Why this journalist thinks his son’s turning him into a Bond villain.
Stuart Heritage is a journalist and blogger. He writes the incredibly popular Man with a Pram column in the Guardian, where he’s been documenting the life of his first born since February 2015. His ability make you think and laugh at the same time really sets his writing apart, whether he’s writing about film, music or family. He lives in London with his partner and baby.
How has being a dad made you a better person?
To be honest, I don’t know that it has. It’s made me obnoxious, and monotonous, and myopic to the extent that there’s now very little I care about outside of my own family. And, Christ alive, it’s made me fat. But, thanks to parenthood and a few other things that have happened this year, I do finally feel like a grown-up now. Life has thrown everything it’s got at me, and I’m still here. If there’s a problem, I know that I can deal with it. I don’t care about winning your approval anymore. I’ve got my own shit to deal with.
If the pre-dad guy I used to be could see me now I think he’d be pleased. Obviously he’d be appalled at how fat and bald I’ve got since the baby came along, and he still wouldn’t fully grasp what a precious resource sleep was, but on the whole he’d be impressed that I’d managed to pull it off.
What does it mean to be a dad?
It means that I’m going to spend the next two decades fluctuating between exhaustion and elation. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Fatherhood, I’m learning, offers a funny kind of love. Without the hormonal surge that mothers endure, you experience a love that sneaks up and ambushes you when you’re not looking. One week into my sons’ life I had a particularly tough night. The following morning, exhausted by our all-night hostile stalemate, my baby and I flopped onto the sofa, switched on the radio and braced ourselves for the worst.
And then he smiled.
I mean, obviously he didn’t smile. He was three days old. Realistically it was just wind or tiredness or the face he pulls whenever he craps himself. But, still, it was enough. The sight of his features in that combination, not sleep or fury, was enough to burst my heart. It was enough to remind me that he was my son, and not just a frustrating series of zero-sum firefights. That smile was enough to get me through the next night, and the next, and the next, and the next.
How has becoming a dad changed your perspective?
Luckily, or maybe stupidly, I wrote a big feature on the birth a few hours after it actually happened, which hopefully captured what a total shit-storm the whole thing was and how we both dealt with it.
Being a dad has made me constantly live in the future — I’ve found that things go much better if you can anticipate them ahead of time — so now I’m always thinking three steps ahead, like a chess grandmaster or a Bond super villain.
What’s tough about being a dad?
The hardest thing I’ve found about being a dad is trying to do anything at all when the baby’s around. Anything AT ALL. If it’s just me and him and nothing else, everything’s great. If it’s just me and him and there’s a column that needs to be written, or a dinner that needs to be cooked, or a stair-gate that needs to be assembled, I guarantee that my brain will overload. I’ll go mad with stress and then spend the rest of the day convinced that I’m a legitimately terrible father.
What do you want to look back on and be proud of?
It’s early days, but I want to be able to look at my son and see that we raised him to be happy and curious. If he can manage to be both of those things at the same time, there’ll be no stopping him.
How do you keep on track with that?
God knows. By walking the impossible line between indulging his interests and turning him into an entitled brat? My guess is that no parent in history has ever managed that with complete success.
It’s a team effort. Me and my partner pass each other in corridors sometimes, and high-five. That’s an exaggeration, but we do tag-team for a lot of the time, taking turns with him when the other one needs to work, or sleep, or wash. It’s practical, but it’s not perfect. The boy is happiest when it’s the three of us all together, so we probably need to work on making that happen more often.
Hopefully, you found that interesting, useful, or it just made you feel a bit better knowing there are other blokes out there having the same experience. If you did subscribe to my newsletter here and I’ll email you new interviews, blogs and experiments. All part of my Being Dads project.
It’ll be sporadically because, although I’m doing these interviews to understand what it means to be dad and how to be a better one, I have two kids and work two jobs. To be the best dad I can be, they come ahead of this.