Building better dads

The 3 reasons why I'm a dad blogger

dads.co_daddyblog

Guest post by Gerhard Pretorius

So, this week an article on TOTS100 challenged bloggers to share why they bother putting in all those extra hours every week adding their stream of consciousness to everyone else’s on the great big ‘Interweb’. (This was prompted by the equally inspiring MAD Blog awards 2014.)

1. Families are my life.

I mean that quite literally. I don’t just have a family, I also work full time every day with families. Often these families have  one or more members with serious mental health difficulties. I’m often inspired by parents who struggle through the most difficult circumstances trying to help their children. Each one is trying to do the best they can. I’m also struck by the number of obstacles in their way. Many of these obstacles  are unnecessary. The media and many popular websites for parents are not helping. I find that many news stories  articles spread parenting ‘myths’. One of my favourite myths is that the teenage years are supposed to be a stormy and difficult period (in reality this is the case for probably roughly only a quarter of families). This often stops parents from seeking help when their children need it. So many parents say “I thought it was just him being a teenager.” By blogging I’m trying to share my perspective, not just as a parent, but as a professional who sometimes sees the harm that perpetuating parenting ‘myths’ does. Even if I can do just a small bit to relief the suffering of some parents, I want to do it!

2. I’m a parent.

I know first hand how information out there can be confusing. Recently my wife and I faced a dilemma most parents face…TO SLEEP TRAIN OR NOT TO SLEEP TRAIN! I noticed her (and me) becoming more frustrated with our little one’s night routine. Somehow, in the back of our minds we thought that we should have had issue this sorted by now! Lots of other parents gave us advice and we thought “Jane’s baby is doing it….why isn’t ours?” The next question then becomes….WHAT METHOD IS BEST? Well, I thought I would deal with this like a ‘good academic’. I went to the research. I found out the following (which was different from what most people told us.)

  • All methods work (mostly).
  • Few methods have been tested over the long term.
  • The longer term studies all suggest that that children settle down into sleeping through the night eventually, whether they were sleep trained or not.
  • The parents who benefitted most was parents who felt depressed. (This suggested that at least partly sleep training has more benefit for parents than children over the long term.)
  • Some new tentative small studies suggest that even though sleep trained babies show it less, physiological they remain as distressed and anxious as before being sleep trained.

This allowed my partner and I to sit down and discuss the following. If he is likely to settle down eventually, and we are not particularly depressed at the moment, do we want to go through the stress of sleep training? (My partner was not working and felt able to cope with getting up at night.) We also had no history or mental health problems and my partner did not have post natal depression.  We also discussed whether it was a good idea training him to stop crying when he was really still distressed. Overall, we decided not to sleep train. We both felt more relaxed in the knowledge that most babies eventually settle down whether we train or not. Soon, within a couple of months he settled on his own, and he has slept through the night now for some time. Having the right information helped us to be calmer and more relaxed.

3. Interacting with other parents.

I love to hear stories, both happy and sad. I also want to share my triumphs and my failures. Our experiences as parents are filled with both. I believe that our society often portrays having children as a ‘sublime’ experience that should somehow be ‘wonderful’ all of the time. Any parent who has actually had children will know that the experience is mixed. It is both sublime and difficult, yet we rarely hear both sides. I want to hear, but also share both sides. (….and just in case you wondered, being a mental health professional does not make being a parent any easier.

Parenting is a complex practice and experience, shaped by the stories our society tells about parenting, and the complexities of everyday life.  So often in the news parenting is reduced to something simple that does not reflect real experience. Articles about ‘Dolphin’ or ‘Helicopter’ or ‘Tiger’ parents do not help. They reduce a complex experience to something quite flat and one dimensional. No, I want to hear the complex and rich experiences of other’s and share my own. I want to help create a culture where people have rich and complex dialogues about being a parent. Dialogues that acknowledge the richness of the experience.

I want to make a small difference. This is why I blog.

Gerhard (Familiality)