In light of my recent post defending Prince William‘s struggles in parenthood, I thought I would share some of my feelings on life as a husband and father, and to show him that he’s not alone.
Inherently lazy as I am, rather than write something new, I thought I would share an extract from an interview I had with Natalie from Plutonium Sox. She runs a fantastic series called Inspirational Parents and in her own words:
“Being a parent is tough. We all need a little bit of inspiration every now and then, and there’s plenty out there. So I thought it was time to start celebrating some of the people who are doing amazing things.”
For whatever reason, she asked me if I wanted to be involved and I did. If you’ve interacted with her on social media, you’ll know she can be ferociously direct, but also the most empathetic and supportive friend you could ever ask for. So I suppose it was partly out of fear of rejecting her, and partly because I found her questions so inwardly challenging that I really wanted to see if I could answer them honestly, that I said yes.
Here are some of my answers:
Tell me about the most unexpected change to you as a person or to your life since becoming a parent?
As bizarre as it sounds, the biggest change in me is actually wanting to be a parent. I have never been a “natural” dad; I was always exceptionally uncomfortable around children, often preferring to shake their hands or pat their heads than give them cuddles. When children asked me a question, I would always answer in a very grown up way giving frank and often graphically honest answers – much to the horror of their parents. I never really wanted to have children, and after mine were born I didn’t love them, I felt little towards them other than as objects that I was responsible for the maintenance and care of. It wasn’t until they were about 2 or 3 years old and having developed their own personalities and the ability to talk with me, that I grew to love them. I’m now a completely different person. The depth of my love for my kids can’t be measured; I get down to their level, have fun, act childishly and often seem like the third child in our family.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since having children?
I think the previous answer kind of eludes to this already, but my biggest challenge was learning to love my kids. The inner turmoil that I was trying to privately tackle was an almost impossible fight: why didn’t I feel this overwhelming sense of love at the moment my children were born like so many other fathers and TV had assured me I would feel. What was wrong with me? It wasn’t until I spoke with a group of dads who said that they felt exactly the same way as I did, but openly lied about immediately loving their children because they thought society would turn on them that I realised I wasn’t abnormal, it was just going to be a bit more difficult for me to build a relationship with my kids.
What do you regard as your greatest achievement?
What a question and I don’t think I have an answer. Many would look at my life and say that I have achieved so much: I have (so far) raised two healthy and (relatively) well brought up children without anything major going wrong, I have forged a modestly successful career in the military, and have provided a quite comfortable lifestyle for my family. But in reality, I see these as expected norms that I should be doing. I chose to have my family, I’m obligated to create a safe environment in which it can thrive. Anything less and I feel I’m failing as a husband and father. The honest answer is that I feel I have not made a great achievement, yet.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What hasn’t killed you?
My wife’s mental illness. For the last 7 years she has suffered from some form of mental illness, from depression, to anxiety, to agoraphobia, to anorexia. Balancing the care of my wife, looking after the kids, and satisfying a very demanding work life, my own mental health has taken a battering but I feel that I, no we, have come out of the other side much stronger.
How can parents best be empowered to properly balance a career and a family life?
This is a political hot potato; whose job is it to provide the work life balance? Should your work bear the burden and provide the opportunity for flexible working and childcare in order to enable you to participate fully in both? Or is it you that needs to have a lower threshold in your needs in order to reduce the work requirement allowing you to invest much more time and energy at home? I think it’s a combination of the two, but we are our worst enemies for wanting more and more. If we just lowered our expectations slightly and put much less pressure on ourselves we’d all be a little happier.
I told you they were hard questions. Have you ever asked yourselves these questions? How would you answer? If you’d like to read the full interview, it’s here.