Oscar McMahon is the co-founder of Young Henrys, the independent craft-beer company that kickstarted Sydney’s urban brewing revolution. But he’s also the father to an 18-month-old daughter who, he admits, “has completely thrown my entire values system up in the air”. Here, Newtown’s favourite son explains why.
THE FATHER HOOD: Before you launched Young Henrys, you lived a rock and roll lifestyle (literally) because you were the singer / guitarist in Hell City Glamours. Do you think having that experience made you more ready for fatherhood when you become a dad?
OSCAR MCMAHON: I’m thankful that Stella came along when I was 37 not 27, let’s put it like that! I think that parenthood is a beautiful, exciting thing – when you are ready for it.
For my wife and I, becoming parents didn’t feel like a burden because we were ready for this next part of our adventure. She’d lived an interesting life, full of travel. I’d definitely had a great time. If we’d have gotten pregnant when we met at 25, maybe we would’ve felt like we were missing out on certain aspects of life. But we lived a really fun life together in our late 20s / early 30s. We lived it. And then we just got to stage where we were like, “Okay, now we’re ready for a new type of fulfilling life.” So we wanted it more than anything.
But I also think that, too often, people fall into the trap of saying, “Parenthood is the most significant thing I’ve ever done.” And well, OK, that might be true. But there are also many people who don’t have children and they can still live very fulfilled and beautiful lives.
THE FATHER HOOD: To state the bleeding obvious, life with an 18-month old isn’t always easy. What have you found the hardest thing about dad life?
OSCAR MCMAHON: To be honest, the hardest thing is being confronted with all my own failings that I wasn’t previously aware of. Before, if someone asked me if I was a patient or level-tempered person I’d have said “yes”. But then it’s like, well, let’s see how you go after three months of no sleep with this tiny, little thing screaming at you…
All of a sudden you find yourself losing your patience with this little kid who’s just trying to communicate with you. That’s when you realise: ‘Wow, I’m not actually that patient. Actually I’m a shit-head! I’m awful! Why did I just get angry at this tiny little thing?” It is really confronting.
But it’s only as you realise these things that you go, “Oh wow, I actually need to work on me. I need to become a much better person now to be a parent. I am now going to have to learn to be more patient.”
Your kid is growing and changing every day. You need to grow and change at the same rate to become a good parent.
Having a kid has completely thrown my entire values system up in the air. It changed how I look at certain scenarios. It changed how I make decisions. Even simple things like work trips. I only want to be away for one night on a work trip now because I actually miss my girls. Suddenly there’s this incredible tractor beam pulling you back to your family duties.
I’ve become that embarrassing person on a plane who’s going through photos of my kid – that I’ve only just seen two hours ago – on my smartphone. I never thought that that would be me. But there you go…
THE FATHER HOOD: You work in an industry where you’re surround by amazing beer around the clock. Has fatherhood changed your approach to drinking?
OSCAR MCMAHON: I drink more mid strengths now. Obviously I have a few alcohol-free days every week, too, because self- preservation is important. But on a Saturday afternoon I’ll have a couple of mid strength beers, because I enjoy having a beer and they don’t affect me as much. That way I’m able to still be a focused and present parent and husband. Before we had a kid, I would never have really thought that much about it and I’d have had a couple of, say, IPAs instead. So now there is that extra little bit of consideration.
THE FATHER HOOD: Babies in bars – yes or no?
OSCAR MCMAHON: I’m probably an unusual case. A lot of my friends own pubs and restaurants, so one of Stella’s very first outing was to The Unicorn (the pub that Oscar co-owns) for lunch. She also attended Jake and his daughter’s birthday at Mary’s one morning. So I think that it’s okay to share that pub experience with kids as long as you’re taking them to a hospitable and welcoming place. And as long as you’re looking after them, obviously.
I actually think it’s healthy for your kid to see their parents interacting with other people and being happy and being social. That’s the way children learn to be social – they learn from example. They need to see us investing in friendships so that they, in turn, will know how to do it when they’re older.
THE FATHER HOOD: Finally, what’s been the best piece of advice that someone’s given you about parenting
OSCAR MCMAHON: The best piece of advice I received was that everyone will give you advice but, at the end of the day, you’ll probably be able to work it all out yourself. I liked that. Because when you’re about to become a parent, you’re getting so much different advice that you can get into a bit of a spin with it.
But one of the most important pieces of advice that I’ve actually passed on to my friends who are having their first kid is just to say: “Listen, those first 12 weeks – they’re probably going to suck. Keep treading water. Because after that, well, it just gets better and better and better.”
ALL PICTURES BY CHRISTOPHER MORRIS