Cutting the umbilical cord and holding my newborn daughter for the first time is a feeling I will never forget. The joy, the pride, the wonder and immense gratitude. I knew right then I wanted to be there for my daughter, to care for her, guide and protect her, and that's exactly what I did - for the the two weeks of my paternity leave.
That first fortnight flew and I ended up taking an extra few days but soon enough I was back to work, leaving my daughter early in the morning and coming home an hour before bedtime.
As my daughter grew, her bond with her mother strengthened intensely. Mum was always there, for every cute and amazing moment and I received the picture messages at my desk, and though my daughter was clearly very fond of me when she really needed comforting she knew that her primary care giver was Mum.
I felt I didn't have the intuition Claire did about how many layers to put on the baby, when she needed feeding and napping, she was always on top of what to do and I started feeling that it was going to be difficult for me to be this amazing father if I was barely around her in these beautiful and nurturing of years.
Eighteen months later we were thrilled to find out that a younger sibling was on the way, but for me the joy of this news was overshadowed by knowing that after a short time off I would soon need to extract myself from this little person and I couldn't immerse myself in fatherhood as much I honestly wanted.
As the April 2020 due date approached, the axis of world affairs seemed to change significantly with the outbreak of Covid19. The effects of the pandemic were life changing across the world, and for us, it gave space to reflect on how we would like our future to look.
I made a decision in the pandemic - I no longer wanted to trade my time for money and instead build a life that incorporated my family and allowed me the flexibility to really be there for them as they grew. Our clothing brand, Akwa Baby, had been just an idea up until this point but we decided this was the time to really go for it and see if we could make it happen.
I had in truth been envious of my wife who got to spend time at home with my daughter while I was out tubing it to work, and now that my second child was here and I had taken the decision to be around, I very quickly realised that life wasn't at all the bed of roses I had imagined! I soon found the reality of being at home with my children, a hell of a lot of physical, mental and emotional work in a very different and intense way. From simply keeping them alive, to working on their development, to all of the realisations and internal confrontations that you have about your own upbringing and who you really are when everything ego based is stripped away. I discovered that just because I was around the kids 24/7, this more didn't instantly make me feel like an incredible father.
My own Dad passed when I was a young baby, and I do believe that this was one of the reasons I was so intent on having a significant presence, I hadn't had a father to mentor me and I lacked that paternal blue print for raising children. Yet, I knew that i didn't want to just be just 'ok' at fatherhood - I wanted to be (like the name sake of the popular podcast) a DOPE BLACK DAD.
Since number two came along, we've had a third and I'm a full-time stay at home Dad. Claire and I work in partnership on Akwa Baby on all strategies, decisions and creativity, but she does most of the day-to-day, because to be honest she's amazing at it, we both have our strengths and we play to them.
Fatherhood is hands down the biggest challenge of my life (and I've climbed Everest Base Camp!). I've had to change everything and that can feel like a whole shift in your identity. But, I really hope my children grow on to live a life of purpose and passion and I'm proud that I can lead by example on this.
One of the most tricky things for me, as a naturally very sociable person, is not having a network of people to hang out with during the day, such as other Dads who also have the kids. A lot of the baby/toddler groups tend to be full of women and I feel it's not as easy for me to connect.
The intention behind this blog really is to let other Dads know I'm out here doing the stay at home job too, the 98 hours week (average) with no time off, and I don't regret a day of it. I have a bond with them that I know would not have been possible at this stage of their lives and I feel very blessed.