what is our identity now we are Dads?
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A big Happy Mothers Day to all of you.
As a Dad's Group we are pro-women and pro-mums in everything we do - so its a happy day for us.
That's not to brush under the carpet the pain felt by many Dads who are separated from their children often through unjust decisions by women or the courts -any Dad in these situations who we meet at our events is so welcome and he has our solidarity and a listening ear. What we will avoid is the easy generalisations or sexism which can come out along the way. Mothers and women can behave badly but so can we all when under stress.
All of us have a mother in our lives or if we haven't will seek out mothering figure. So today we also thank those women who have inspired us along the way, grandmothers, step mums, aunties, family friends, foster mums too...… they make us better men, the best versions of ourselves.
For a little nostalgia, a giggle and definitely NOT a guide on how to relate to our mothers, see below....Remember Sitcom 'Sorry' with the brilliant Ronnie Corbett...? People of a certain age will remember it. Happy Mothers Day all!
Everything from our grandparents advice to the very modern trend for uplifting quotes and memes online tell us that we should 'count our blessings' or 'think positive'. Right, i'll do that. Yes very good, timeless advice. Im up for this.
That's before the first dawn raiders pipe up at 5am with Daddy I need a wee. The reality sets in early in the morning and the good intentions fade. Or when the car keys go missing, the rude people in the traffic jam, the misery on the faces of the people on the train. Joy is fragile and easily broken by our environments.
Someone once said that modern life seems designed to suck the joy out of things. To set us up for a cycle of desire, high expectations, low returns. Conditioned to be unhappy with what we don't have and uneasy with what we have- a sort of marketplace of misery. Ok a bit dark maybe. But theres another way and its under our noses!
My daughter is almost two and its so striking that none of this world of worry has rubbed off on her yet. She still sees something quirky or new and giggles out loud, its pure joy at looking around this amazing world. A bird, a hug, a flower. It truly is the original innocence which maybe we drift back to ourselves only in our dreams nowadays. Isnt that a missed opportunity? The other day when I was about to consider her as 'cheeky' or 'hard work' I suddenly stopped myself and asked the harder question about my own weary joy-deficit!
Now its absolutely not about saying to the sad or lonely to 'man up' or 'smile it could be worse'. In fact one of the reasons I launched Identity Dads is to provide a space to have a proper honest & compassionate chat about Dads mental health and wellbeing, so the 'man-up' phrase is totally banned.
Have a great day, friends
ps... I have also spent time in the developing world where this joy conundrum is turned on its head and inspired by people who live for a week on what I spent this morning on a coffee & a cake
Well it depends on what type of Christmas really.
I do worry about what kind of Christmas we are handing in to our kids.... and its more than just post-millennial anxst that there will never be a 'proper' Christmas number one and the likelihood of all sitting around one film on analogue television is long gone in the Netflix age.
Is it the Coca-Cola Christmas, 'the haaalidays are curmin' sings the jingle with a fat santa bedecked entirely in corporate colours.
Is it the toy shop Christmas from the festival of plastic which those of us over 40 remember where the name of the game, in the first few decades of cheap consumer goods, was to purchase as many items of plastic as possible.
Is it an escapist Christmas, very modern tale of people who hate Christmas and travel alone or to some part of the world where the globalised Santas haven't reached.
But what about the family Christmas, the Christmas that's about serving. I know that's what i'd love my children to inherit. I question myself as to whether they really know this rea Christmas message - that the divine life is found in our human lives, in all its mess and complexity- all through one baby in a manger and the things he grew up to do. Amazing.
Theres also a beauty in the ancient beliefs of people in this land around midwinter solstice, that in the very nature around us, even if it seems dead, there is life. Im very relaxed about the Church adopting some of these - trees and wreaths, green decorations and the lot
So whether its yuletide, midwinter solstice, Christs-mass and a family focussed around the twinkly lights- there seems to me to been a deeper message - not Disney mush, but our hoping for light at this darkest time of the year.
...but then the guilt sweeps in again as the angels from the 'festival of plastic' Christmas whisper in my ear...but what about all the retail jobs, the high street is struggling, people are deserting our vision of Christmas
…. but then the sentimental, 20th century invented American Christmas calls me to and chides me for being a spoilsport and to think of the magic in the little ones eyes. Aww, maybe im a Grinch?
...and then, in a moment of noise and panic and endless Christmas lift music, I snap...I need a break frm all of this on my OWN. Oh Ive become a Christmas hater/escaper!
SO maybe providing we take a moment to be mindful of what we are doing and why we have the trditions we do then any of the above take on a special meaning for US.
So from my family to yours this Christmas time, the very best of British to you- however you celebrate..... but my mixed up, tired, messy Yuletide brain starts tinckling bells and I declare, as the great bard of the 1970s a certain Noddrick Holder Esquire once sang , "ITS CHRISTMAS"
So now the first meeting of ID Identity Dads in its localised format rather than online has happened. That was quite a thing...... the expectation, waiting and the delivery. I now total get what our beloved other halves went through to bring a new bundle of life into the world. Hey, in fact this is even more painful - have you seen bank account application forms and a draft society constitution and set of rules! Ouch
Lets watch this baby grow!
* for reasons of familial peace, i'd like to make clear this is satire
Parenthood comes like a bomb blast in our lives, an emotional imposter into the shielded world of the male heart.
When my babies muttered "daddy" very early on, I pretended to be cool with it, but inside the cartwheels were turning. I was flipping out with a passion that came from a new and inexplicable place.
Im told that statistically the 'da' sound is easier so most of them do that. Im not believing a word of it, like the crazy quitters in 2016 who said we dont need experts anymore, Im blind to that nonsense. Their first words were Daddy, end of.
No longer can things be left quietly un-felt or kept calm. There is an in-built chaos and passion that sweeps us up and sometimes challenges the stable ordered and rational lives we've built up pre-children.
If you are a new Dad or you've been here for years- you will recognise these stirrings in your gut that rip up your old rule-book. Throw in sleep deprivation and its a crazy time of challenging your old identity and forging a new one in a haze of crayons and poo.
So what then is the way to not be overwhelmed by the sheer purity of the little beings and their trusting (possibly naïve) dependency on you as 'daddy'. Going round as an emotional wreck is possibly not a long term answer (I remember crying and spacing out in the supermarket isle on a few occasions) Equally going ice cool and ignoring these massive life changes, is quite obviously going to store up all sorts of grief (oops sorry probably some establishment pscho-expert said that so, Tosh!!)
It looks like we are going to have to accept this as the new normal, having a full house, full day and full heart.
“I’m inspired by the love people have for their children. And I’m inspired by my own children, how full they make my heart. They make me want to work to make the world a little bit better. And they make me want to be a better man.” Barack Obama
For several years I wondered if I had a blog in me?
For several years I wondered whether dads or men more generally could benefit from connecting better to their peers
For several years I wondered whether both of the above would lead to enhanced mental wellbeing, happiness and apple pie. I actually do love apple pie, its not just a neat phrase for me- I get defensive about the apple pies. You can see that from my waistline!
For a moment in October 2018 these wonderings came together and we launch! Gosh,
Im a stuck in the middle kind of guy- fast approaching (or in?) middle age , in the middle between two sets of kids, two teenagers and two toddlers.
Born in Beverley, East Yorkshire, growing up in Durham and being in Merseyside ever since, I'm a proud Northerner but regularly visit London for work and love it - and more to the point love my very Southern wife .
In terms of work, well after a politics degree at Liverpool University and a dabble in broadcasting I took the route through PR and marketing jobs and into the charity sector where you will find me now with my own consultancy business and I am also fundraising officer for a fantastic anti slavery charity called the Medaille Trust
Well Plato wrote that in far simpler, yet deeper-thinking times ...you know what? it might be true, but its certainly exciting to make a start on a new project. More about me in the next post(busy dad of 4 bla bla bla), but for now …..
Its fashionable to talk about vision and values, so i’ll start there ever hopeful that even a bit of it resonates with others.
The vision for this network is so that dads, grandads and other male carers can have a space to connect with one another, learn from each other - all as informally as possible (ok, ok even setting up a group with a title and meetings etc is already way too formal?!) The problem is that for many men, who aren't naturally a ‘joiner’ of things, networks and friendships, particular don't happen naturally. SO without doing something we end up doing NOTHING. We watch with interest the significant women in our lives going off to playgroup and coming home with friends! How does that happen?
There are a couple of truths that we don't always like to admit, because we are men and we have it all in hand, have a cunning plan, have never dropped a ball yet!
(1)Parenthood and maintaining a positive, healthy relationship and work-balance is hard.....and (2) we cant do it alone.
Just being human and a grown up male is hard enough some days, so we wont run away from the chance to share life enhancing, inspiring messages on here that have helped some men on the journey. Take what you need and scroll down past the rest.
But...promise that actual meet ups will be simply coffee or a pint or two away from the noise and mess of the little ones. Unashamedly social and sociable. Who knows though whether a parallel programme of courses, day trips, sport or events could happen in time- depends on some funding and interest.
At least until we are more established and can take a sounding from members we will welcome ‘likes’ from anyone to the Facebook page (ie its not a closed group limited to dads or men) So it would be lovely to have lots of our family and friends to share the vibe too.
So whether new Dad, widowed Dad, grand-dad, foster Dad, young Dad, step-Dad, single Dad, estranged Dad, Dad of 1 , adoptive Dad, or Dad of 9 - you are welcome. Join the mailing list, follow the social media
This is absolutely not a group or network which is about father’s justice in the family court system, pushing a men vs women agenda, being preachy or judgemental, fighting culture wars or the like. It doesn't mean that if these are big things in your life you wont be welcomed and heard- its just that this network wont be your vehicle. Sorry, there are plenty of other spaces.
I’ve given it a try to pin this thing down- it isn't an exhaustive list, after all it is only day 1, where everything is possible, nothing is definite and there is room for infinite creativity and growth. Actually quite a cool space to be in! maybe Plato me-old-lad was right after all!