We talk top tips, advice for new dads and challenges with dad blogger Stuart Hood – from Peppa Pib's marriage guidance to dealing with toddler tantrums…
What did you least expect about being a dad?
The loneliness and isolation. It’s amazing how quickly you lose touch with the people you used to speak to a lot. I imagined that my wife and I would continue to socialise with the same group after we had a kid. In reality, we had to build a new support network up from scratch.
How has fatherhood changed you?
There have been positives and negatives. On the downside, I worry about money and regularly stress about whether my wife and I are doing the right thing for our son. On the upside, it’s given me huge amounts of joy, a sense of purpose and improved focus.
Before my son was born, my career was comfortable but not really going anywhere. Now, I have a book, website and growing business that I am extremely passionate about. I’m also far more aware of what comes first (my family) than I ever was before.
What’s your best survival tip for when the going gets tough as a dad?
It really depends on the situation. If you’re in the moment with a screaming child, take a few deep breaths, calm down and try to logically work out why your little one might be upset – nappy, hunger, tiredness, pain, etc. And if you’re just finding the whole parenting thing a bit too much, open up and be honest.
Men often bottle stuff up due to the fear that airing an issue is unmanly or weak. But a) it’s not true, b) this does not help your kid or your partner and c) it most certainly won’t help you.
Note: if you don’t feel comfortable talking to a person, you can always put a message on a dads’ closed Facebook group. These pages are full of posts from dads who are struggling for one reason or another. Not only will you find support but you'll also appreciate that you’re not alone. Loads of dads struggle.
How do you and your partner navigate parenthood in your relationship?
With difficulty. People often talk about mums and dads needing to find the time to be a couple, but this is easier said than done, especially during the newborn whirlwind.
"Pretty much across the board, the answer to most questions dads ask is yes, it is normal"
In the first six months, my wife and I couldn’t find any time out to be ourselves, let alone be a loving husband and wife. It does get better, however, and one thing that really helped us was Peppa Pig. Not really, it was actually spending time apart.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but my wife playing netball on a Tuesday and me playing tennis once a week gave us the opportunity to escape the pressure cooker of family life. We also had the chance to feel like we were more than just a mum or a dad and make new friends.
Add all these things together and what do you get? The answer is a less stressed mum and dad, who have a ‘me time’ hobby they enjoy, and a support network of friends who they can vent and socialise with. This made my wife and I feel and act more like ourselves, and helped us to navigate parenthood in our relationship.
What question do dads most often ask you?
It’s always a variation of ‘Is this normal?’ Is it normal to feel this way? Is it normal to struggle in this way? Is it normal for your wife to go off sex? Is it normal to be this tired? Is it normal to argue this much? Is it normal for a new dad to have really strange dreams?’
And do you know what? Pretty much across the board, the answer to those questions, yes, it is completely normal.
How do you know what to do as a father when there’s a humungous amount of information out there?
I ask ‘What would Father Hood do?’ and then check my website. Just kidding! My actual answer is that every dad needs to develop their own way of parenting.
As a father, you should definitely use your imagination, try stuff out and come up with something that works. My point? Yes, read my stuff. But please, also be your own man/dad.
You run workshops for dads – what kind of issues do men open up about in those groups?
Anything and everything, to be honest (dads really love to talk when they find a safe space). But a few of the more common issues are: finding a good work/life balance; not knowing how to help their partner through postnatal depression; feeling like they have lost their identity; losing friends; dad guilt; and struggling to deal with the financial pressures of family life.
What’s the best attitude to parenthood new dads can take when they feel they don’t know what to do?
To stay positive, learn from their experience and try to do better next time. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing the answer, but there is something wrong with not trying to work it out.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby. To find out when an NCT nearly new sale is happening near you, search here.
You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby courses helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Visit Stuart’s website for more tips and information to help you on your parenting journey.
We’ve got tips from dads and everything you need to know about birth, relationships and life with a newborn on our website too. Whether you’re a dad-to-be or a new dad, take a look at our range of articles and videos.