I’d like to begin this article by telling you that you’ve already been lied to, because, actually, there is nothing people don’t tell you about being a new dad.
From the moment you first let people know that, y’know, all being well there’s a small version of yourself and your partner likely to arrive in the near future, people simply won’t stop giving you advice, telling you exactly what to expect and everything you’ll need to know. Prepare yourself for a lot of, “Say ‘Goodbye’ to sleep!” and “Ooh, it’s such a journey!” (What, like The X Factor?).
But – like the latest boxset everyone’s banging on about and that you haven’t seen yet – the last thing you want to hear is a load of spoilers. So I tried to ignore pretty much everyone and talk about football instead, like normal, which made for some seriously hilarious surprises when my daughter eventually entered the world.
Firstly, babies really do look like shrivelled worms, even more than I was expecting.
Secondly, teaching a baby how to stick their tongue out is one of the funniest things ever.
Thirdly, babies have an absolutely iron grip, which could easily break your neck. Forget swans – babies are the real danger.
Fourthly, a baby has an uncanny knack of stiffening their entire body like a plank when they don’t want to do something, which is both annoying and hilarious.
Fifthly, teaching a baby to hold a cricket ball and then envisioning them opening the bowling at Lord’s – despite the infinitesimally minimal chance of that happening, thanks to the cripplingly poor genes you have given to them – is a truly wonderful thing.
Sixthly, watching England play cricket while your daughter snoozes away peacefully beside you is an equally joyous experience (the snoozing more than England’s pitiful attempts at batting).
Of course, there are bad bits: the screaming; the nappies (although it’s almost impressive how bad a smell can be – like, I didn’t even know this was scientifically possible for something to smell so bad); the no-sleep-and-still-somehow-trying-to-function. But, y’know, if you didn’t know about these beforehand, then you probably shouldn’t have signed up for the job in the first place.
It’s the little things, really. And, as a 21st-century dad, you have just as much right to experience those little things as a mum. The days of mum doing all the baby work – and also getting to enjoy all the fun bits – are over, particularly if your partner is itching to get back to their career, which they deserve to do every bit as much as you do.
This is why the government’s Shared Parental Leave scheme is such a great idea. The scheme helps combine work and family life, with parents able to share up to 50 weeks of maternity/paternity leave and up to 37 weeks of pay.
This means more flexibility than ever before for the both of you to spend time with your nipper in that first year of life and experience those little moments more equally – and, additionally, for both of you to crack on with your careers and maintain those all-important social connections.
After all, if you’re not around to teach them to bowl, how are they ever going to make it to Lord’s?
Find out about Shared Parental Leave here
Words: Dave Fawbert