Will a new information pack for expectant fathers be any help? A father of two, who has been through it all, offers his own advice.
The pack gives ways to keep children entertained
I realised I needed some advice on becoming a dad just a few seconds too late at the pregnancy classes.
As the tutor asked us "birth partners" what we were doing to prepare, I rather stupidly told the truth.
"I'm on the Playstation every night because it's the last chance I'll ever have." Credibility exits along with the tumbleweed.
Three years on, a father to a girl and a boy, what have I learned? And would I have benefited from some kind of Dad Pack with quick tips on dealing with poo running down my nice trousers?
I bought the books at the time, and then didn't really read them. It wasn't that I thought I knew it all, it was just there was so much going on that nature appears to have programmed us to learn on the job. So here is what I learned all-by-myself, to quote my three-year-old daughter.
Life changes. Completely, utterly, forever. Everything that you knew before, forget it. Your brain gets rewired. Your alcohol tolerance level collapses. You need more sleep and you lose track of everything else in the world, other than what your wife thinks about you.
I have learned that the only person who can tell you how to be a parent is yourself. By all means seek advice and listen to it. But unless you are prepared to take on the big decisions (bribery tactics for toddlers) and the complex emotional ones, you are going to struggle.
No amount of self-help manuals, government-backed schemes or cod-psychology on daytime TV will help you negotiate the paths you need to take.
The hardest thing for some men to deal with is the (false) belief that they are forever free agents with their own time jealously guarded. Well get over it, that isn't the way of the world. If the Dad Pack goes anywhere towards making men confront the reality, then it's a good thing.
Nobody told me that three years on I would only get to watch DVDs rather than go to the cinema. The only gadget I now marvel at is the breast pump (although it really is an extraordinary thing).
But hey, I'm relaxed because none of this stuff matters when measured against going beetle and caterpillar hunting with my daughter.
And I'm entirely relaxed that I am rapidly heading towards a day when I will be doing my embarrassing Dad dance at school discos.
I say embrace the change because you're not living your life to the full if you fight against the direction you have taken it. So wave bye-bye to everything you knew and set out as you would for a good holiday. You're going exploring. Take some nice pictures on the way.
I think that the father is such an important role, and what we need to do is start showing more positive fatherly role models on tv and in the media rather than showing the inept and confused male figure that it seems to have become the norm to promote. My partner will make a great father, and he will learn about it the same way I learn to be a mother: as we go along!
Briony, Leeds, West Yorkshire
I couldn't agree more. 5 years ago I would not have entertained the idea of playing tea parties. Now here I am 41 years old and enjoying every blooming minute of it. Though you do have to accept you will never be cool again.
bob, Cinderellas castle
After two and a half years I'm still trying to teach my husband the concepts of 'over-tiredness' and 'over-excitedness'; my advice to all dads is don't get your children over-excited before bedtime - they'll be over-tired and won't be able to sleep!
Hilary, Leuven Belgium
Having a baby is like embarking on the most exciting, exhilerating and nerve-wracking journey of all. And you discover whole new levels of stress: your screaming child while rushing to A+E is a start!
Robert Garner, Bristol, UK
The greatest tip I can give, being Dad to (soon to be)1 year old Ieuan is:
If you are moving from one room to another, and you have a hand empty...means you have left something behind or forgotten something.
David Poultney, Faringdon UK
Don't be surprised if you find yourself humming tunes from cbeebies programmes under your breath throughout the day. (Currently playing inside my head: eyes and ears and mouth and brain are what you need to play the game...)
If your employer isn't sympathetic to their staff having parenting responsibilities, find a new job quickly!
John Tams-Gray, Ruislip, UK
Being a dad isn't stressful. All you have to do is look at life from a different perspective. Everything has changed, but a new 'normal' can be reached.
Everything now requires planning and contingency.
I find that the 'Dad Time' when my daughter wants to play with me is so rewarding.
I became a father to twin girls late last year, and it has been/is one of the most tiring yet rewarding experiences of my life to date. As mentioned in the article forget everything that you have ever known before, because that is all going to go out of the window. I now play peek-a boo for more hours a day than I get to play on the PS/2, I come to work for a rest and a lie in is a thing of the past. I dont think that an information pack of any sort can truly prepare anyone for their embarkation on fatherhood, as every circumstance is different what applies for one person will not apply for another person.
Chris, Milton Keynes
All Dads are diffrent in the same way that all Mums are different. My partner is great at playing football with my two girls, or helping them with their maths and reading, but just don't ask him to put their hair in a pony-tail or get them to bed at decent time if the footies' on! Most men have only just learnt to look after themselves so lets be easy on them and make the most of them growing up with their kids!
Kate Prior, Caerphilly
As a successful (I like to think) father of a girl and a boy, I think the only advice most fathers need is "It's your baby - do what feels right". This advice, of course, should also be the basis of advice to mothers.
Listen to the mother, as well, as for the most part she'll spend more time with the child.
Finally, the best advice for any parent is "enjoy your babies - they grow up fast".
Tom Lee, Guernsey
Yep, life changes completely, but its still the best thing I did in my life. Sure you lose a lot of "your own time", but you get so much back out of it you don't care. I feel sorry for those who don't feel that way. And while there are no manuals to really prepare you it does help to talk to other parents to learn some tips and tricks on how to bribe your children, get them to eat certain things etc. Best journey I ever started.
Ron Winkler, The Hague, The Netherlands
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