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I have been reading a lot about families just recently.
I am not sure why it should be but it got me thinking about the transition from husband to father.

It is odd that something so universal as having children can have such a profound effect on families. You would have thought we would all be better at it by now.
Lets face it, we have been at it for years.
We can accept that the internet exists and we can send probes to Mars but we are constantly surprised by how tough parenting is.

It was often said before I had children that the first three months are the hardest.
By the end of three months I found that was very true, that this tiny thing that had invaded our lives and home was developing a character so very fast and we were not only dealing with the day to day wall of work a baby can provide you with but also our developing relationship with someone we did not know.
His personality was slowly unfolding in front of us.
This was a challenge, to get to know this person and discover everything there was to know about his wants and needs at the same time as he was working out the same questions.

I have also heard it said that 80% of advice is reminiscence.
This was certainly true of almost everything we had been told.

We had been told how other people raise their children, not how to raise ours.

It was becoming clear that we were in the realms of informed guessing.

About three months in I remember sitting on the edge of the bed trying to get dressed. It was dark and I could not put the light on in case I woke Prole1. His cot was wedged near the drawers so I could not get clothes from it and I had not left clean socks out for myself.
Somehow this was the moment. Prole1 had completely invaded every inch of the house and every second of our lives, we had not slept well, we had not eaten well and he was up several times in the night.
Loz and I were exhausted from mis-timed body clocks and now I could not prepare for the day because he was there.
I felt like I had lost everything and in that feeling I felt like I had failed, because Dads should not resent their children.
Not that early in the game surely?

I have the grace of perspective now which I did not have before. This was my low ebb.
This was the week I was prescribed antidepressants by the Doctor.

He hardly blinked.
‘Why don’t you try them for a bit? Don’t worry, it happens a lot.’
Happens a lot?
HAPPENS A LOT?
I didn’t read about that in “Raising Boys” or “Fatherhood”. The books kept that one quiet.
No where did I get told that the joy of fatherhood can hide spiralling depression and prescription medication.
This is a recognised moment for fathers. It can happen at different times and if you are lucky it never happens, if you are really lucky you forget it ever did.
The statistics for relationships that break up within the first 18 months of having children are eye watering.
I probably should have picked up the clues and going back through the books I could see the hints and suggestions.
It came as a real shock at the time.

Loz and I talked a lot about it.
This is hard with a baby. Finding time to talk.
Loz pointed out that not talking was dangerous for us.
Loz was great at not allowing danger into our relationship and she was a good listener.
She was also a great talker and told me she was feeling disturbed by the whole experience too.

We talked a lot.
Loz loved talking and sharing ideas.
Before we had Prole1 we had sat down and talked about what we thought having children might mean.

The thought process we talked about went like this:

Prole1 had not asked to be born. We made him.
We planned to have a baby and Prole1 was not consulted.
He was brought into being.

As such it was likely that he would have no idea what was going on.
It was likely he would not thank us for anything.

We thought this would probably be the case and that there would be a price to be paid for bringing a new person into the world.
No one else was going to pay. It’s not the sort of thing you pay off in cash.

We would have to pay in time, effort and emotion.

It is no good ordering something and then resenting the price

Having children is not about sacrifice.
Sacrifice means to give up something valued for the sake of other considerations.
In the face of the enormous debt I felt I owed the Proles there was nothing of greater value.
Once we began the thought process of having children the consequences were blindingly obvious.

I did not care about pubs or cinemas, meals out, night clubs, house parties, the theatre or spontaneous social gatherings, I was prepared to lose all these things before I started down the fatherhood path.
What was dangerous and what I could not tolerate was the excavation of my ability to function.

The danger was in ill health, in a break down of communication between Loz and I and in there not being an inch of the house in any room where I felt I was not boxed in.

The danger would be in not talking and the threat was to my family, not to me.

The solutions were simple and huge.
I visited the doctor. Ultimately his readiness to prescribe drugs scared me into action, no prescriptions.
I kept my clean clothes in the bathroom.
Loz and I would give each other an hour each day in another room to get away if we needed it.
I cleared the kitchen table every day so there would be a small rectangle of order in the house.
I worked really hard on talking to Loz, listening her and to it all and tried to get some perspective.
I went part time at work and I kept that up for the next six months.
Loz and I shared the childcare 50-50.

Prole1 had a huge effect on our lives and we underestimated what it would take out of us.

It was not all about loss.
There is repayment for all this of course.
Prole1 loved us unconditionally.
He absolutely loved us.
Nothing would make him happier than lying in bed with me and Loz and giggling.
He kept on loving us. No matter what.

He loved me.

I’ll be honest, I have friends who no doubt like me but I can be difficult to love.
Prole1 had no problems with this.

The debt is still there. He did not ask for any of this. I will be paying him off for the rest of my life.

Fortunately he pays me back too.
He bends his life around me and this family and I bend my life around him and Prole2.
I don’t feel I have given anything up, that party ended a long time ago.

I know I don’t get it right all day every day but the Proles know that too.

They have ways to let me know when I am letting danger back in and I try not to.

When it gets too much we clear back the kitchen table and talk.
Stupid, silly, ridiculous, heartbreaking, brilliant and wonderful talking.

Having a family is not about giving something up. It is about exchanging all that love and joy, carrying and being carried, holding and being held.
That is not losing something, that’s the best thing there is.

Me and the Proles are where it is at these days.