This one is a little closer to home.
When I was younger, I was told I'd make the "perfect dad".
I thought to myself, yeah! I would, no sweat. How hard could it be?
Jeepers, was I ever wrong.
Firstly, I had no real understanding of what it mean to be a dad. I came from a good home. A not so stable one, but a good one. My own dad was present, when not otherwise involved in business or drinking, but he was there.
If you had to ask me whether I thought he was a good role model, I'd say what I always say when posed that question; sort of.
My dad always provided. I believe that he considered the fact that we never wanted for anything as a means of being a good dad. Would I trade all the things he provided for a chance at having a normal relationship with the man? In a heart beat.
There are anecdotes from him that stay with me to this day. Many of them apply to business and how one would present themselves in a working environment. He believed that's where a man (read: dad) began and ended.
To this day, I can't recall him ever having given me advice that I would be able to use on a daily basis as a dad that spoke to ones feelings of unworthiness or ineptitude. My dad came from a time where a man's role was to provide and a women's role was to nurture.
Today, we find ourselves in a different world entirely. Personally, a better one. In Sweden for instance, the Swedish government says that parents of both sexes are entitled to 480 days (16 months) of paid parental leave at about 80% of their salary (with a cap), plus bonus days for twins, and they must share — Swedish dads must take at least some of those 16 months.
And furthermore, the days don't expire until the child is 8 years old. Welcome to the world of today.
The concept of Sweden's paternal leave is unreal. In South Africa, I was lucky enough to be afforded two weeks paternity leave the second time around. The idea of 16 months shared between yourself and your partner is unfathomable.
I think my father would have driven himself insane.
Because I wasn't equipped to deal with the mental, emotional and physical toll of being a dad, I felt --- trapped. Our first arrived with a bang; reflux and colic for 10 weeks. Most of which went by in an absolute blur. My partner was brave enough to manage 4 months on their own while I endured a measly two weeks of sleepless nights and phantom screams. To this day, I don't know how they did it on their own.
To add awesome to injury, we piled on the pressure and had our second in the beginning of 2020. Bigger and badder, our second son had been a dream and although they arrived with relatively the same complications, somehow we were more prepared. Such as the story goes with #2.
What I continually ignored from day one with #1 was my mental health as a dad. To be honest, most of it I have made up along the way. But if I'm being honest, I was never prepared for the level of maturity needed to be a dad. I sought advice from best friends, older acquaintances and colleagues who I admired.
What I found was no one had a clue. Honestly. They all just seemed to have "rolled with it". Being agile enough to roll with the punches that being a dad throws at you seemed to be everyone's modus operandi. Today, as a dad of two brilliant monsters, I still don't have a tangible grasp on the emotional and mental intricacies of dad-hood. Competencies seem to come and go and my ability to have a handle on all things dad related flux from one day to the next.
I decided there had to be a better way.
It started as a thought. Every day I'd write down something that helped keep me centred for that day. I currently use a system called Bullet Journalling. If you haven't already, check out Ryder Carrol's system, and start here. Daily logging of a thought turned into a list and curating that list became a credo of sorts.
That credo quickly became a pillar I'd use to address most situations I'd encounter as a dad until today. In fact, I still use my own curated list every day.
What I found was that I didn't seem to be covering all of my bases. Especially from an emotional perspective. I'd practice the credo every day, but wasn't fully managing the mental aspects of what this newly formed pressure delivered.
So, I reached out. Far and wide. From 10s of 100s of dads and dad-friends of dads. I pooled together what could only be described as a playbook. The response was overwhelming. Picking up commonalities across different dads of different backgrounds provided me with the ability to de-dupe and begin curating one list to rule them all.
One hundred and one. "One oh one". Dad 101.
The number stuck and so I whittled down the slew of advice to 101 authentic and heart-felt pieces of advice that felt as though they covered everything I've been grappling with for the last 4 years.
Is the list complete? Not by a long shot.
Will it ever be perfect? Not by a mile.
Is it a starting point to address some of the questions I have daily? Yes.
Enter, The Daily Dad Pack.
- Daily Dad Dave