A weekend away and Adele, is what every parent needs!

SunsetThe day finally arrives for Lisa and I, we are super excited to head to Auckland for our weekend of guilty freedom to celebrate Lisa’s birthday. Now, her birthday was in December, so please hold up before judging me for such a ridiculously belated birthday present. We had to delay the treat as Adele was a little preoccupied in December – she could only lock in March 23rd for us to have a catch up with her.

So we got our bags packed Thursday morning and then dropped Finn to daycare. Lisa and I went to work for a few hours, then I popped home to pick up our bits and pieces. I realised my wedding finger felt a little naked … I’d forgot to throw my gold bullion on that morning. So I went to retrieve it from its usual place where I set it each night. Of course, old Murphy was playing his tricks again. No sign of my ring. Panic set in a little – the old ticker started to ramp up. I searched high and low, with no luck. Reluctantly I reached for the phone to ask Lisa if she had seen it … you can imagine how that went down. Not good. Anyways, I decided time was of the essence so I had better put it on the back burner until we returned from our trip.

We head to the airport and straight up to the business lounge. It’s our little sanctuary where we can consume too many calories and whet our palates with a few glasses of bubbles. Life is good. Finn is being picked up by Aunty Donna and Uncle Jason. We have two days ahead of us with Adele and retail therapy.

Fast forward two hours and we are sitting in an Uber enroute to Auckland CBD. By the way, if you haven’t tried Uber because you think it’s “dodgy”, you love your local taxi company or you are stuck in the dark ages then get a grip. As a modern Dad I think the convenience, safety and cost effectiveness of Uber makes it much more appealing than a stuffy cab. Back on track sorry (I go off on tangents regularly, all part of the daddy brain syndrome), we are in the cab and I receive a message from Aunty Donna asking us to call. A pretty ominous message. I called and my heart sank when Donna said that the daycare called saying that my little Ninja had a really high temperature and needed to seek medical care. The doctor informed Donna that Finn had an ear infection and a rattle in his chest which could progress to pneumonia if it isn’t managed appropriately. It was the worst feeling as we weren’t there for our son when he needed us most. Aunty Donna had managed to get his temp back into the 37’s and I could hear him laughing in the background. Our first instinct was to book the next flight home but we knew our little legend was in good care and on the mend. Still, it was on our minds the whole time – all you parents will be able to relate.

We checked into our AirBNB apartment in the centre of the city. It was our first time using AirBNB and I have to say it was awesome. Check in was seamless, the whole process of booking was a dream. If I’m going to walk the walk as a Modern Dad, then I ought to be trying these modern ways of living. AirBNB is cheaper, easier to book and really user friendly. We ended up in a New York loft style apartment a stones throw from the shops on Queen Street. We felt like teenagers again.

We caught up with Adele as planned. She was simply outstanding. Clearly she has one heck of a set of lungs but she is also funny as hell. Over the course of a few hours she had us all in stitches and gave no f&$ks about anything. She spoke her mind, dropped profanities when it suited and sang her little heart out. It was a night to remember and we felt like we were able to connect with Adele – almost even relate to her. My most favourite song is “Sweetest Devotion” and l now love it even more as she told us she wrote it for her son. The words are powerful and describe that life changing moment when you first meet your child. Hairs stand on the back of my neck as I type – reliving that moment when I first met Finn.  If you get a moment, listen to the song and think of that moment when you met your baby for the first time. Powerful stuff.

Lisa dragged me along for a bit of shopping (I should be honest and admit that I was rather excited to hit up H&M!) – we proceeded to gather a few items for ourselves then discovered H&M Kids. This is some serious swag. Baby fashion up the yin yang. We were on Cloud 9 hooking up Finn with tweed trousers, bow ties, winter woollies and trendy hoodies. We probably should buy shares at H&M lol. Plus if I’m gonna be a Modern Dad then I have to have a few slick garments donning my wardrobe hangers.

What’s one of the great things about city living? Mid-afternoon beersies of course! We indulged in some tipples on Friday down at the Viaduct and met up with some friends. After a few cheekies at Britomart we headed to the Gin Room for a nightcap. Dear oh dear, that was a bad idea. Don’t get me wrong – it was the most epic little cocktail bar in New Zealand, but the head was a little foggy as a result. These simple guilty pleasures are some of the little things that we lapped up. These rare treats were so greatly appreciated and I think us parents all need some “fun” time. We all deserve a break. Even though you may feel guilty for ditching your little cherub, it’s a treat that you have earned. Plus, look at the benefits for your child. They are learning to become more resilient and more independent – none of us want a molly-coddled child on our hands who hasn’t spent as much as a night apart from us. Enable your child to build their confidence right from the start. That cotton wool you so lovingly wrap them in will eventually be useless when they enter the big bad world as an adult.

Now, I had better get looking for that wedding ring. I will update you in due course.

James

Founder of ModernDad.guru

Baby-brain is now a Dad thing!

Baby Brain (2)

Our darling wives often get accused of suffering from “Baby Brain”, now don’t get me wrong, I would never dream of saying this to Lisa … I know better. The consequences are unspeakable. Pick your battles guys.

When Lisa was pregnant she often chatted to her girlfriends about this baby-brain stuff. One of her friends said that it was poppycock and that it was something that someone just made up. She was very sure of it, and was not going to be convinced otherwise. Nothing motivates me more than getting on the old Google and researching to prove someone who “knows it all” wrong lol. It’s just too much fun.

Dr Laura Glynn, a psychologist at Chapman University, California, claims that baby brain is a real thing. She suggests that women’s brains change so that they will be better able to concentrate on their newborn’s needs after the birth, with the result that they become less focused on the other things, such as where the car keys might be.  She claims that these changes may be brought about by massive fluctuations in women’s hormone’s as well as tiny movements by the foetus. Check out this short video about similar research.

It makes sense, right? Just think about the crazy hormone changes a woman’s body goes through during, and after pregnancy. Don’t pretend you have noticed any hormone affects, mood swings, cravings … us blokes know it’s legit. I don’t think baby-brain is actually a bad thing at all. I think it’s absolute genius. It’s natures way of making sure that mum is 100% focused on baby. Us blokes can look after the menial stuff! Mum’s have a natural instinct or intuition with their baby – it’s just an innate skill. Us dad’s certainly learn as we go, but mums have this amazing talent of knowing what is required. Examples – packing the diaper pack and replenishing it every day, knowing a hungry cry from a tired cry, knowing when to bum pat to get the little one to sleep … not mention countless other abilities!

BUT – have you heard baby-brain for Dads? Well I would assume not. So I’m going to patent it and put my hand up as the first sufferer of the ailment. Yep, you heard me. I’m owning up to having baby-brain. I’m not kidding either. I legitimately think I sometimes just lose my marbles – and it has all started happening since May 9th 2016. I wonder what date that might be?

So the other day, I was having a rough old morning with Finn. In fact, it was St Patrick’s Day and I blogged about it – check out the post. What I didn’t tell you in that post, was how the rest of my day unfolded. We won’t get into the fact that I didn’t end up having a Guinness, but in fact was sleeping by 6pm with manflu. Back to the story. So I drop Finn off at Daycare and pop his diaper back into his cubby in the nursery room. About an hour later I reach for my wallet only to realise I can’t find it. I search my office and my car – no luck. So I exhaust all my options and resort to calling Lisa. Not fun. Can I admit this is the 6th time I have “lost” my wallet/passport/keys. Lisa then suggests I go back through my movements that morning. This concludes in me calling ABC Merivale … and the lovely manager Aimee confirms that yes indeedy – my wallet is safely tucked in Finn’s diaper bag between a fresh nappy and a bum wipe!

Thank god for that. But it really leaves me wondering what’s up with my brain? There doesn’t seem to be much research out there on daddy baby-brain. If you can find it – please send it to me. Have my hormones changed too? Am I now focusing on my little whippersnapper and not the mundane stuff? If so, I guess that’s not a bad thing. Wallets are overrated anyways. Sons on the other hand – they are life’s most wonderful gift.

So if anyone tries to tell you Baby-brain is “not a thing”. Send them my way.

Thanks for reading!

James

Founder of MdoernDad.guru

Parenting, Navy Seals and the Village…

Modern Dad's

They say it takes a village …

We all know the saying. “It takes a village to raise a child”. Now honestly, I’ve often rolled my eyes when I hear that, thinking it’s some kind of hippy one-liner.  But more recently I’ve experienced first hand just how vital it is to have help from others.

Lisa and I are in somewhat of a unique position. Lisa is from Canada, I’m from Ireland and we live in New Zealand. We have no family here whatsoever, and yes that can sometimes be a good thing if there’s some family drama going down, which means we either tough it out in isolation or we build strong bonds with close friends.

As a parent, you want to prove to yourself, your partner and everyone else around you, that you are indestructible and independent. You don’t want to show any signs of weakness, tiredness or emotion. But in reality, you will implode if you take this approach. We are all human, and we all have breaking points. We need rest, we need alone time and more often than not we need a glass of vino. Don’t feel bad, you are part of a pretty huge club.

Finn had a big night last night. You know what I’m talking about. Coughing every few minutes, awake more than he was asleep and throwing up anytime you give him milk. These are those character building moments they tell you about. And I hope to Jesus (Mary and Joseph!) there is some positive outcome – because I’m not sure how much “character” was built for me last night. Today I feel like a mere shadow of my previous self. Sleep deprived, grumpy and lacking my usual redbull-esque energy levels.

And of course Murphy’s Law is one shit of a thing. Ironically, today is St Patrick’s Day. It feels like the Saint thinks it’s April Fools day – maybe he started on the sauce a few weeks too early. Today also happens to be the start of my work’s centenary celebration. (And when I say celebration, please don’t confuse that with a day off “work” and enjoying nibbles and bubbles – oh no, this is one of our busiest and most important days of the year, or should I say century!!). And here’s me sitting at the doctor’s clinic with Finn. Not ideal. But that’s just how the cookie crumbled today. Thankfully I have some pretty awesome co-workers to pick up the slack.

I sometimes think about the Navy Seals. They are put through such an intense training program, often where many of them just break. Well, I think parenthood has its “navy seal” moments. You non-parents probably think I’m being a muppet. But I shit you not, this daddy-business is serious stuff. Let’s compare notes with Americas finest.

  1. The Seals run two marathons in a day. Us parents run only one in a day, but with an 11kg babyweight, a jam-packed diaper bag, taking a phone call in one ear and getting the other ear yanked by a screaming ninja.
  2. The Seals are forced to live on a diet of nettles and kale. Us parents have to power through with only half a wine-biscuit and two spoonfuls of baby porridge.
  3. The Seals have to lay under a bush for hours at a time, no pooing and no eating. That’s just child’s play compared to us daddy’s and mummy’s! We sit motionless on the couch with our little ton-weight cherub in our arms fast asleep. We dare not breathe too heavy, cough, sleep, talk or move for fear of the sleeping beauty waking!!

In conclusion – the Seals aren’t a patch on the parents of the World. (No disrespect to the Seals as I think you are bloody amazing). When you non-parents are enjoying your extra hour in bed, your quiet stroll in the park or your uninterrupted episode of Catching up with Kardashians, please spare a thought for all of the parents out there bravely going to war each day.

Now don’t get me wrong – being a Dad is my most favourite thing in the world. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t trying times.

Uncle Jason and Aunty Donna are those people in our lives that stop the wheels from falling off. They have been absolute legends. They aren’t blood-relatives, but man oh man you wouldn’t know it. They have taken Finn in like one of their own. They nurture and support Lisa and I like we are their children. They are two extremely loving people – two of earths finest humans. They do it all from pure love and they have no clue just how much of a difference they make to our lives. They are living examples to me of why it does takes a village to raise a child. Without them – the wheels would well and truly have fallen off the old wagon.

For those parents that are out there and don’t have family support, fret not. Let the village do it’s thing.

James

Founder of Modern Dad.

A dad’s perspective. Is it right or wrong?

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Daycare. Right or Wrong?

Day 1 at daycare. That dreaded moment when you have to drop your little ninja and rip off the band aid, leaving him there and closing the door behind … for a few hours anyways.

Lisa and I are pretty “busy” people, well we certainly don’t get bored. We both work, run an online business, partake in hobbies, and once in a blue moon we get to hang out with each other. And to be honest, we both enjoy going to work. So when Lisa’s maternity leave (she got an amazing 18 weeks, but can take up to a year not fully paid) was coming to an end I wondered whether she might be keen to stay off longer. But she knew that the best thing for Finn, and for her, was to go back to work. She loves the interaction with her co-workers and the students at school, plus she knew the experience of daycare would be great for Finn.

So we started searching around Christchurch for the perfect place for our little legend.  We had no clue what we were even searching for. We checked out a handful of early childhood centres and they were all somewhat different. But our number one factor, was gut instinct. We knew from the moment we walked into a place whether it had a good feel or not. The other factor was location – being close to our work (500m) means we can pop across pretty quickly if required. And living in an earthquake-prone city this can be pretty handy. A few friends really quizzed us on our final choice. They wanted to know why we had went with that option, instead of another, or why we didn’t like the one that their kids went to. But to be honest, we went with the place that felt right to us. Who cares what your friends have to say about it? At the end of the day, do you have your steak cooked the same way they do just because they think you should?! Hell no! (Sorry vegans).

Finn started ABC Merivale at 5 months, and it has been seriously amazing. We do not regret one thing whatsoever. In fact, we feel it has boosted his development so so much. The staff are 100% invested in Finn, and in us. They are here to support us, and they go the extra mile. The very first day was so hard. I remember feeling like bursting into tears as I walked to work (yes, Im a bloke and I still have emotions). It felt like I had deserted him. And yes … I rang several times on the first day to see how he was settling. It appeared that he was settling much quicker than I was lol.   I suggest you take your baby in several times a few weeks before their first day. You can stay with them and help them (and you!) settle. The great thing about starting your baby under 6 months is that they aren’t overly-attached to you, so when you leave they aren’t crying! Well Finn wasn’t anyways. He just loved being surrounded by other kids, loving staff and a stimulating environment.

We filled out a form or three when we enrolled Finn. The one thing I recall being asked was “What would you like your child to learn”?. And that is one bloody good question to ask a rookie Dad about his 5 month old son. Lisa and I thought about it, we were tempted to write “Mandarin, Sign Language and the Violin” … but we were just new to the place and didn’t know if people would get my Irish humour. In all seriousness though, the most important thing for us was that we wanted him to learn to share with others, be kind and to be disciplined. If Finn can have these traits instilled at home and at daycare then we feel that he is going to have a pretty solid start to his life. And to our delight, a month ago Finn decided he would take a nibble of his biscuit and then proceed to share it with us. It was soggy, covered in baby drool and not very appetising but it was simply epic. He’s learning to share, and loves it!

For those of you wondering if you should get your child into daycare, just give it a crack. If it isn’t for you, then you can un-enrol your child. But I really feel there are just so many benefits. Yes your child will pick up a few coughs and colds (Finn got one pretty bad) but is that a bad thing? The only way to build up their little immune system is to catch the odd bug and learn to fight it. What’s the use in wrapping them in cotton wool? Eventually they will come into contact with other human beings … won’t they!? Here’s hoping!

Maybe mention also that putting him in day care has helped with separation anxiety, Finn still needs us but isn’t 100% reliant on us, he has learned to trust other people, socializes easily with other babies and adults.

We feel that ABC Merivale really works well for us. They have a great structure, but are also open and flexible in trying to suit each child’s needs and requirements. They are most definitely a part of our family and we are so grateful for what they do for Finn.

A few things I hear from some friends about avoiding day care are :

– It’s too expensive. – Now, of course there is a cost but when you weigh it up, it’s amazing value for what you get. Some parents say that a whole salary goes towards paying for daycare. But I think that’s exactly true for most cases. If you are in a position to work part time or shorter days then it could actually work out brilliantly. I think there is a lot to be said about mental health for mums, getting back to work can actually be a great thing!

– It’s bad for the baby as they can’t breastfeed if they are at daycare. – But the argument here could be that the milk could be pumped and sent in each day, or frozen in batches at daycare.

– It will take away from the mother/child bonding. – This is a pretty personal one and everyone of course is different. But I can’t see too much disadvantage to your child being at day care, maybe even just a few hours each day, so that they can learn to bond with others too – and to reduce any potential separation anxiety.

So if you are feeling guilty for looking at daycare as an option, don’t. If it’s good for you, it’s good for your child.

James

Founder of ModernDad

Breast is best. Right dads?

breastThe old saying Breast is Best is still a big catchphrase today in modern parenting. If you haven’t been to an Antenatal class and you are trying to figure out if it’s worthwhile – just stop thinking and get your butt along to one! The class is a little awkward to begin with but by the third class you start to make some connections with the other new parents. We learned a little bit, but mostly nothing we didn’t already know. The BIG bonus of these classes is post-labour. We have made some great friends through it, and because we are all going through the same challenges we tend to reach out frequently.  For the lads, that means consuming beer and sharing dad jokes. Lisa and the girls all message each other on a little FB message group – it has been golden during the tough times (and yes, we aren’t perfect parents smelling of roses, every now and then there’s a splash of fertiliser).

Feeding was a key element of one of the classes. However, they asked all the Dads to go to another room and think about how we can nurture our wives (or something warm and fuzzy like that). Honestly – I wonder why we weren’t included? Seriously though. What they don’t tell you is that as a Dad – you are the first responder to those feeding emergencies. The sweet granny hosting the feeding class isn’t standing by my bed at every hour on the hour ready to help with this new art of Boob-nutrition. You are the one helping your darling wife and new little cherub learn to feed. Let’s face it – the 2 day old human has no clue and is on a steep learning curve, not to mention your wife has never breastfed so she’s no expert either. Who’s the first person they look to – yep, silly old Dad. So – you learn how to squeeze, poke, prod, massage …yes boys, Im talking about your wife’s mammaries. But all of this action isn’t in the least bit romantic or fun! It’s serious business.

Now – to be fair to the New Zealand system, you are assigned a midwife from the moment you find out you are in the family way. Well actually, it’s more of a mad dash to find a midwife as you pick one from a website – Find Your Midwife. It’s kind of like Tinder for Midwife finding lol.

Your wife (and you, if you aren’t a dead beat dad) visit this midwife throughout the pregnancy regularly. She is also there to deliver the baby and visits almost every day for weeks after the birth. The midwife is a great resource when you are stuck or lost. Our poor midwife got bombarded with a million questions from me – the over-excited newbie Dad.

So, our little Finn, was not overly keen to do things the natural way. It just wasn’t working like the books said it would. Breastfeeding was hard for Lisa – lads we just don’t get it, but it’s a mom thing and we need to just support our darlings through this. Lisa tried so hard to make it work for Finn but it was just not happening and the little guy wanted more fodder. And seriously, more and more people talk about breastfeeding just not working for them now that we openly discuss it. However the midwives are anti-formula up to the 6 week mark. It’s like we are a total failure if we feed our babies formula. Yet I talked to a friend in the USA who said the nurses made up a bottle of formula within hours of the birth as the baby wasn’t feeding properly. I think we would have saved ourselves a lot of stress and anxiety had we been given the option. We were looked down upon and told it was dangerous to feed the baby formula. That’s where this new term “donor milk” popped up. We had no idea what it was. In a nutshell – some moms produce too much milk and have an excess. So they pump the excess into sterilised bags or bottles then freeze the milk. The milk then goes to a milk bank and is distributed to those who need it.

Dad Preparing Baby BottlesNow we have to be honest and admit this was a really hard decision. We were comforted to know that the milk donors go through some very thorough screening and testing to ensure they are healthy. However, it was still an emotional rollercoaster for us to give Finn donor milk. Looking back – it was a good decision. But we also would have went to formula a lot sooner had we not been rookie parents. About 6 weeks in – we shifted to Formula. It was the best decision we made. Finn was finally getting enough milk and was much more settled. Now, is Breast really Best? I think not. The best thing is whatever is best for mum and baby. Don’t let ANYONE tell you otherwise.

Breast is best, so we were told. New Zealand has a service called “Plunket”. It’s a government funded organisation and is one of the major providers of child health services. They offer free classes for new moms to attend as well. So Lisa rocked along to one of the classes only to be looked down upon from the group as she was not breast feeding. It was absolutely terrible behaviour – and the person doing the “shunning” was the old lady from Plunket who was hosting the classes. To me, this was beyond ridiculous. How on earth could she think this behaviour is acceptable? We have a perfectly happy and healthy baby who receives nothing but love and affection. The old girl clearly had her own fair share of issues. She also received an official complaint from the protective dad and hubby (silly old me) and in turn received some free training on how to relate to other people in general. What a twit!

So I say to all new parents out there… feed your baby what you can. Ensure they get what they need and that doesn’t necessarily mean breast milk. Let the haters hate. You will do the right thing for your baby to ensure things don’t go tits up. (my dad jokes are bad, right!?)

Keep on being awesome.

James

Founder, ModernDad.guru