New Generation Fathers Co-Parent from the Heart – my guest post at Alternative Mama’s

I wrote an ode to the modern dad and it was posted, generously, by the ever-inspiring Alternative Mama. I was struck by how this generation of dads is so different from the one that preceded it – and this with no real role models to have shown them the way. Read the full article, here:

Guest Post: New Generation Fathers Co-Parent from the Heart | Alternative Mama.

Thanks Alternative Mama for hosting me. You rock!

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The other dada (or: when, oh, when will she call me Mama?)

On the other hand, at 14 months, Anya still doesn’t call me Mama! For the last six months, I have been dada (along with the other dada). She knows the difference, she’ll point at the right one of us in response to our ‘names’ but she calls us both dada. If she sees a photo of the two of us together, she we’ll point at K. and say ‘dada’ and point at me and say ‘dada’ while signing milk. She gets it… she just doesn’t bother using the other title. To be fair she also calls random people on the street dada, quite often. We figure it is just her word for person… although I will say she says it with way more zest and enthusiasm when greeting her dad from work. ‘DAADAAAAA!!!’

play

This is quite an emotional subject. I mean we all melt (I can only assume) at the sound of our own child calling our name, especially for the first time. Apparently it is common for this to happen, for a baby to pick one name (either mama or dada) and call both parents that for a time. Thankfully I have met plenty of other moms who say the exact same thing happened at their house – it was dadadada all the time. Once, I even ran into somebody I didn’t know at the shop and her kid was saying ‘dada’. I said that is my daughter’s favourite word, too. She got really quite upset as she told me her baby only said ‘dada’ and not ‘mama’ yet. I rambled off something about evolution and the necessity to ensure the baby bonds with the father first, hence why most moms encourage their babies to say ‘dada’ early on, not to mention that in all languages the word for father is composed of some of the first sounds that babies naturally babble by themselves – even deaf ones – such as baba, papa, dada. Most dads I know will gleefully claim any of those as their ‘name’ if they hear the baby saying it… or at least the mom will claim it for them. There is also research that proves (?) first babies look more like their fathers, again, an evolved trait biologically engineered to keep dads around for longer – especially when things get tough and mothers really need their support. Anyway, I digress, the point is it kind of hurts when your kid doesn’t say your name. Does he/she love dada more?  I got over it. I have rationalised it away, as you can tell, and I figure she’ll say mama sooner or later and in the meantime her dada gets to enjoy all the attention, fun and closeness of hearing Anya shout for him when he arrives home from work everyday.

I’ll share an early secret with you, though, Anya has started saying mamamama a lot (a bit like when she was first learning to babble it) and she looks at me for a reaction (maybe ‘cos she knows that sound will get a reaction) but it fills my heart with joy and my spirit with hope. Could it be soon?

Morning Shifts for Daddy

Starting a few weeks back, K. has been taking the morning shift with Anya. She normally wakes up around 6.00 (sometimes 7.00) ready to play. I do the night shift. I nurse Anya each time she wakes at night almost never involving K in night time parenting – in fact I think the last time he woke up to help care for Anya in the middle of the night was months and months ago (when she occasionally needed changing at night). Nowadays she mostly wakes for feeding and comfort and I can easily fulfill those needs without waking daddy. After all, daddy works and I don’t, plus as I often say ‘no boobies, no help’!

About three weeks ago we hit upon the idea of K taking the morning shift. So, K takes Anya from when she wakes up around 6.00ish. It takes him a while to wake up, mind you – I think something in the mommy hormones helps us snap to attention to serve the needs of our child much faster than guys do. I certainly wasn’t a fast waker before I had a baby! So he takes her at dawn and though I wake up when she wakes up, I get to go back to sleep for another hour or two. I love sleep and seeing as I haven’t had an uninterrupted night’s sleep for over six months now, I am really grateful for that extra time! Then K brings her back for her morning nap, usually one and a half or two hours later.

This has turned out to be one of the best things we have done, in my opinion. Okay, I am biased as the benefits for me are tremendous, but as I see it this is a win-win-win. I get to sleep, Anya gets fun play time and K gets precious bonding time at a time when our beautiful baby girl is actually awake, happy and playful (as opposed to, during the week, seeing her only in the evenings, just before bedtime when she is tired and often cranky). I really feel both of them blossoming in their relationship as it is nurtured through this special time together. They usually play for a while, maybe read a book together, sometimes they hang out (he does work, she plays with her toys) and always, always they go for a walk. How nice.

Then Anya returns to me in bed, where I nurse her back to sleep after a fun, tiring time with daddy.

For us this works well, on a practical level, because K is an early bird by inclination whereas I am a natural night owl, so this pattern is also playing to our natural day-rhythms. As ever, it is important to do what works for you, but for us, so far, we are enjoying exploring this new division of labour.

It is not set is stone, either, if I wake with Anya and find myself very awake (and K very asleep) or if K is especially tired and needs a morning off, we switch for the day. We are going with the flow and discovering and re-discovering how we move, now, as a family of three.

Guest Blogger: the daddy’s perspective on this whole having a baby thing

Today I am barging in on Gauri’s blog as a ‘guest writer’ partly out of “hey that looks like fun” syndrome and partly because, well I wanted to express some stuff and thought perhaps you the audience would appreciate some fatherly views.

14 months ago I discovered I was going to be a father. When I first found out I went through a mixed bag of thoughts and emotions. From the practical: ‘Where is it going to sleep?’; car-seats and schools; to the fretful: ‘Am I ready and mature enough to be a father?’; ‘Can we afford a baby?’ Amongst all those questions was also a feeling of great excitement. All of which lasted for about a day. Why? Because above all else it didn’t feel real. The combination of me having a strong denial of fears, the lack of anything substantial to hold on to and the fact that we were keeping it a secret till the end of the first trimester, all helped fade the thought of parenthood into the background of everyday life. I’m pretty sure there were days when I comepletely forgot that Gauri was pregnant. That is until the first doppler test almost two months later. That moment of hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time I can honestly say was one of my happiest (along with the day I got married) – a moment of pure joy. And it was also a moment where the reality of it all comes snapping back, but without the fears. The questions of money, schooling and housing were still there and I would be lying if I said that I haven’t thought about them since but in that moment the thought of ‘Am I ready to be a dad’ became moot eclipsed by the realization that I already was one.

Of course this didn’t change the fact that the baby was still pretty much intangible. Yes, the belly got bigger, we got the occasional ultrasound view and I could feel her kick and hiccup. While these were always awesome and filled me with joy each time, sadly with her being in her cosy little room within Gauri meant, for me, Anya was always one step removed. So, for nine months while Gauri was focused on the well being of our baby and the eventual big day, I would have to say my primary concern was actually Gauri, supporting her in anyway that I could (it was a shame that it turned out she had no midnight cravings for pickles and ice-cream which I was totally stoked to go get). I wanted to make sure that she could have the pregnancy and birth she wanted (well we know how that turned out….and if you don’t go read her first post here: https://blessingtree.wordpress.com/2010/03/06/anyas-birt/).

Seeing Anya for the first time, freshly plucked from her mother’s womb, certainly made her real. Cutting her cord doubly so. For that first hour in the nursery I was afraid to touch her for fear of breaking her. But Anya had no such reservations grabbing hold of my finger tight. And since then she has been very tangible and a very big focus of my life (although I try to squeeze in some love for Gauri, too). Every new thing she does fills me with joy. Every cry fills me with sadness. Every giggle makes my heart sing. I purposely carry her in my arms (rather than say the buggy or carrier) when we go shopping so I can show her off. As I watch her rolling over I see her becoming more real and more herself. One day she will be completely her own self: walking running and dancing, but for now she is mine, my darling little angel.