Fellow inexperienced dad Paddy and I were recently knocking back a couple of drinks in a coffee shop so cool it mostly exists on Instagram. It’s a relatively small space but, in the afternoon, generally a quiet one as well. It’s ideal to turn up, with your Buzz Aldrin Could Have Landed On The Moon With This Buggy buggy, and offer your infant son a variety of foods (cheese, grapes, apple) only for them to end up all over the floor but, crucially, unnoticed until long after you have left. That’s not to say the staff are slovenly or inattentive, of course – quite the opposite (and delightful to boot). If you were working in a cafe that didn’t sell cheese, grapes or apples, would you make looking out for bits of them on the floor one of your top priorities? Be honest.
Anyway, probably as another cube of cheddar fell to the floor, we heard a voice from behind us. Annie, who edits The Early Hour, sounded both surprised and pleased to see two lads and dads out drinking coffee in London’s trendy East London in the middle of a weekday afternoon. Annie was keen to talk to a couple of full time dads for an article – about their experiences and whether they had any top tips to impart to her early morning, intelligent, cosmopolitan audience. Paddy was suitably bashful, as befits a man of his decency and integrity, and I just didn’t want to be the cock that said yes.
The good news for you, however, is that the lovely chat we had with Annie has prompted me to think about my top tips for someone about to take a chunk of time off work to look after their infant son or daughter. My first area of advice is on…
You’ll want to break up your time off by taking your infant off to some activities. There are lots to choose from: Baby Yoga, Baby Disco, Baby Sensory, Baby Swimming, Baby Musical Theatre (yes, really), Baby Rhyme Time, Baby Social, Baby Toy Library. In fact, think of any activity you might reasonably want to do as an adult and then put the word “baby” in front of it. Google it. If it comes up, great. If not, you’ve probably found a profitable niche and should contact some local church halls and hand in your notice in on your next Keep In Touch day.
The truth is that a lot of these sessions are just a variation of sitting in a circle and singing songs at your increasingly fractious child. The main differences between them all are the costs and the types of other parent you will meet. For some of the more popular activities, you will have to join a waiting list and commit to and pay for a whole term of sessions.
Given you’re not earning, not off work for ever, and presumably not wanting to spent the best time of your life surrounded by people you can’t stand, my first top tip would be to book a week off work a month or so before your leave starts. Contact all the (generally slightly weird) people who run the activities and book a taster session for that week. Then, if the price is right, the other parents seem sound, and you get on with the particular manner in which they sing nursery rhymes, get yourself booked on to a course that runs while you’re off.
Speaking of nursery rhymes, there is something you need to be aware of. Since you stopped being interested in nursery rhymes the first time around, some pricks have invented some new ones. You will be expected to possess an innate knowledge of all the words and actions to all these songs, otherwise you will feel both awkward and a failure. Songs that have been invented by some prick since the 1980s include I Wake Up In The Morning And This Is What I Do, Wake Up Little Bunnies, and this absolute delight that you will, at some point, find yourself singing and performing the actions to for the entertainment of your child as you push them down a busy street, surrounded by people who statistically aren’t recent parents and are mostly assuming you’ve lost it:
More top tips will follow once I’ve thought of them.