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It’s looking up for Irish Parents

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The Irish Independent on Friday had more leaks concerning the forthcoming budget in the Autumn.  Announcements relating to the recent Government Report on Childcare have made a number of proposals which will prove beneficial for our children in the future.

While the report is not published yet it sounds promising with recommendations including:

  • extension of the Early School Year;
  • rationalising existing childcare subvention schemes to a single scheme;
  • six months’ paid parental leave in addition to maternity benefit;
  • paternity benefit paid for by the State of one or two weeks.

Commentators have long identified that 3 hrs of preschool care for the 38 weeks or so of the normal school year is in adequate at best.

Most promising however is the additional parental leave and the long over due introduction of up to two weeks specifically paid paternity leave. At present fathers at best get a few days extra leave from their employers when they have a new arrival. As a result most new dads will have to take their built up holiday leave to spend time with their new borns.

The additional 6 months paid paternal leave will be open to both mothers and fathers to take and will bring Ireland up to the accepted recommended first year where a child has the direct care of it’s parents. How we get these benefits to apply to people who are currently falling through the gaps in the existing child welfare laws such as the self employed.

The next challenge now however is to get more fathers to take some if not all of the additional 6 months of parental leave. How can we encourage parents that the “missed opportunities” from being away from work is worth it for the benefit of their children. Perhaps mothers and fathers will be in a good position to that sharing parental leave between them balances the opportunities for career progression with equal time missed. Even better if it encourages employers to find better ways to keep their employees engaged and to manage their absences better.

Fears… The times they are a changing… again

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When my son Aidan was born I was out of work, an involuntary stay at home dad. I went off and studied, I did a course to set up my own business. but for the majority of the first year and a half of his life I was the go to person for him and my daughter who I was minding as well and bringing to and from play-school every morning.

Aoife and Aidan enjoying dinner out before I went back to work.


Then I went back to work, and he went to a child minder for a bit and then on to preschool. He is one of the nicest lads you will ever meet, kind, considerate to his friends and  quick to forgive. But he can also be a bit lazy, has little self control, can’t sit quiet or behave during times when you need to be still, and when he feels aggrieved he becomes (or at least his behaviour) is quite rude and sullen.  His behaviour last week made me realise that when I do things that he finds really embarrassing in front of his friends when/if he becomes a teenager it will just be karma coming back to him for all of the things he did as a child.

It is perfectly illogical that I should blame myself for his misbehaviour, my rational brain tells me that 1. he is a child after all, and it’s not easy for them to have the attention span to behave as I would always like him to and 2. he is a boy!. Now parents of only girls will not understand the reason for this possibly un-PC separation of the sexes, especially on this World Women’s day. But having observed my sons, my daughter and other nieces and Daughters friends there is a difference. And boys need to keep moving, cannot settle and calm themselves as well as girls, cannot concentrate as well at least until they are older and catch up in maturity. (If anything this could be a basis for all those objectives of the women’s rights movements- Boy’s never grow up- they just get taller)

I worry though that perhaps that his behaviour would be better if I had been there with him longer, those critical years from 2 till 4 when I I was there for Aoife. Is it perhaps that genetically there is no difference between the behaviour of boys and girls and that my daughter has more self control etc because I was there during those formative years. How much is nature… how much is nurture?

For the last two and a half years now again I have been a Stay at home Dad, but this time it was more out of choice, I have fully engaged in my role, and focused my time on the kids more than ever before. I’ve maintained this blog much more than I did before, I take Tomás to parent and todder groups, I’ve ended up running one and I have really enjoyed this time.

My son has too, OK he has still managed to turn into a bit of a TV addict (I blame his big brother who gets up early in the morning to come down and see the start of rtejr  or Milkshake on Channel 5 before he gets his breakfast), but he is confident, happy, mixes well with other kids and has no fear or feeling of limitation.

But alas I need to go back to work again both for myself and for the family. We need to have a bit more financial security of having both of us earning and the longer I stay out of the work force the harder it will be to get back into it.

And this is were the new problems start, not just the activity and work and worry about getting a job but then what job. I can try and go back to doing what I was doing before, working in plastics manufacturing and recycling. However I lack experience in one of the most common machines and also in medical devices which is the highest growth area in the sector in Ireland, so I’d have to retrain (again) and take a job on a much lower wage than I was on before. Or go for shift work in a factory as a supervisor or similar, which is a challenge with a young family. But that’s what I might have to do in the end.

Alternatively I could go and do something completely different, possibly with better hours, but due to lack of experience the salary would be lower. I’ve no hope of getting what I was earning before, not just because the recession has reduced wages, but because employers look at my CV and question- so what have you been doing for the last 2 years… the longer out… the longer it will take me to get up to speed is probably their thinking.

So that’s fears 1 and 2; Will I be able to get a new paid job? and Will the salary be enough to cover the cost of going to work?

But I also worry about my family, how will the kids cope with me going back to work, they have all enjoyed the security of having me close, collecting them from school and doing things with them (they would probably have an easier life if I go back to work) especially Tomás who has seen me around nearly 24/7 since the day he was born. Would he settle with someone else on a daily basis? Will he grow up like his brother, restless or feeling aggrieved that I’d abandoned him?

Making the kids do their homework.

Making the kids do their homework.

I also worry for my wife, she finishes work around 4, but pressure would be on her to collect the kids, to cook their dinner and do all those jobs that I had to do, but at least I had the advantage of having more time to get them completed and didn’t have to do a days work first. She says she’ll cope, and I know we all will, we have to. Doesn’t stop me worrying about them though.

I eagerly await the release of Fathers, Work and Family’s new book Working Dad’s Survival Guide and I hope that it will provide me with help to be the best father that I can be even when I’m not there 24/7 for my wife and kids.

Dad’s in the Delivery Room

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I was asked a few months ago  by a parenting magazine to write a bit of advice for dads in the delivery room and about bonding for the Ultimate Maternity Guide that they were producing. The guide is now published but I don’t think that they ran my contribution. So here it is in full. I probably should have published it 2 weeks ago, before my wee brother went in with his wife to have their first. I put it down to being too busy with the kids and job applications.

Our new family relaxing in the Anti-Natal ward in 2007

Our new family relaxing in the Anti-Natal ward in 2007

The role of Dads has changed a lot over the last 40 years, you’re no longer expected to wait outside, it’s time for you to get right in there and claim your right to parent as equal to your partners.

There will be loads of advice during the pregnancy (this whole guide is for you as well as for your partner.) Take it on board, some of it will be good, some of it conflicting but you need to decide for yourselves as a couple what you want to follow.

At the beginning…

Your partner may only suffer mild nausea or you may end up holding her hair or emptying basins several times a day. Regardless which you can start from the very first weeks to provide support by doing as many as the jobs that need to be done from housework, cooking light meals, and supplying cups of tea and glasses or water to keep her energy and fluid levels up.

During the later months attend anti natal classes, discuss with her the plans for the labour so that you are aware of what her wishes are; discuss possible baby names and even what style of parenting that you want to follow when the bay comes home. You might also have to do (finish) some redecorating as she begins nesting.

In the hospital

The labour can be a long process and you’ll end up being in the hospital for a long time. When preparing the bags, bring food, proper food (sandwiches) as well as snacks, chocolate for both you and your partner. Bring something to read, magazines or a light book for your partner and something for yourself. Reading the newspaper or magazine is somehow less offensive than if it looks like you’re playing on your phone.

Find out how to properly install the car seat (40% are installed wrongly in Ireland according to the RSA), and understand how to put the buggy up and down.

The labour can range from a wonderful to a frightening experience for your partner, it’s part of your job to make it the former. You might feel like a lame duck there but holding her hand, rubbing her back, supporting her to walk if she needs to pace the corridors, fetching her book, water or whatever else she needs is all invaluable.

If your partner considers changing her plans support her and ask the midwifes to act on it. If she decides she wants an epidural, it will take at least 1 hr 40 min, with blood tests and surgery for it to be effective.

During delivery focus on your partner, tell her she’s doing well, help her with the breathing (breath, pant, push with her) and remind her she’s beautiful. Listen to the mid wives and communicate well with your partner so she feels reassured.

If she can’t make skin to skin contact because she needs stitches or had a section then you take your top off and do it. It is truly the most amazing feeling you will ever have. Don’t be afraid.

Don’t wait or leave it to someone else to change your baby’s nappy and if your partner is not breast feeding be there to feed the baby while your partner sleeps, or gets cleaned.

Back home

It’s perfectly natural to feel unsure of what you are doing and it’s OK to ask other experienced parents for advice they are always happy to share their experiences. You can find other dad’s, bloggers or on some discussion boards as well as your own social network who will be happy to get to chat about their kids, failures and successes.

Post natal depression is a very common illness so be aware that she might need help, it’s not a failure. Help your partner get a good night’s sleep by doing night feeds and helping the baby settle when they awaken. Yes you might have to get up in the morning to go out to work, but until you actually spend 24 hrs a day minding a baby on your own you will never know how draining it is.

Bonding

It’s perfectly natural not to bond instantly with your child and it might take a few months but like anything the more you put into it the more you get out.

The best way to bond with anyone is spending time with them. Hold your child a bit while they sleep, feed them, change them and play with them (when they are awake) as much as you can. In particular have a time of the day which is yours to spend with them. For example, at night time give them the last feed, tell them a story and sing them a song to help settle them to sleep. You’ll find as the baby grows that this routine will help them settle at night, and help them get back to sleep quickly if they waken.

By doing the night feeds it also gives you a very personal time with your child. No-one else is there with you, it’s nice and quiet and you can give them un-distracted time to get to know you. The down side is for the next 10 years when they waken at night it’ll be you that they call for at night, but sure it’s great to know that you’re loved and needed despite what they will tell you during the day time.

Dad’s in the Irish Times

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One of the ambitions of I would say all bloggers is to have someone read what they have to say. Well I had a very interesting experience a fortnight ago when someone asked me if they could include what I had to say in an article they were preparing for one of the main national broadsheets.

Now who would or could say no to that?

Sheila Wayman was preparing an article on Fathers in the delivery room for their Health + Family supplement which appeared in this morning’s Irish Times.

It’s interesting to read other peoples experiences in something which is very common, but amazingly special and unique in every case. The role of the father is an interesting one, to some degree we’re an extra body that needs to be worked around, an external examiner looking at everything that is going on and in my case someone who’s at serious risk of fainting when the epidural was being installed in my wife spine!

Beingaoifesdad.wordpress.com blog Epidural photo

Just looking at this churns my stomach


But we do have an important role as well, to provide support for our wives or partners, to do whatever running is needed for her and to be there for our child when it arrives. I wonder wither we’re all up to the task though and wither Dad’s wouldn’t benefit from having a more experienced hand around. It is daunting, especially the first time. I was 32 when my first was born, I am generally very confident and I found it an intimidating experience. How do dads in their twenties or even in their teens cope? When my first was born there was a young lad, his girlfriend was in her teens and after several hours of labour she was rushed into the operating room for an emergency section. I saw the young dad-to-be walking the corridor outside, on his own, terrified.

Aoife and I just home from Hosiptal

Aoife and I just home from Hosiptal


In another case I’ve heard the mother had an awful time with some of the midwives while she was in labour. Perhaps if her partner had been older, had someone with more experience with him then he may have had the confidence that Rob, mentioned in Sheila’s article, had to speak up on behalf of his partner. Her experience of labour may have been less traumatic.


It would be interesting to read the other responses from Rob, Lorcan and Diarmuid, particularly to the question: Did you feel useful or did you feel excluded during the whole process? Explain why. And to hear what their other recommendations are for dads-to-be.


Daniel Oakes, a male midwife from Dundalk talks in the main article and is looking at the idea of running “beer and babies” evenings for experienced and dads-to-be to give us a space and time to talk. This is a great idea, and one I’d be interested in. In NY there is a NYC Dads Group who arrange meet ups for dads with their kids. In Drogheda we’re actively trying to encourage dads to come along to St. Mary’s P&T Group so that they are not left to survive on their own. But there is a physiological barrier which dads need to get over before they go to these kind of groups; they need to feel respected as dads and that they have an equal role and right as mothers to be parents.

Is it safe to say Sophie’s Wrong?

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At the weekend Sophie White, “The Domestic” writer in the Sunday Indo’s Life Magazine discussed her despair at not getting a second look now that she’s a pram pushing woman. Men on the other had are converted into magnets getting more attention than ever before once they head out with the buggy.

Man Pram

Man Pram Do men get noticed more than women?


Now I don’t wish to deny that men pushing a buggy do get noticed… its a novelty thing, we’re the minority, but to say that women don’t get noticed are in no way invisible. Now I may be putting my head above the parapet in saying this but I for one do notice. However in this new sexual equality environment I doubt any man would be willing to make it too obvious for fear of being accused of being either a pervert or on the hunt.

The fact of the matter is that I am married, but I’m not blind. As a SAHD I see notice lots of women out on the school run and I enjoy talking to mums at the school, shops or the P&T groups because I like talking to people. If they are nice looking, pleasant to talk to or simply good “Craic” then all the better.

It may be Sophie, like me when you’re out with the pram you’re focused on making sure you don’t crash into anyone, that your child doesn’t throw away another shoe, eat their socks or trying to prevent an older child from running off again; to notice if anyone is coping a sneaky 2nd look at you. Although I doubt I’m even getting a first other than to think who let that edjit out with their children?

Image courtesy of http://www.themotorreport.com.au/56995/skoda-reveals-man-pram-to-celebrate-octavia-rs-unveiling-video

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