goal was to be Bethany's rock. As the baby grows up they become less reliant on mum and there are more and more things that you work out that only dads can do well. I seem to be the family entertainer for our kids at the moment!
How did you deal with the massive changes in your life that having a child brings?
I'm still learning but the best thing I've worked out (thanks to my wife) is that we are in control of what changes. You might have been told that everything changes or to say goodbye to doing x or going to y when your baby comes along. You may have even seen it happen to friends who've become parents. It's really, really easy to let your tiny bundle of joy dictate how you spend your time, money and even where you travel. If this happens you'll get frustrated, you may see friendships fade away and life will begin to feel hard. We decided to choose the areas in our lives that we would change and adjust for our baby and the parts that we didn't want to change. We love to eat out and go on dates together - you can still do that with a baby, especially if you time their nap well! You might not be able to do everything that you used to do pre-baby but with communication you and your partner will be able to identify the things that each of you enjoy doing and you will find a way to continue doing those things and it will breathe life into your happy family. I still get time to watch football, play football and even play Xbox.
What's been the scariest part of being a Dad?
The constant worry. It's constant. I now understand why my parents didn't want me staying out to late and why they didn't want me going to certain places or hanging with a bad crowd. I regularly check our video monitor to check that the kids are still breathing and GRAPES. Do not read about the dangers of grapes... You'll never let a juicy pack of grapes in your house ever again. It's normal to worry, after all, I am responsible for looking after them and keeping them safe. From what I hear it get's worse as they get older!
What's been the most rewarding part of being a Dad?
It's the simple things. Like when your kid looks to you for help. Like when my son Cove is crying and all he wants is to be close to me. Or "DADDY I NEED A WEE WEE!" I never thought that I'd get so much joy from having my name shouted from the top of the stairs. Nothing beats seeing how excited they get when I come home from being at work all day. As I said at the start, I'm a "people person" so I love connecting with people and getting to know new people. One of my favourite things to watch is when we are out at a park or at soft play and I see our daughter River walk up to other kids proudly introducing herself and trying to hold their hand.
What advice would you give Dad's that are worried about the labour process? Anything they can do to prepare?
For labour prep, I know that watching One Born Every Minute really helped prepare me for the different scenarios that may await us in labour, I'd definitely recommend that! Planning also helped us - knowing what's ahead and the different options available to us helped ease my concerns and meant that there were no surprises when the moment came.
What are five words that sum up being a Dad?
Joy. Pride. Purpose. Challenge. Exhaustion.
Daniel then had this questions for me. I know that each Dad and every family is dynamic is completely different. The overarching theme that i need to keep reminding myself is to trust my heart and be confident as a Dad. What's the most unexpected thing you noticed or learnt as a new father? And what's the best advice you've received as a new Dad?
I think the most important bit of advice I have received is also the most important lesson I've had to learn. It's basically that the reality of parenthood is hard and it's okay to not be happy and excited all the time. I feel sometimes I go on about the negative aspects of parenthood so much it seems like I am not totally in love with it. I am. More than I ever knew was possible. I just think it's so important for people to know that we don't have to live up to other peoples online highlight reels. It's okay to feel a bit crappy when you havnt sleep for days :)
So much amazing insight and experience in those answers. I want to say a massive thank you to Daniel for giving me the time to make that happen. He has the most beautiful family and you can check them out right here. I have also linked the video I first watched from them below. It's a beautiful journey to follow!