I began to feel I wasn't cut out to be a full-time dad
Last year, Richard Duffy wrote in these pages about the shock of becoming a father, just as he emerged from college into recession-hit Ireland. So how’s it going now that he’s a stay-at-home dad?
LAST YEAR was a tumultuous one; finishing college, starting work, moving in with my girlfriend. It should be pretty difficult to pick just one, stand-out moment, but it’s easy: 3.29am, October 24th. The moment my daughter Alannah was born.
I wrote in these pages last September about the fact that Alannah was not planned, that her arrival just as I emerged from college into recession-hit Ireland took some getting used to. But there is a remarkable contrast between the uncertainty I felt then, and my comfort with that fact now.
That’s not to say it was an easy adjustment. For the first few weeks Néad (my partner), Alannah and I settled into our home and dealt with the various different tasks required of us. We learned how Alannah liked to be held for her bath, which noises she found soothing, how to encourage her to feed. We learned all this while also keeping the house and hosting a mountain of visitors.
The day after my graduation from DCU I had landed a job with a small TV production company. It was exciting, dealing with cameramen and directors. After a stressful day I got to come home and vent to Néad while using cool terms such as “editing suite” and “post-production”.
But TV runs in seasons and when the season was up in February, I was out of a job. This roughly coincided with Néad returning to work after her maternity leave. So the decision seemed clear-cut: I became a stay-at-home dad.
I haven’t always found the experience easy, but I hope Alannah has. I struggled to find the balance at first. Néad is more sociable than I am, so her friends would show up throughout the day while she was looking after Alannah. Néad had also joined various parent and baby groups and met up with women she got in touch with on a website for new mums. But I’m not comfortable in those kind of groups. I would most likely sit awkwardly in a corner, and wonder how soon it would be acceptable to leave.
Given that Néad finds it so much easier to be active and sociable as a stay-at-home parent, and that I would much rather be the financial rock in the equation, it would be better if I was the one working.
I thought it would take me a while to adjust to relying on Néad’s income, to being the Mammy, and she thought it would time to adjust to helping support me. But it turned out to be fairly easy for me to wrap my head around the set-up.
It helped that we both knew that this was only a short-term solution, but I was so busy with Alannah all day that I didn’t really have time to sit around feeling emasculated anyway.
And I was getting some work done, a little bit of writing here and there, planning some projects for the future. I was being somewhat productive, so I didn’t feel like a “deadbeat dad”.
I wouldn’t trade in a single moment with Alannah, but it’s still frustrating when I’m getting into a rhythm of writing and she wakes up wanting to play. Mostly, she’d get her way, but not infrequently I would set her up on her playmat to entertain herself while I got a few more paragraphs written.