“There’s nothing quite like holding your baby in your arms for the first time” – The Irish Times
Fatherhood comes with many challenges, many of which cannot be prepared and, of course, many can, such as senseless exhaustion and the constant worry of being good enough. When it comes to hearing about balancing expectations and reality, we mostly hear from mothers.
But what about dad?
What are the ups and downs of fatherhood, and what do men feel when they become dads?
“I didn’t know what to expect when it came to fatherhood,” says father-of-11 Stephen Murphy. “I’ve always wanted children, and when I met my wife, Rosemary, she already had a daughter who I eventually legally adopted. When our first boy was born, it was such a hugely emotional and so happy experience. I guess to some extent I expected becoming a parent to be daunting and terrifying to be in charge of this little life, but actually it was amazing and so fulfilling. than holding your baby in your arms for the first time, and no matter how many times you experience it, it never gets old.
At this point, it’s safe to say Stephen has had a lot of experience with fatherhood in its many stages and phases, but says confidence in fatherhood is something that grows.
“When we were new parents, we worried more about the little things,” he says. “A little bump in the head with your first is an immediate trip to A&E. But, with time and experience, our confidence grows, we become more relaxed and can recognize when we need to act or not, depending on the case.
Families have varying demands, needs and schedules. Stephen stayed away from football games and balanced the family’s needs with Rosemary from the very beginning. As a devoted father, he says family will always be his priority when it comes to balancing home and work life.
“For us, it’s important that we share the responsibility and the workload fairly,” he says. “Every family is different and will find through experience and trial and error what works best for them. Parenting is not a ‘one size fits all’ job.
While dads are more involved now than in previous generations, Stephen has found that dads can still be left out or feel like second place when it comes to parenting. “I recently brought our son for his vaccinations. Unfortunately, the consent form only asked for details for the mother, which is not very inclusive and completely misses the fact that many dads bring their baby on dates or, indeed, there are many same-sex couples.
Stephen and Rosemary sadly experienced a pregnancy loss, which was one of the most difficult times in her parenting journey. “Nothing can prepare you for this,” he says. “I think men often feel helpless and throw themselves into doing particular tasks and taking care of their partner.”
With children ranging from infancy to adolescence, Stephen is reminded daily that childhood years are short. “My advice to any new parent would be to enjoy your kids and don’t pressure yourself to always do everything right,” he says. “The perfect parent doesn’t exist, and if you’re wrong, apologize and start over. Kids have tantrums, siblings fight, teenagers knock on doors and sometimes family life is just plain That’s the reality. If there are people out there willing to judge you without having a clue about your life, and more often than not there will be, then that’s their problem, not yours.
Father of one and author of the Not Just a Princess series of children’s books, Gavin Leonard has always wanted to be a dad. “I will never forget going to Holles Street at 7am for my wife’s planned caesarean. I didn’t sleep. I was worried about the procedure, the baby and what was going to change.
Two hours later, at ten past nine, Gavin received a baby wrapped in a small beanie on his head and sent to a room alone to bond with their newborn. “I couldn’t help but stare at her as she slept and I peeked under her puffy eyes. I stood there for about an hour while the doctors attended to my wife. It was so quiet and peaceful, and I knew life was going to be different.
This child, Jade, is now six years old, and every step of parenthood has been a joy for Gavin, but that first initial foray into fatherhood was a mix of expectation and the hard realization that we can’t fully prepare ourselves. to this role. “I thought dads had all the answers and were financially secure,” Gavin says. Growing up in Tallaght in the 1980s in the middle of a recession, Gavin’s parents shielded him and his brother from the harsh realities of family life in difficult times in much the same way that we do as parents today.
“I never expected what having a daughter would mean to me,” he says, when he thinks of the world from which we protect our children. “I grew up with a brother, and it was mostly boys on our street. So I wasn’t ready for the feelings and the triggers that being a father to a girl would trigger. I worry for its future and I am horrified by violence against women and the direction society is taking.
Last year, as Ireland emerged from another lockdown, Gavin’s wife Shannon, who is from China, had not seen her parents for two years, she had lost her grandmother and father was sick. “We talked about flights, visas, timelines and guessed what would and wouldn’t happen,” Gavin says. “Eventually we booked tickets for my wife and Jade to return to China. But unfortunately I had to stay in Ireland for work. We had originally planned that they would be away for four months, and I hated it. I didn’t think they were with me, but I knew my wife needed to see her family and I wanted Jade to learn about China and improve her Chinese.
The few weeks without Shannon and Jade felt like a break from time to catch up on paperwork and work to bring Not Just a Princess to the small screen with an animated series. Soon the months grew longer and longer for Gavin. “My stepfather’s health deteriorated and Jade asked Santa to bring her daddy to China,” Gavin said.
“There are so many things that could have gone wrong! I had to get a visa when they wouldn’t issue them and a flight that allowed 21 days of quarantine before Christmas. And I had to make sure I didn’t catch Covid. It was an ordeal from start to finish, but I came out of quarantine on Christmas Eve and surprised Jade. When you become a dad and you are asked for a miracle, you try to move the sun and the stars.