My journey to fatherhood
Becoming a parent is an endless journey of surprises, firsts, and fear. Or it was for me anyway. There is no list out there that fully encapsulates all of the things that you need to know or should be prepared to know and if there was it would be a very long list. Part of the reason for this is that what works for one new parent and child, doesn’t work for another. So, all those ideas you have prior to the birth of your child about sleep routines, eating habits and interacting with them, will remain just that, ideas.
The simplest way for me to look at my experience of fatherhood is in a way that is easy to understand…sport. Being an ex rugby player and fan of sport in general, I believe the journey of being a father can be described in a similar way to the various people found at a sporting game.
The five roles to becoming a Father
1. Just after birth – Supporter.
When my son was born, I very quickly felt helpless. I wasn’t needed on the team never mind the bench. My wife was the star player with the necessary skills and attributes to handle things. All I could do was encourage and support and generally make a nuisance of myself. Of course, I had opinions that I felt obliged to share. Generally speaking, these were ignored and for good reason as I was looking at things with very little knowledge as to what was going on. But I was proud, passionate and ensured everyone around knew what team I was supporting. I pushed that pram like a football fan wears his team’s shirt.
2. Month 6 onwards – Mascot
After months of unwavering loyalty, I was allowed into the inner circle. Not a player as I hadn’t made the selection and still had to rely on my wife for the actual gameplay. But it was a promotion and I wasn’t going to fail. When my team hit a low point, I stepped in to lift morale and raise spirits. I became the entertainer with a focus on getting a smile and a laugh out of mum and son alike. Silly games, dance routines and sing songs galore. I drove the team bus and made sure that all the other supporters knew I was vital to the success of the team or at least tried to convince them.
3. Early toddler – Substitute
When needed I could now don the strip and play in the game. When our star player was injured through excessive game time, day and night, I was able to give her a rest and take over. My skills were still not up to a starting role but at least I could now contribute. I could hold the line until she was rested and ready to get back on the pitch.
4. Toddler – Assistant coach
After early burn out of my playing career, I decided to step back from the front line and adopt a coaching role. Being a father, I knew best how things should be handled on and off the pitch and was happy to share my “extensive” experience with anyone who would listen. I was in the lucky position that I was still only the assistant coach so if things went wrong and decisions were made that didn’t work, I had someone else to blame. It was round about this time that we went off travelling around the world, a team tour as such. This taught us the importance of how other teams play and what we could adopt into our training. We realised it wasn’t the team with the shiny kit or fancy equipment that always won. We even learned that winning shouldn’t always be the focus. Certainly not with a team so young. We began working as a team, enjoying the overall experience and most importantly just spending time together. Incredibly this led to us performing better and getting better results.
5. Present day – Joint team manager
I have now stepped up and I am able to contribute in the same way as the other managers. I can take the lead in learning to ride a bike, swimming and developing overall motor skills. We watch and analyse rugby together, we wear the same rugby kit as I now help out with the under 4s team and constant bouts of WWE wrestling on the sofa are right up my street. We make decisions together and are focussed on the long term success of the team as a whole.
So why is all this important?
For me, it helps to identify that no matter what role you play as being a father, it is important you play that role to the best of your ability. You may never be the GOAT but that is ok because if you play the game right and you keep plugging away, your time will come. You just have to be patient and any parent will tell you, patience is something you need in abundance.
Family is all about the teamwork. Being a father and recognising the contribution that everyone can make and understanding how to get the best out of one another is vital. There will be times when you are bottom of the league and you are looking at all the other teams around you, envying how they are doing so well.
But I think you need to stop looking at other families and comparing yourself to them in this way. You need to focus on what are the goals for your team and what makes the players and managers happy alike and go back to just playing your part, no matter what that may be.
Read more: Our Positive Impact Pledge