Jordan Watson become a viral sensation as “How To Dad”. In this interview taken from Man Enough, Movember’s new TV series that explores the changing face of masculinity, Jordan explains how he accidentally became the public face of NZ fatherhood and a magnet for struggling dads.
I had a mate who was having a baby and I was at home with a four month old and was just bored. So I thought I’d make a video that he’d find funny: “How to hold a baby.” I put the camera up on the table, hit record and just came up with these different baby holds and gave them classic Kiwi names. I posted it on Facebook and it just went boom!
I went to bed and woke up to all these notifications. It went international and quickly became a full-time thing. When you have a video go viral you get some legit offers by cool brands that actually want to work with you. Now I’m glued to having to wear this bush shirt and stubbies for the rest of my life.
I committed to posting a new video every Monday to give parents a bit of a chuckle, a bit of a laugh. But from there, without even planning it, there’s this whole other layer where I’m getting all these private messages sent to me on the daily. “Mate, you’ve got me through the worst time… I’ve been feeling so low….”
I get dads sending me actual serious parenting questions and needing desperate advice. And I’m like, “Oh gosh, what do I do?” So I Google a bit and try to point them somewhere professional that can actually help them. Because I’m not the parenting guru – I’m like every other dad making it up as I go along.
A lot of those messages are new dads stressing out. How do I deal with this? And if you think about it, no one does tend to think about the dad. When you have a baby, everyone who comes to visit is like: “How’s mum?” But if you’re a young buck who suddenly becomes a dad, well, that rattles a lot of people. It can be a big step to face.
The other thing I get a lot of is people saying to me, “Hey, I’m having a terrible time with this custody battle. I’m feeling really bad…”
My wife says, “You can just stop replying”. But imagine if the worst was to happen. It would play on my conscious. I can’t solve everything. But I try to give my two cents and point them in the right direction or suggest a helpline or something.
There’s not that same support network among dads. The mums from the mother’s group still catch up to this day. But the dads just got together awkwardly once. I mean we don’t have the shared experience of childbirth and breastfeeding. “Aw yeah it was real tough standing up for 12 hours, she was crushing my hand!” So no one is saying, “Shit this is harder than I thought’.
As men we still say “she’ll be right”. We need to change it. “She’ll be right” is not something that’s helpful for mental health.
Being a dad has changed so much. I had a rural country dad – not touchy feely. Playing with my dad was just watching him fix the outboard motor. But now as a dad you can be the goofball and play with your kids and have fun.
I’ve got three daughters, so I’m very big on talking about your feelings. I’ve never shied away from that, because you’ve got to make them feel like they can talk to you. The first thing is to demonstrate that. We got to be able to say when we’re feeling a bit crap and show them. We try and understand our kids, but first we got to understand ourselves and accept our own feelings
Balancing work and family is a juggling act that you can’t win. Who can say, “I work full time and make a heap of money and at the same time I’m spending exactly the right amount of time with my kids that. No one can really say that. It’s an impossible task.
When I was working full-time, that was eating away at me. I used to get home and only have time for the shower, brush your teeth stage of the evening. So I spoke to my boss about finishing 30 minutes earlier so I could have that extra half an hour to play around with my kids. And that half hour was glorious.
Every dad nowadays, has that moment where they’ll think to themselves, “Am I spending enough time with my kids?” And it’s easy to get stuck in a situation – you’ve got some debt, you’ve got to work 50-60 hours a week and you can’t get out of it.
But try anything you can to try and give yourself that little bit more time. Because that cliché is true: kids grow up so fast. They do! It freaks me out. I have a seven year old and it scares me deeply how much she’s grown up already.
Check out Movember’s new TV series Man Enough here