In chapter 1 (read it here if you haven't already) I was flying high over Asia somewhere, finally enjoying a quiet moment mid-flight to reflect on being an almost dad. I left Sydney for our pre-baby trip to Russia and the USA feeling excited, calm and enthusiastic about sharing my paternal ponderings.
It’s important to me to reiterate in this, the second chapter of the ‘How to dad’ series, that my ideas shouldn’t be used as parental advice. I’m not even a parent myself, yet. But I’d say if you’re reading this article on the MANA blog, you’re digging deep to be a stand-up, goal kicking kind of parent (or future parent). That’s simply RAD!
This is what MANA is all about, and, as the founder of MANA, I’m trying to lead by example… I'm trying to be all about creating community. Writing this, for me, or reading it, for you, proves you that we are focused on being awesome parents and/or supporting our community of child-owning friends and family. Whether you’re a parent or not, actively seeking information and learning about parenthoodism is as much about you as it is about the people around you… In my case it’s about helping my partner through the anxiety and all-round security breach of pregnancy.
This chapter in the ‘How to Dad’ series is inspired by something my partner said to me to me a couple of months ago. Something that made me realise I needed to start thinking about the many floating elements of my life as a whole. I need to anchor all of the chaos of my life, leisure, business and pleasure to one defined and stable point - Fatherhood.
She said: “When this child is born, we are connected for the rest of our lives whether you like it or not”.
My immediate reaction: “Woah! Truth bomb… Mental!”
Not in a bad way… I just hadn’t really thought of our pregnancy like that before. What she said was specifically relevant to both of our family situations growing up. Made relevant by the fact that we will very soon be a ‘family situation’ too.
Between my partner and I, we have collected four sets of parents. The underlying logic to her comment was directly related to this. It is, not just in our more relevant situation, logical to think you may not be with one partner forever. It's super grown up to think about this with the person who at the time you love and maybe have kids with. I’m feeling pretty confident we will go the distance, but we can't be ignorant and we both operate on a pretty open and sometimes brutally honest communication policy. That’s what she was pointing out by saying that, we need to be super honest with ourselves if we're going to be amazing parents, whatever happens.
Even if it doesn’t work out, we’re still connected and it’s still our responsibility to make sure that even if 'it' goes sour down the track that ‘Dad’ can trust ‘Mum’ (and vice versa). That we can both be fun and together around the kid/s, share a mutual respect for each other and generally be good role models, ongoing.
Growing up, my brother and I witnessed a good example of this exact scenario with our (adoptive) parents. We lived through it when they split up gracefully and without any visible or audible outbursts. After the initial separation, they always did a great job of exhibiting to us that they respected and appreciated each other. They made an active and probably rehearsed, example-setting effort to show us it (co-parenting) could work and work well. In my memory, they've never spoken ill of each other or allow any underlying tension to explode. No yelling or fighting in front of us, ever. It wouldn’t have been easy but they did it.
The point of this chapter is understanding what my partner said to me.
“We are connected for the rest of our lives”
That’s big, true and rarely happens with another human.
Our lives have become one collective life, and we are living it right now. We are doing that to the best of our ability for the sake of a new, living extension to our life we are about to nurture. So it has become super important to us to articulate, discuss, understand and prepare for the many modern realities of family and relationship dynamics (such a grown-up sentence! Wow! I’m surprising myself here!).
I’m confident I’ll feel like this forever. I'm Excited and motivated to be there for my partner and our almost kid forever. I know I’ll be in love with her and our future kid forever… But, it’s important to have a little note in the back of our minds for the ‘what if?’ Scenarios. In this case, statistically, the likely scenario that living, learning and loving together may change context as time goes by. Weird thought, but a rational and healthy one.
I want to be real about this very, very real scenario. I want to keep asking tricky questions and listening to my partner and the advice of others because I want to understand ‘How to Dad’ really well, even if it doesn’t go exactly to plan.
Stay tuned for the next ‘How to Dad’ instalment all about the weird medical stuff we are learning.