Diary of Dad: Going back to work

Today is the start of my second week back at work (or at my job to be more precise) after almost two months of leave.

That’s right… after almost two months off, I have returned to full time work.

I guess you could say that it all started back in late October, when a series of unfortunate events left me with 2 protruding disks in my neck, a compressed nerve and some of the worst pain I’ve ever had to deal with.

This kicked off an extended period of leave that was ultimately to help me recover, both physically and mentally, from the neck injury I had sustained. However, it also kicked off my first experience of being a ‘full-time stay at home dad’.

Leaving for work this morning, on my first day back after being at home with my kids for the last couple of months was honestly one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do.

My boys had become so accustomed to having me home, that they didn’t understand why I had to go back to work. And throughout all last week, it was barely 9am before they were asking when I was coming home.

And as I kiss them each morning before I leave for a long day ahead at the office, I find myself wishing that I could still stay at home with them.

However, being back at work is where I am meant to be right now. To keep a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and clothes on you backs.

And while I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I have been given as a job, I am finding that I am thinking more and more about the time I was able to spend at home with my family.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing stay at home dad to my boys! And hopefully, one day, I get to experience that again.

Diary of Dad: Do I shout at my kids too much?

I get frustrated and angry at my kids a lot.

Sometimes it’s even the tiniest and most insignificant thing that can set me off. Like one of them stepping on the back of my shoe while we’re walking through the shops or down the street.

And it’s during these moments of frustration and anger that the thought of how “better” and “easier” it would be without kids sometimes crosses my mind.

It’s a selfish thought. A thought that I never vocalise.

Why do I get so worked up so easily? I don’t even think I know the answer to that question. But it’s something that I have come to realise that I need to work on.

I am starting to learn that a father, to his partner and children, is a powerful presence. And that can be powerful for good or bad.

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It is very easy to forget that from a child’s perspective, a father is a physical threat if he is not committedly gentle, respectful of personal space and avoids completely the use of loudness or an overbearing manner.

Because of my tendency to get frustrated and angry easily, avoiding the use of loudness or an overbearing manner is something that I feel I have failed at throughout my journey through fatherhood.

It is an almost impossible task to try and completely avoid the use of loudness. Every single parent out there will know that shouting is something we all do on impulse, and occasionally, it’s needed to get a child to take notice.

But what I’m beginning to understand, is the impact that shouting from a father has on a child. I’ve seen the eyes of my own children sometimes widen with a twinkle of fear when I have reverted to shouting or loudness as a parenting technique. And in those moments, it’s not satisfaction I feel, it’s sadness.

Sadness that for a moment it was almost as though my own child was scared of me because of how loud and booming my voice was.

A world-renowned family therapist and author mentions that if you must shout at your child, do so with your eyes open. See the child. As soon as your child shows, by a widening of the eyes the slightest flicker that they are getting the message, then ease off. Make your voice quieter. Ask if they understand what you are telling them. If they will change. And then let it go.

That is of course, if you must shout at all.

I know that I get easily frustrated. And I know that I revert to shouting and loudness a little to quickly to get my message across.

What I also know, is that I don’t want to live in a home where my children feel like daddy is always angry and is always shouting at them.

This is something I’ve been getting wrong. This is something I need to change.

So I am going to work damn hard on changing myself. Changing me. Because through all the frustrating times and thoughts of how much “better” I think things would be without kids in those moments, I also know that I wouldn’t change having kids for the sun, the moon or the earth.

Things are perfect. And I need to remember that.

Diary of Dad: Why did you want kids?

So, why did you want kids?

It’s a question that I’m sure every parent has been asked once or twice at some point in their lives. If it wasn’t someone else asking them, I’m sure parents have asked this question of themselves at one point or another.

For me, the answer to this question has always been the same. It certainly isn’t the strongest answer, but it’s all I had for a very long time…

“I don’t know… I have always wanted kids… a family… I love being a dad!”

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Like I said, it isn’t exactly the strongest answer to the question. But what I now realise, is that I just didn’t really know how to put into words the reason for wanting kids.

For Fathers Day earlier this year, I got a book called ‘The New Manhood by Steve Biddulph’. A book that has been called ‘the most influential book on men’s lives’.

In a chapter titled Men and Women, Steve Biddulph talks a lot about values in a relationship. He talks about the fact that couples don’t have to be compatible with everything, but they do have to be compatible in values because those set the direction of your whole life.

He goes on to ask 3 questions in what he calls a “semi-serious” values quiz, including this question about having kids…

Couples should have children because:

  1. It moves you beyond your own importance and into a place of giving and caring that brings lifelong satisfaction and joy;
  2. Ah, well, that’s just what you do;
  3. They are so cute!

While it’s quite obvious that the “semi-serious” tag is true, there is one answer that isn’t so “semi-serious”. And when I first read it, it was like everything that I was trying to say whenever anyone asked me the kids question fell into place.

It moves you beyond your own importance and into a place of giving and caring that brings lifelong satisfaction and joy!

What I always struggled to say, Steve Biddulph managed to summarise in a simple and elegant two-line sentence.

It was almost as though once I read these words, my journey through fatherhood finally became clear. While I knew deep down that I wanted to be a dad and enjoyed the prestigious role, most of the time (terrible two’s anyone), it was as though I had finally found my purpose as a dad.

Every parent, whether you’re a father or a mother, has good times and bad. Ups and downs. I can honestly say that there are certainly many times through this journey of being a father that challenge me to my very core. Times that have even made me question whether I am actually cut out to be a dad.

But armed with the knowledge that fatherhood, or being a parent in general, is supposed to move you beyond your own importance has been the kick in the pants that I needed.

I can honestly say that there have absolutely been times where I have been completely selfish as a parent. When I’ve just wanted to be left alone. When I just wanted to play video games instead of “playing” parent. When I’ve been staring at my phone instead of paying attention to what my kids are doing. When I struggled with being responsible for someone other than myself. When I selfishly thought about time before kids and how easier it was.

But now, with this renewed outlook, I am thrilled about how my perspective on being a father will change. How my actions as a father will change. To not only Jesse and Jasper but to Baby Barton #3, when he or she decides to say hello to the world next year.

I am feeling… inspired… by the lifelong satisfaction and joy that being a father is going to bring me. That is of course, as long as I do my job right…

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Diary of Dad: The First Chapter

We’re pregnant…

That’s right. Baby Barton number 3 is on its way!

You may have even seen our pregnancy announcement. The four of us, sitting together looking into the distance… curiously pondering about what lies ahead and how our lives might change when the new bundle of joy will grace us with his or her presence.

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And speaking of pondering, it seems as though I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. I’ve been thinking about many things in my life. About my work. About my physical health. My mental health. My relationships, family, friends. About what I enjoy doing (what do I enjoy doing?). My direction in life. My purpose.

But the one thing that has occupied a lot of my thoughts is our pregnancy, and soon to be third bundle of joy.

What impact will a third child have on our lives? Will we have a third boy or will we have a girl? Do we really have to go through the process of choosing names we like again?

Our blog (Not So Secret Life Of Us) has served as an outlet for us to pour our thoughts out on (digital) paper constructively and thoughtfully. For us to share our lives as a family of two, three and then four in the hope that others would not only get enjoyment out of our words but also realise that they weren’t alone in the world.

I have always enjoyed writing. I excelled at English in school. Thoroughly enjoying the process around creative writing and storytelling. But not only that, I find writing from the heart and mind therapeutic. It serves as a release. A way to get the thoughts clouding ones mind out onto paper so that you can rejuvenate the mind.

It has been a long time between drinks on this blog. As in, before the pregnancy announcement, the last time I posted anything it was Winter (June to be exact).

But I kind of think I want to start writing again. I think I want to start sharing some of my thoughts as I go through this journey of discovering who I am, what I want to be, what I want to do and, as I eventually become a dad to three kids.

We could call this somewhat of a journey of self-discovery… of sorts.

So I would like to announce that I have decided to start this new chapter of writing under a new series for our Not So Secret Life Of Us blog, called Diary of Dad (or DOD for short). I even created a dodgy logo for myself!

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My hope for this series is that it will act as a diary of sorts. A place for me to write my thoughts. Share my feelings and experiences. Document my journey. As I continue to grow into the role of Dad, and as I continue to discover who I am (remember when I spoke about purpose earlier).

The Diary of Dad is a place for me to write for myself. But at the same time, this is a journey that I am wanting to share with you. Because even if only one person gets something out of these words and the future words yet to be written, I can confidently say that this experiment is a success.

And while I sit here continuously staring at an endless list of baby names trying to figure out what I like (there are some awful names out there just quietly), I can honestly say that I am genuinely excited about writing for our blog again.

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The toddler survival kit

It seems I blinked and now I have not one but two toddlers on my hands. With two boys, aged 3 and 1, I have certainly learned a thing or two about life with toddlers.

In no particular order, here are my must-haves for surviving life with toddlers.

A hand-held vacuum

Toddlers and mess go hand in hand. Get used to it. Meal time mess used to be restricted to the floor under the highchair but toddlers prefer to eat on the go. This means nothing is safe! The floors are constantly covered in crumbs, squashed fruit and week old sultanas. Don’t even get me started on the couches, walls and windows. Enter hand-held vacuum. You can easily whip that baby out and quickly clean up the floor, lounge or child’s lap without the fuss of a bulky corded vacuum.

A bubble machine

Kids LOVE bubbles. A manual wand type situation will work just fine but if you really want to up your bubble game and keep your toddlers occupied while you remain hands free, you need to get a bubble machine. These suckers can pump out hundreds of bubbles a minute all at the push of a button. Genius! Just be careful where you use this. If you are out in public you will very quickly attract all the children within a 500m radius.

A “beach” caddy

Toddlers require lots of crap. Yes, even more than babies if you can believe that. A simple trip to the park or family outing requires precision planning and packing. Between food, drinks, toys to keep them amused, changes of clothes in case of accidents or mess, hats for in the sun, jackets if it gets cold. The list goes on and on. One of the best things we have ever bought was a “beach” caddy from Kmart (hint, most of the things on this list can be purchased at this wonderful store). It folds up and is big enough to hold all of the crap and a kid or two as well. Every time I use this I get comments about it. God send.

Snacks… a lot of snacks

I never really understood the power of snacks until my second toddler. Toddler one can easily survive a week on nothing but milk and kinder surprises but toddler two LOVES his food (got it from his mama!). Snacks can be used for loads of different purposes including a diversion tactic, tantrum diffuser, boredom cure, oh and sometimes even for hunger.

A happy place

Toddlers are assholes. This is not new information. But if you’re like me you always thought that seemed a bit harsh. Nope. It’s true. Toddlers have a way of breaking you down. They may be small but they can make even the most mindful of mums lose their shit from time to time. Your spirit will break a little every time you have to wrestle a toddler to the ground to brush their teeth or drag them out from under the desk because they think running away and hiding from you at bath time is hilarious (or is that just me?). At some point you will need to walk away from your child, close the door and punch the air or scream into a pillow. Then find your happy place before emerging to try again. Don’t worry, bed time will come. Eventually.

There is never a dull moment with toddlers around that’s for certain. And though none of the above is ground breaking, life changing advice, hopefully it helps you to navigate the mine field that is life with toddlers whilst keeping a shred of sanity in tact.

What are your toddler survival tips?

When did lawn care become so exciting?!

Something strange has been happening to me lately. I don’t… I mean… I just… I don’t know what’s happened to me. Like I mean, I swear it was just yesterday when, but now I’m, and it’s like…

Okay, here it is… It would appear that, somehow, for some reason, I now not only get excited about tools, but I also get an absolute kick out of yard work and lawn care.

WTF?!?!?!

Seriously… what the actual f***?! Since when have I cared about tools and lawn care?

So just to give you some background on this situation, I can honestly say that I barely owned a full set of screwdrivers up until the last 6-12 months. In fact, my “tool box” for the past 3 years has been an old cardboard Huggies Nappies box. And if I pulled out all the tools I owned up until 6-12 months ago, it would consist of a handful of unmatched screwdrivers, a broken hammer, an electric drill with no drill bits, one pair of pliers and a bunch of allen keys that I’ve been steadily accumulating from various furniture purchases over the years. How pathetic is that.

But now… oh my word… Now, I simply can’t go to Bunning’s without getting a full blown, raging hard-on for all the goddamn sexy tools that are so beautifully displayed throughout their wonderfully glorious isles. I’d probably never use even a quarter of the tools that Bunning’s have in stock, but all I know, is that I need them ALL!

I am so obsessed with tools that I not only have a growing collection of sexy, tough, manly tools that I can use to do manly things in and around the manly house in a manly way. But I also have my first ever tool box. Yup, that’s right folks. At the ripe old age of 34 years, I have finally got my first tool box (early Father’s Day present by the way, thanks fam!). And not only that, but it would seem that every time I head to Bunning’s, I literally have to control myself so I don’t come away with a boot load full of new tools. Come to think of it, I actually think Renee has even had to tell me to step away from the tools, and leave the store on a couple of occasions.

And as if that’s not the worst part, in comes the yard work and lawn care.

The only lawn care I was ever even remotely interested in (and interested in is a big overstatement) was whipping around the yard as quickly as I could once a month when I begrudgingly had to mow the lawn. No grass catcher. Let’s just whip around as quickly as I can, leaving clumps of freshly cut grass in my wake. As for the edges, well forget it. I didn’t do edges! Who has time to do edges!

Now however, not only is our lawn beautifully manicured, but the edges are perfect and squared off, I’ve put a garden out the front of the house which I get in and weed regularly, and I’ve created a pebbled walkway with stepping stones out the back from the garage door through to the laundry door. Plus, my latest pet project is building up the inside of our fence for some additional sturdiness and privacy. And you want to know what… I HAVE ENJOYED EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF BEING OUT IN THE YARD DOING EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE THINGS AND I AIN’T EVEN MAD ABOUT IT!!!

Oh man, what has happened to me?

So I’ve heard it said that you go through three phases when it comes to yard maintenance. In your twenties you just don’t care because there are more interesting things to do with your time, so you do the bare minimum to keep it looking at least semi-respectable. In your thirties and forties, you are in PEAK yard maintenance mode. You love your lawn, you love lawn care, and your yard has never looked better. But then, once you hit your fifties and sixties, you go back to not caring about it and start seriously considering concreting over it all so that you don’t have to worry about maintaining it any longer.

Now I don’t know about fifties and sixties (obviously), but I can certainly say that I 100% agree with the fact that I, being in my mid-thirties, am knee deep in peak ‘I love my lawn’ territory. But not only that, I am just in peak I want to fix and maintain everything territory.

I’ve never felt so alive!!!

With that said, I need to go. I haven’t been out in the yard this week and I’m itching for some yard work to do!

Also… Bunning’s trip anyone?

Our babies are growing up (sniff, sniff)

Sometimes I feel quite sad that I no longer have a baby. Jesse is three so basically a grown up and Jasper is heading towards 16 months and embracing full-blown toddler-hood.

Sometimes I miss those blissful new mama days when you feel so exhausted but so elated at the same time. I already feel a bit out of the loop especially since I’m surrounded by new mums and first time mums in my job.

But, as much as I miss it, I also absolutely adore the stage we are at right now.

The other day I had a lovely lunch date with my boys and I was relishing in the fact that, though they are still dependent on me, its very different now to life with a new baby.

We sat in a cafe (kid-friendly of course, let’s not get too carried away!) and enjoyed a meal together. Well, I ate a meal while Jesse consumed an entire giant cookie and Jasper shared my chips and dropped his sultanas all over the floor. There was also a few clean ups of spilled beverages. But all in all it was really nice.

Then afterwards they both went in the play area and played together while I looked on. I didn’t have to intervene. I didn’t have to nurse a baby while trying to keep an eye on a toddler. I could just sit. And be quiet. And sip my coffee. And watch as my two little boys played and laughed together.

In that moment I really appreciated how things are right now.

Now, I do need to say that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Just days before this I was absolutely hating life as I tried to hostage negotiate my way through the basic morning routines.

I still have just enough night wake-ups to keep me coffee dependent and a heavy reliance on nursing bras and easy boob access. So I’m not out of the woods just yet.

As crazy as it sounds I will miss all of that. But getting past the baby stage and seeing your babies grow into little people is also pretty great.