The Novice Parent
Words by Steve Rowe, head of support, NABS
3rd August 2017, 11.40am.
A date and time I’ll remember fondly forever. This was the moment my little girl, Ruby, arrived into the world weighing a pinch over 5lbs and sporting a quite magnificent flock of hair. She was perfect and instantly became the most important and precious thing in my life.
The three months since Ru’s arrival have been wonderful. There have been so many joys – the little smile I get when I come home, the way she clings on to my finger that makes me feel warm inside every single time and her little personality that is beginning to burst through all make the top three for sure.
But, as with all new parents, there have been challenges too: feeding, sleeping, infections, weight gain (not as much as we’d hoped for Ruby and more than we’d hoped for me).
It got me thinking about more of my experiences since becoming a dad. The first thing that sprang to mind was how spectacularly priorities have shifted in these early months. Previously the man to champion a quick drink after work or a game of five-a-side, yet now, as I near the end of my working day, I’m thinking solely about getting home for bath time and which pyjamas to put on. For Ru mainly but I’m not far behind.
A whole new space in my mind has appeared where I’m forever thinking about Ruby; how to move her on to solid food, did she take her immunisation jabs OK that day, when shall we take her swimming for the first time, what height do you need to be for Disneyland rides? It’s a broad spectrum, I agree.
What used to fill that vacuum before? Was it an empty space just waiting for fatherhood to arrive? Or maybe useless trivia like “who won the 1997 snooker World Championship?” was drifting through the void like a large piece of space debris. It was Ken Doherty for anyone interested.
Another thing I’ve thought about a lot since becoming a dad is my wife, Laura. A bloody brilliant woman before having a child and I have an unparalleled level of admiration, respect, love and pride since then as she takes on the day job looking after Ru during her maternity leave.
As for day-to-day experiences, there’s no denying that going out to work every day is tough. I’d rather be at home (sorry, boss) enjoying the smiles, the play time and the daily transformations of my little one.
Doing the day job on less sleep is challenging too, though I’ve been surprised with how I’ve functioned on smaller pockets of sleep since becoming a dad. Maybe this skill was hidden in that mind-vacuum too; an untapped skill, waiting for fatherhood. NABS run a masterclass, “The Good Sleep Guide for Parents”, which I found really insightful a few weeks ago too. A group of 16 parents gathered to hear the secrets of good sleep for kids aged 0 to 6, plus a few tips for themselves. Dr Guy Meadows had a lot to share on napping, self-settling and breaking bad sleep habits – keep an eye on our calendar for when it runs again in 2018.
Looking back to a time before Ruby, I know I was guilty of asking friends how things were going in the early weeks with a newborn, but then totally oblivious three or six months down the line that they may not have had a night of unbroken sleep in all that time. Amazing we don’t tend to make more of that. I’ve been lucky at work; I’ve shared updates with my line manager and had flexibility in tweaking my hours and working from home occasionally. It helps NABS too as they get the best out of me, so I’d encourage any parent to share the relevant bits of home life with their employer. If flexible working is something that rouses a surge of passion in you, Digital Mums’ campaign to Clean up the F word is well worth some of your time.
Exactly a year ago today, NABS released a short video ‘Little Voices’ to promote our revamped Working Parents Initiative. I wasn’t a dad back then, but it still sparked a sense of admiration in me for parents juggling daily life while raising children. Watching again now, it definitely has more resonance with me. Two scenarios in particular strike a chord: a mother (played by Katy Talikowska of AMV BBDO) not being there to see her kids in the morning – that’s me as I commute into London – and a father (played by Richard Morris of Initiative) looking after his dad admin (‘dadmin’?) on the weekend rather than playing with the kids in the back garden. I don’t think I choose doing my chores over playing with Ruby, but it’s a useful reminder of what’s important in life.
Writing some thoughts on becoming a parent has made me realise one thing in particular; there’s so much to say! I’m only three months in but could have written so much more. For now, from a novice still learning his trade, here’s three things that might make life a little easier if you’re a working parent:
- Flex where you can. Be that working from home or altering your hours, figure out what works for you to get the most out of being a parent and pitch it to your boss: why does it work for them as well as you?
- Everything is just a phase . A piece of advice passed on by one of Laura’s friends when caring for a newborn. So helpful to remember when you’ve had a tough hour, tough day or tough week; the tricky phase is exactly that, just a phase
- Check out the range of support available from NABS. Start by chatting to one of the advisors in the Support Team, come in for a 1:1 coaching session, attend a masterclass or check out the raft of online content.
It’s early days for me, still finding my way as a papa while working full-time, but it’s fun being along for the ride.
And finally, having talked about her so much, it’s only right I introduce you to little Ru…
NABS offer a range of support to mums and dads in the advertising industry – we believe that being brilliant at work and at home shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Watch our Little Voices film, share it with your teams and take a look at the Working Parents Portal on our website to access our array of advice, information, coaching and support.