In a blink of an eye, Olympia turned one-year old yesterday. That was a significant milestone worth commemorating and the Heartland Couple chose a simple celebration at home with their loved ones. Even though it was conducted on a smaller scale compared to the baby shower that they had, it was still memorable and heart-warming in every aspect. As a co-parent, there are truly no words to describe how tiring and topsy-turvy this journey has been. Yet, special occasions like this serves as a timely reminder for Heartland Boy to reflect on his privileged role as a father. This is a blog article of his first-year confessions as a hands-on father.
Most Fathers Are Hands-On Today
Heartland Boy personally believes that the traditional views of a mother and father have gradually been upended in this generation. Today, he is seeing that many fathers are sharing equal responsibilities in parenting a child and playing bigger roles in their lives.
Before his household hired a maid, Heartland Boy was sharing a big chunk of the parenting duties with Heartland Girl and the mother-in-law for 8 months. Like any proud father, he beamed with pride and proclaimed that he had done all the possible parenting duties except breast-feeding… until a friend sent him this photo.
This photo shall not undermine the fact that Heartland Boy is still able to change Olympia’s diapers, bathe her, wash and sanitize her bottles, plan and cook her meals, sleep-train her etc. There were some days when Olympia had to depend on Heartland Boy as the sole caregiver, and let’s just say that she survived. Ironically,days like these also convinced Heartland Boy that he is not cut out for the role of a stay-at-home-dad.
Actively Learning To Be A Better Father
Knowing how to perform these tasks also did not happen by chance, especially since nothing in life could have prepared Heartland Boy for such a role. Therefore, he made a concerted attempt to upskill himself:
- Attending antenatal classes with Heartland Girl in KKH (which was really affordable by the way) although he did miss one lesson owing to a business trip.
- Watching videos on Youtube on how to soothe a baby (this saved his sanity!)
- Trawling the internet for baby food recipes, etc
The truth is that a lot of hard work, dedication, patience and energy are required of a parent. That is because the difficulty of any task is magnified when one is executing it on only 3-4 hours of sleep. There are no weekends to look forward to when one can rest and sleep in. Heartland Boy’s most vivid and horrid incident during his first year would be this episode when a sequence of simple tasks turned out to be extremely demoralizing:
- He fell asleep at 12am and woke up at 3am from Olympia’s cries
- He went to heat up the milk as fast as possible for fear of Olympia waking up the entire household
- He proceeded to feed Olympia half the bottle of milk before she started pooping suddenly
- Concerned about her discomfort, Heartland Boy decided to put her down immediately on the changing pad to change her diaper
- Regrettably, Olympia regurgitated as a result of stomach reflux (mistake of not burping her first)
- Baby was subsequently cleaned and changed into a new set of pyjamas and diapers
- Heartland Boy went to heat up another bottle of milk since baby vomited and did not have enough to drink
- Baby finished the bottle and Heartland Boy ensured that he burped her properly this time
- Heartland Boy changed the soiled bedsheets (thankfully baby hasn’t learnt to flip yet)
- Baby was coaxed to sleep
- Heartland Boy went to clean the floor which was stained with the breast milk that Olympia vomited (for those who do not know, breast milk is super oily)
- Finally done, Heartland Boy realised that it was already 630am and he got ready for work.
This unfortunate sequence of events occurred mainly because of Heartland Boy’s inexperience. Ironically, that was also how Heartland Boy comforted and encouraged himself by telling himself that such incidents would probably not occur again. Thankfully, his peers who are also hands-on fathers chipped in with words of encouragement and this gave him the strength to plough on.
Sharing the Emotional Labour of Parenting
Heartland Boy is not going to lie that there were definitely instances when he almost wanted to give up- to down tools and run away. However, he knew that he have to soldier on as Heartland Girl was probably undergoing an even tougher journey- breastfeeding. Heartland Boy wanted to support Heartland Girl on her breastfeeding journey (he had heard from experienced mothers on how tough it can be) and help relieve her of the pressures of early infancy. That is his role in sharing part of the emotional labour of parenting.
Now that this phase is almost behind them, he is focused on how to communicate better with Olympia. To that end, he is now reading the book on Parent Effectiveness Training, which Heartland Girl had conveniently left it at his bedside table. #passiveaggressive
Heartland Boy also wants to emphasize that even if a father is not overtly participating in such parenting duties, one shall not underestimate the work that often goes unnoticed behind the scenes. For instance, promptly re-stocking supplies of diapers, wet wipes, milk powder etc to ensure that the household continues to run smoothly is also an act of sharing in the emotional labour of parenting.
Competing For Dad’s Time
The phrase mum’s guilt has often been bandied about. Likewise, Heartland Boy feels that the same can be applied to fathers today. There were times when Heartland Boy wanted to savour pre-fatherhood and live his own life again but he was often saddled with guilt. An extra hour at work, an extra gym session for the week, a rare night out with the boys or additional time to analyse a stock would often come at the expense of time spent with Olympia. This is often a delicate balancing act but a phrase that he saw at the PA’s Embracing Parenthood event convinced him that he can do better.
“To be in your children’s memories, you need to be with them today”
That pretty much sums up his first year as a father and he hopes that these insights can provide encouragement to fellow fathers who are on the same journey. Fatherhood has been one of the toughest jobs, but also one of the most rewarding.