There are a lot of things that ante-natal classes can’t prepare you for. Fatherhood is a complex business where you’re always getting socked in the nuts by a domestic curveball. Here, four dads reveal what’s really on their minds, from not wanting another child to navigating the fiendishly tricky relationship with their ex’s husband. This is the secret life of dads.
“I’ve started to catastrophise about everything”
You know that Ben Stiller character in The Royal Tenebaums? He’s a crazily overprotective dad who’s always getting his kids to practise emergency fire drills, stuff like that. Well, I’ve become that guy.
I used to pretty easy-going. But since having my two kids I’ve started to catastrophise about everything. Bushfires. Health issues. The economy. I’m constantly freaking out about my kids’ safety. The world suddenly seems full of killer dogs, death traps and easily swallowable objects. My oldest is four now, but I’m still hyper-vigilant. I find it hard to relax when they’re clambering about, especially around at other people’s houses. My partner says I’ve become a total stress-head.
The only plus side is that I’ve finally taken care of a lot of financial admin – wills, insurance – the type of thing that I’d always put off. I guess that worrying about the worst-case scenario all the time has forced me to get organised. Jim
“My ex’s husband taught my son to ride a bike”
I split up with Toby’s mum when he was 18 months old. That’s seven years ago now. And we’ve been lucky with how it’s all turned out. We’ve got to a stage when everything is amicable and friendly. We’re both in new relationships and Toby is a happy little boy.
My ex’s new husband, Nick, is a good bloke – I’ve even had a beer with him a few times. But I’ve got to admit that I’m jealous of him too because of the relationship he has with my son.
It probably started a couple of years ago when Nick taught Toby how to ride a bike. The kid was so stoked. But I felt like that should have been me.
I got over that, but now Toby is mad about cricket and Jim – who I think was a useful player in his day – takes him down to the nets after school and throws him a few balls. I know I should be grateful that they’ve got a good relationship and that Jim is a decent fella. But it’s eating me alive and there’s nothing I can do. Matt
“At home I’m a total pushover”
I work in construction and manage a decent-sized team. So I’ve no problem calling the shots at work and I’m not afraid of confrontation either. But at home I’m a total pushover with my daughters. My wife has become the disciplinarian and I know it gives her the shits.
Why do I think it turned out like this? I don’t know. My first daughter was born very premature and it was touch and go on whether she’d pull through. I found visiting her in hospital gut-wrenching – you just feel so helpless. The relief when she finally got out… Maybe it’s got something to do with that. But it’s also the fact that I’m away for work a lot, so when I’m at home, I want to enjoy the time with my girls and not be yelling at them all the time. If they want ice-cream, what’s the harm?
Also growing up my old man was pretty hard on my brothers and I. To be honest, we were never that close to him. That’s not the sort of relationship I want to have with my daughters. But as my wife points out, we don’t want to have a pair of spoiled brats either. Craig
“I can’t face the idea of having more kids”
My daughter turned three last month. Don’t get me wrong, I love her more than anything, but jeez it’s been a hard three years! She had really bad colic and that meant she was never a good sleeper. My wife and I were permanently knackered – we were like zombies – and she also suffered from post-natal depression, too. Like I said, it was a dark time.
Things are so much better now. My daughter finally sleeps through the night and my wife is much happier. I feel like we’ve finally got our lives back. It’s a massive relief.
But now my wife wants to go again and have another kid. She’s from a big family and is super close to her sister. She feels like we’d be depriving Isla of something really important if she’s an only child.
Here’s the thing: I can’t face the idea of having more kids. The thought of having to go through all that craziness again… well it just makes me shudder. But my wife is dead-set on the idea. I reckon I’m just going to have to roll with it. Jason
Names have been changed
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