Tuesday, 07 January 2014
A Dad's View 1: Becoming a dad, now what?
Gadget-loving Tom Dunmore is shocked to realise there's more to being a dad than buying the baby kit
It's not until we're in the ambulance on the way to the maternity ward that I finally accept I'm no longer in control of things. Nine months of planning, preparing and purchasing for a home birth have all been for nothing – the hours of training at NCT and the teeth-grinding boredom at hypnobirthing all go out of the window. All that matters are the lives of Lise, my wife, and our unborn child, thankfully now in the hands of professionals.
Twelve hours later, wrapped in the warm glow of new fatherhood, I realise just how clueless I've been. I honestly thought I could spend my way through this life-changing experience: protect myself with an inflatable birthing pool, a mountain of plastic toys and a beefed-up home entertainment system.
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. Us dads-in-waiting often feel pretty helpless – our biological duty done, we flap around the edges of pregnancy like injured birds. Or simply ignore the facts of life altogether and disappear down the pub.
Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly excited about our new arrival. But the baby is, quite frankly, a danger to my lifestyle – socialising, gaming and collecting tiny, fragile gadgets – all my favourite hobbies are under threat. The natural response to a threat might usually be fight or flight, but I'm no fighter and I'm not about to run. So I choose the third way: I'll spend my way out of the crisis – surely that'll work?
So, burying my head in the sand, I ignore the big parenting questions, like how to deal with the responsibility of nurturing a brand new little human, and what to do about the state of the planet they will inherit. Instead, I spend my time investigating which baby gadgets are best, like playing with wireless monitors.
And I don't stop at the baby kit. I'm soon putting together an I'm-never-going-out-again kit, too. Bigger TV? Check. iPad? Check. I almost convince myself to buy a Wii because, well, they're family friendly, right? And I need a console I can share with my daughter (though, actually, when I say 'share', I mean 'play near her while still claiming to be actively parenting'). Fortunately, a friend of mine (who's already a dad) points out that it's going be three years before Ava can wave a Wii controller. He tells me to buy something else instead. And I do, though, in truth, it's not the appeal of well-crafted, age-appropriate toys that make me, more the fear of giving an out-of-date console to her.
Now Ava has arrived, I realise that I should spend a little more time providing emotional support for my wife and a little less worrying about my entertainment options. Sadly, I've never been the sit-down-with-a-cup-of-tea-and-a-chat type. I'm hardwired to deliver the typical geek response to moments of heightened emotion – frantic problem solving. And 60 minutes into fatherhood, it's already clear that parenting calls for something different: previously alien skills like empathy and patience. For a geek like me, that's some upgrade.