OPINION: Advice for Clarke Gayford on how to be a stay-at-home dad

OPINION: I have, at some point in all three of my children's lives, stayed at home and looked after them, while their mother worked. 

There was a variety of reasons for this, but I always considered it a blessing. It was a great way to bond with them and there is nothing like being thrown in the deep end of being the sole parent for a while to build your confidence as a father. 

What I didn't like was being referred to as "unemployed" or "between jobs", or some other phrase that suggested it wasn't a choice I had made, but one that was forced upon me.  

Last week, it was great to hear that Clarke Gayford, who is having a baby with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will take over the main parental role. You could argue that Ms Ardern, who will only be running the country, has the easier end of that deal. At least the country sleeps.  

Despite the role of the father changing hugely over the past 50 years, we are still not entirely comfortable with the idea that the man can stay at home and look after the baby, while the mother returns to work. Having the first man of New Zealand doing it will help the cause, but he might still encounter some tricky situations. 

So here are some tips. 

Just don't call it a stay-at-home dad 

We don't call mothers stay-at-home mums. You are a dad raising your child, as many other men have done.  

The fact you are putting in more time than your partner doesn't need to be defined with such a clumsy tag. 

It's a job

Get used to people saying you are unemployed, unmotivated to work or just plain lazy. Looking after a baby is, at times, exhausting and thankless work. But it's a relatively short time and the bonding you do with your child will last a lifetime.  

OPINION: Advice for Clarke Gayford on how to be a stay-at-home dad

You can do just as good a job as the mother 

Well, this isn't strictly true - you can't breastfeed, but with a little bit of time you can pretty much do everything else. 

The maternal instinct kicks in straight away for the mother and it can take longer for the father, but it does kick in. Soon you will be changing a nappy with one hand, while packing a bag for the day with the other. 

You can't sort everything out

As men, we are very solution-based, but things happen with a baby that you just have to run with. 

They cry for no reason, aside from being pissed off. They sleep like, well, babies one minute, then won't the next. There is no logic, and sometimes you have to just go with it and not try to fix it. 

Don't worry about the noise 

Your baby crying sounds a lot louder to you than everyone else. Babies cry, it's a part of life. If other people don't like it, that's their problem. It is a lot noisier in your head than theirs, so don't stress about it. 

OPINION: Advice for Clarke Gayford on how to be a stay-at-home dad

All babies are different 

It's fine to take advice on how to raise your child, but everyone has an opinion on what's best. 

People will tell you all kinds of things you or your baby should be doing, particularly if your child is not doing something like sleeping through the night. 

No-one knows your baby like you, so filter the crap advice out. 

Don't be afraid to go to the doctor 

Some GPs have a wonderful knack of making you feel like you are wasting their time, because you brought your little one in with a runny nose. 

That's their job, to see if something is serious or not. If something is concerning, you then go see your GP.

Your life doesn't stop 

I am not sure I would recommend taking a newborn baby fishing - a bit of beach fishing might be ok, but deep sea fishing is off the agenda for a while. 

You can still do a lot of things, including meeting up with mates. If they can't handle the fact you have a kid in tow, they probably aren't good mates. 

Get used to being the only man

While being in a room full of women might have, at one time, been appealing, when you all have a newborn child, it is a totally different dynamic. 

The post-natal groups you attend will be dominated by women, but you will get used to being the only male, plus there are times when you will take any adult interaction you can get.   

Hero to zero

Whether you have a boy or a girl, at some point, you will go from hero to zero. You will go from being an essential presence in your child's life to an out-of-touch embarrassment, whose only function is to dispense money and drive them around. 

As your offspring goes from being a self-obsessed teenager to an adult, the time you put in with them as a child will pay off, and while you might never again scale the heady heights of being a hero, you will be allowed to spend time with them.    

Mark Longley is the Newshub Digital managing editor and father to three children. 

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