Hello again and welcome to another Dad Chat!
What is Dad Chat?
Well since joining Instagram over 2 years ago I have spent a HUGE amount of my time not only promoting our little biz but also getting to know a lot of other InstaMums. I have loved reading and following along on their journey through pregnancy and motherhood. It's been wonderful hearing their stories and being able to relate when it comes to certain thoughts and experiences that no one really can prepare you for! Sometimes motherhood can feel lonely so it's good to know there is someone else out there going through the same thing.
Recently though it did get me thinking, what about the Dad's? I know they're out there too but are they sharing their stories about what parenthood has been like for them? So instead of just asking myself, I thought I'd find someone to answer all the questions I had...an InstaDad and in this episode, that Dad is Simon White.
Simon is a loving father to his happy little boy Oscar and is excited for the arrival of his second child with his beautiful partner Tasha. Simon is incredibly open about his journey through parenthood as well as his struggles with mental health issues.
I am so grateful Simon was willing to take on the challenge and join us on our blog. He has shared so much of himself which I know he hopes will help other Dad's out there feel less alone and more confident in sharing how they are feeling too, whether it's to do with their mental health or just in general.
Make sure you head over to Instagram and check out Simon's page @british_dad_in_melbourne and if you have anything you'd like to share with us, be sure to leave a comment below.
1. You are currently a father of one to sweet little Oscar but you also have another on the way. How do you think you’re life will change with another little person in your life? And do you feel ready?!
I can't and I don't think anyone else could truly answer how I think my life will change when 'Number 2' arrives. I'm going to say that I think its going to be amazing chaos. Trying to work out a new routine, watching Tasha with two little ones and watching Oscar get to know his little brother or sister. Am I ready? Well I think in a way I'm more ready for 'Number 2' than I was for the arrival of Oscar but more in part to do with the fact that Oscar has helped me get ready. I know what I'm in for but also acutely aware that 'Number 2' could bring a whole new set of challenges. Apart from Oscars desire not to sleep he's actually a very good baby. We do feel very lucky.
2. Were you present in the room for the birth of Oscar? If yes, how did you feel during that time while watching your partner go through labour?
I was in the room and I've never seen another human go through anything quite like what Tasha did to give birth to Oscar. Even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes. I've never been part of something so brutal that in the end gave us something so beautiful. Amazing, just amazing and whilst I never want to see Tasha in pain I can't wait to see her in labour again (Although I'm sure she would say otherwise).
3. Describe how you felt when you held little Oscar for the very first time?
To be honest it's actually hard to remember it as in many respects everything around the time in the hospital is a bit of blur. But I do remember being in disbelief that I was holding my son but it also felt so natural and that I was meant to be doing it. I know no one is ever going to admit it felt weird or didn't feel right but I truly felt like Oscar was going to turn our lives upside down but for all the right reasons.
4. What were the first few weeks/months of fatherhood like for you?
Lets be honest the first few days/weeks of being a parent you're in this bubble that things aren't going to be as bad as everyone makes out. Most babies take a few days to wake up and get over the shock of the birth then all hell breaks loose. How can something so tiny and fragile produce a cry that reverberates deep into your core that makes you want do anything you can to fix it. As the months progressed I found myself trying to find my place - not because anyone told me I had to or made me feel like I didn't have one but in the order of things its not just you and your partner anymore and whatever you want doesn't matter or better put your needs don't come first. I found it a real struggle to flip a switch to not get frustrated when you cant even finish simple tasks like sending a text message or reading an article lol. I do remember staring at Oscar alot, I still do. I also remember the first time I gave Oscar a bottle feed, as Oscar was breast fed it wasn't straight away but honestly that moment of looking into his eyes while he drank from the bottle was very overwhelming in a good way - it came from nowhere and I remember the tears rolling down my cheeks as I sat there.
5. What is it like being a father and dealing with the pressures and challenges that come with that while also trying to deal with anxiety and depression?
Hard - There is no other way to put it. In the real world not just the parenting world there is still a lot of 'You just have to get on with it' commentary - We all know that when it comes to mental health and well-being that doesn't work, that isn't what you want to hear - It isn't what you want to hear as a parent full stop. A lot of people don't understand the difference between sympathy and empathy but when they don't I take it as an opportunity for education rather than criticism. In the beginning I found it hard to balance looking after my family & looking after myself. There is still very much the mindset that parents well being doesn't matter as long as your baby is happy and well. I disagree - You must look after yourself as a parent so you can be around for as long as possible to see your child/children grow up. I get very frustrated when I see parents who neglect themselves for the sake of their children but I do understand where it comes from. I still have days where it can be a real challenge but it gets easier and with the support of Tasha, I think we do pretty well.
6. Do you feel that there are a lot of other Dad’s out there suffering in silence or do you feel there is enough support that they can access to help them deal with depression and anxiety?
Yes - the stigmas around mental health and a dad roles in generals still exists. I think the UK is leading the way when it comes to disability in general, yes depression and anxiety is classed as a disability. I think that dad advocates are very active in the UK but here in Australia lets be honest its more leggings and lattes than it is stubble and sport. There are a few of us out there trying to have a voice and all we can do is keep going to grow the network where we can. I think there are a lot of amazing dad's out there but not many have a voice.
7. Do you think that becoming a father helped you with your depression or made it more difficult for you to manage?
Becoming a father didn't make it harder or easier. It just threw up a lot of different challenges. I think it made me more determined to work on it harder - I will be honest and open with Oscar as moments arise about mental health and lot of other things as he grows up so hopefully he can recognise the signs in himself, family and friends.
8. How would you describe your parenting style in general? Are you a hands on, happy to change pooey nappies kind of Dad?
I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer that - You can reach out to Tasha for comment but i think she'd say I'm hands on, she does far more of the poo bombs than I do but probably more to do with Oscar's timing than choice. (He does more when I'm at work). I'm definitely still over protective but I think I'm loosening up slightly. God help us if 'Number 2' is a girl....
9. Did you always want to be a father or was it a role that you found you had to adjust to initially?
Growing up I said I didn't want kids, and at the time that was true but as life went on I felt that it was something I would regret not doing. I'm so incredibly happy I did.
10. In general, do you think that father’s get the support they need during parenthood, particularly in the beginning when they are still finding their feet?
No, not even close - I'm afraid to say that dad's are still made to feel like the tea boy - When all the visitors flood in you do feel a little lost as to what you're meant to do so you end up making drinks, food - You end up hosting when really what you want to do it stop and watch the reactions of the people who care about you as they take in meeting your little person for the first time. You want to talk about your experience from a Dads perspective but it's all about the little one and Mum - Not that mum doesn't deserve it, she does but let's not forget we have feelings and we want to be involved and given just as much love as everyone else in the room. As time goes on, Australia also needs to step up in regards to paternity leave. Why would anyone take the offer for a minimum wage at a time when someone's financial situation is heightened?
11. If you could give any words of advice to a first time Dad, what would they be?
Hmmm this is tricky - I think I have lots of practical titbits and words of wisdom but because every single baby is different all you can do as a parent is listen to the advice and choose what works for you. I will say though to all dad's who might read this - Speak up, ask for help and do things that you haven't done before so you can learn. Don't be pushed aside and don't stand in the shadows because of fear or because society thinks that is where you should be.
Thank you so much again for taking part Simon. I hope you all enjoyed reading a little more about Simon and his parenting journey. [All images courtesy of @british_dad_in_melbourne
Until next time!
[If you or someone you know needs help, you're not alone - you can reach out and talk to someone and get professional help through either MensLine Australia
on 1300789978 or Lifeline
on 131114 or if you yourself know of a great service that provides help and counselling please feel free to include it in the comments below].