#dadlife – how a new Croydon dad is learning on the job

By - Tuesday 23rd January, 2018

New daughter, new dad

Five months ago, I had never changed a nappy – not one! But I am now a dad who knows his way around a changing mat and is proficient with a wet wipe and a soft flannel. In fact, I am proud to have served as first responder during some very powerful poo-namis.

The prospect of fatherhood had been daunting. I was given lots of books but I didn’t really read them. I attended the antenatal classes… but it all seemed so theoretical. Then at 3:41am on 20th September 2017, I became a dad. Suddenly, it felt real.

I have always preferred on-the-job training and I am currently learning as I go along. I’ve had time to get up to speed because I am on shared parental leave, taking three months off work to focus on the job of looking after our little girl. Shared parental leave has been available to fathers in Britain since 2015 but only around 1% of dads have taken it up. This is due to low awareness, but also the financial implications of taking time off. Our finances have certainly taken a hit and it was tough deciding whether we could afford for me to go on leave. However, I am so glad that we’ve done it.

Spending time bonding with my baby and helping my wife to care for our daughter has enriched me in so many other ways. I would rather be around to see those first smiles of the morning than be on the 7.17 from Purley to Victoria – any day of the week.

No baby café will ever be able to help me breastfeed, but I’ve been warmly welcomed

Photo author’s own.

Croydon is a great place for babies and I have enjoyed getting out and about with our little one. For example, I have accompanied my wife Rachael to the local baby cafés she has written about. Rachael’s article triggered a Twitter rant from someone about inclusivity (or the perceived lack thereof) for dads. I was pleased to point out that although no baby café in the world would be able to help me breastfeed, those in Croydon have been very welcoming.

It is certainly the case that dads are in the minority at baby groups and classes. However, I have enjoyed going along to Bumps & Babies groups in Croydon, where I have made friends with other local dads who do attend. I have certainly not been deterred from joining in. So far, I’ve said hello to the sun at baby sensory classes in Coulsdon and sung ‘Alice the camel’ at the free Rhymetime sessions at Purley Library.

My little one loves music and is particularly fond of the Rockabye Baby! lullaby renditions of The Smiths. That said, our most played track on Spotify is ‘white noise’, a firm favourite when desperately trying to get my daughter to sleep.

Over the coming months, I will review specific activities and experiences shared with my baby in and around the Croydon area from my perspective as a new local dad. Feel free to follow my progress and join the discussion online as I attempt to make my way through this thing called dadlife.

In the coming months my partner, Citizen contributor Rachael Cox, and I will produce an occasional series which we’ll call ‘parentlife’. My contributions will be ‘dadlife’ and hers ‘mumlife’. Together we’ll look at different aspects of early years parenting in Croydon, as we get to grips with life with our beautiful daughter and take her out and about to explore her home town. You can read Rachael’s first article here.

Martin Leay

Martin Leay

Martin has lived in Purley since 2014 and is passionate about the borough of Croydon. From 2015-2017 he presented and produced ‘Happy Sundays’ – an Indie, Rock and Pop show on Croydon Radio. Martin is a member of the Purley Festival Committee, helping out with press and media for the event and advising on the musical line-up of the festival’s weekend finale. His day job is in politics, carrying out research on behalf of Labour MPs. Martin recently became a Dad and is very proud that his daughter was born in Croydon.

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  • Patrick Blewer

    I smiled with recognition at this. I was a croydon dad for 3 and a bit years and found that the area is indeed well set up with great businesses and services for parents and (very) young children.

    I have particular fondness for the old Beanies café ans soft play, which was in the space now used by the same (brilliant) management all female management team behind “Project B”.

    I used to get the odd funny look from assembled mums as i’d sit with a double espresso and keep half an eye on my boy.

    Love this series. Good luck and enjoy the ride

  • Anne Giles

    Enjoy. Most fathers do get involved in this way. My nephews did and so did my husband when his son was small, but the older generation such as my father, for example, didn’t.