Wednesday, 24 June 2009

What’s it like being a “modern dad”?

Well, I woke up this morning (sounds like a cue for a song) and one of the topics of conversation on the BBC Kent morning show was “modern dads”. I listened with interest as a few dads called in with their views and experiences, they also canvassed some opinion from “the man on the street”.

General consensus seems to be that a lot of dads feel left out when it comes to things like midwife appointments and calls from the heath visitor, in as much as all the attention is directed towards the mother. I can empathise with this to an extent, Whenever Mrs D had such an appointment or visit I always made a point of having a few questions ready just to show that I was taking an interest – sounds daft but it was surprising how the attitude would change and all of a sudden I would be included in the conversation!

A few people made the point that during the pregnancy, again, they felt that most of the focus is towards the mum-to-be. On the one hand this totally understandable but on the other, it would be nice to feel like there were as many books, leaflets, advice forums, etc.. aimed at the dad-to-be as we need just as much advice and reassurance. We also need access to baby change facilities when we’re out and about, a common gripe that many dads brought up!!

Feeling self conscious when taking baby out alone was another issue, one guy even went to the extreme of putting “L” plates on his son’s buggy! I wasn’t quite that worried but I certainly felt a bit awkward at first, the feeling passed pretty quickly when I’d gained a bit more confidence from taking Baby D out a few times and tried to adopt an “oh, just get on with it!” attitude. There was no point in depriving her of the outside world just because I felt a little out of my depth.

I thought I’d call the show to give them my story (a lot of which I've already blogged about so I won’t repeat myself here!) I agreed with most of the points made but to me, it’s more a case of the establishment getting used to the idea of full-time dads. Every time I’ve taken Baby D for an immunisation jab I’d get the “So, you’re looking after her today?” comment to which I’d reply “Yes, I look after her full-time” and this was always met with a raised eyebrow – why?!?
The flip side of this has been that pretty much everyone else I’ve met, and especially the mums from Mrs D’s antenatal group have been really supportive and encouraging.

In all, a really interesting show (it’s on the BBC “listen again” if you fancy it - The John Warnett and Julia George breakfast show) and it was a bit of a pat on the back for all the hard working dads out there. Nice for the media to show us a bit of support every once in a while!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Baby D's current Top 10 toys!

At 16 months, here's her favourites:

1. Duplo bricks
2. Early Learning Centre "Jungle Beat" musical instrument set
3. Leapfrog magnetic Fridge Farm set
4. Fisher Price activity table
5. Bruin "Animal and Friends" piano
6. Talking Igglepiggle
7. Fisher Price "Rock-a-stack" ring set
8. Dumbo soft toy
9. Fisher Price "Little People" zoo set
10. "In the Night Garden" figures pack

What's your little one's top 10?

Toys and games - What do you buy?

Ah yes, the minefield of baby and toddler toys. We have a 3 year old niece so were fortunate to get a bit of an insight into what was available well before Baby D arrived. What struck me was the huge amount of electronic toys you can get these days. There were a few times where I’d be sitting in a room with our niece and several of her toys would be going off at the same time – total sensory overload, a bit like walking down the Las Vegas strip with all the flashing lights and noises!

I can appreciate that, from early on, these electronic toys can be educational and help teach the concept of reward, i.e. baby presses a button and a light flashes or a song plays. My only concern was that if she was constantly surrounded by these things that she’d eventually start pressing inanimate objects expecting some sort of reaction (our niece did this a few times). I thought that some of the toys were just over-complicated too, for example, the VTech "First steps" baby walker. The walker itself is excellent and very well balanced, however, the activity centre part is pretty annoying, it had too many buttons and flashing lights for Baby D to really get any enjoyment out of playing with it and seemed to have a mind of its own anyway, regardless of what buttons were pressed. AND it doesn’t shut off automatically so carries on beeping and flashing until somebody gets up, walks over to it and turns it off by hand…

Sometimes I wonder if these companies really think about the little person that will playing with their toy when they’re sitting around having a sales meeting and designing their new product line which will no doubt be “even more educational” and “packed with more exciting features” than before… I’m sure Baby D gets just as much fun and enjoyment out of playing with her Early Learning Centre music set and her Fisher Price stacking rings than she would from “My First Laptop” or whatever the latest range of uber-educational electronic toys is. Surely at this early age the fun aspect is paramount?

Another thing I wanted to be careful of was buying too many things. It’s all too easy to see baby enjoying different toys at playgroup or at friends houses and thinking “I must get one of those” and before you know it you’ve got a house full of toys, most of which just end up gathering dust! Inevitably though, we’ve ended up with quite a number so I try to keep out a select few of her favourites and rotate them every now and again so that she doesn’t get the opportunity to get bored.

We’ve tried to keep a balance between new toys and old favourites, the wooden blocks, stacking rings, jigsaws, etc.. One of my better purchases was an old 1970’s Fisher Price Activity Centre for £1.00 in a charity shop! I took it home, gave it a very thorough clean and Baby D loved it, even our 3 year old niece thought it was great – sometimes the old toys are the best eh?
Baby D’s now discovered her Duplo bricks, something we all enjoy, building towers and knocking them down, simple stuff but a lot of fun. I like the fact that she can use her imagination with the blocks too, she can build whatever she likes and it can be whatever she wants it to be – a car, a boat, a house, endless possibilities!

Ending on the theme of “the old toys are the best”, when she’s a little older I’m really looking forward to dusting off my old Atari 2600 console, another toy we can all play with!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Teething and nappy rash – The saga continues…

It started last week with Baby D’s usual teething symptoms – loss of appetite, not sleeping well, sudden bursts of tears, nappy rash, etc… and when applying the Bonjela I could feel 4 molars coming through – that’s gotta hurt! Things went downhill at the weekend, the loss of appetite turned into vomiting and the nappy rash got worse with broken skin. We couldn’t get her to eat anything and water had to be given in very small doses to avoid it coming straight back up again.

We went to the Chemist on Sunday to get some advice on the nappy rash as the Sudocrem had got rid of the redness but wasn’t any good for the broken skin – we’d tried Savlon which had helped a little but weren’t convinced. The pharmacist recommended bicarbonate of soda, dissolve 1 teaspoon in water and apply to the broken skin with cotton wool, this should help to kill any bacteria. We also picked up some Metanium, a different nappy rash cream which is thicker than Sudocrem. So, armed with the new knowledge and new products we were looking forward to the next nappy change (okay, maybe not).

I have to say that her skin has now cleared up very well, definitely some good advice from the pharmacist.

I took Baby D to see our doctor yesterday as we were more than a little concerned that she hadn’t eaten anything all weekend and had drank very little. He did the usual checks and put it all down to teething, she didn’t have a temperature or any diarrhoea. We got some “standby” antibiotics just in case her symptoms got worse but so far (touch wood, fingers crossed) she seems to be recovering. She drank plenty of water yesterday (again, in small doses) and managed to eat some dry cereal without vomiting.

We gave her some Dioralyte this morning to help rehydration, she’s still pretty lethargic (even Mickey Mouse Club House didn’t cheer her up) but she took 7 ounces of milk without any complaints so everything points to Baby D being on the mend.

I’m sure she’ll be glad when all these teeth are finally through – so will we!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The only dad at Playgroup.

We always thought that playgroup would be a nice idea for Baby D. Mrs D went as a toddler, as does our 3 year old niece. Once Baby D could crawl we took her along to a try out the local Tumble Tots class, she loved it and I've been taking her ever since.
The entry level class is about an hour long and pretty relaxed, with lots of soft toys and basic equipment to climb on, crawl through, chew, dribble on, etc... We also sit in a circle and sing songs, something which makes me a little self conscious being the only dad there, and as such, the only deep voice singing "The wheels on the bus" and other popular tunes - I've played bass and sung backing vocals in a band for the last 9 years but it still didn't prepare me for this!
I think the main problem is that none of the songs are in my vocal range and I don't know how to pitch them - I either sound like Prince on "Kiss" or Andrew Eldritch from the Sisters of Mercy on "Temple of Love". It makes Baby D smile though, so I guess I'll struggle on...

It's been really nice to see how Baby D interacts with the other kids, crawling, and now running about, playing together, and learning how to share toys. I've no doubt that that the experience will help build her social skills and make her more confident person. For me, it's been nice to get out of the house and meet the other parents, it's always nice to compare notes and have the normal "is your's doing this yet?" kind of conversations.

With Tumble Tots, once the kids in the group are walking comfortably they move up to the next class, Baby D had her first visit to the new class yesterday and had a great time. Things are a bit more structured this time, no soft toys and more climbing/crawling equipment around the hall with plenty of space to run around and burn off some energy. I think she found it a little overwhelming at first, running around like a nutter, but after a bit of gentle persuasion she finally started to investigate some of the play equipment.

Classes are a little longer this time, oh, and there's more singing. Great...

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Crawling and walking (finally!).

Baby D started to crawl at around 7 months and began to pull herself up on things pretty much straight after. Naturally, it was time to re-design the entire house accordingly, packing away lots of things including my bookcases full of cds and my lovely floating glass hi-fi unit – both of these things were considered a climbing frame by Baby D and therefore had to go…
I don’t know why, but Baby D has always found the dangerous items to be the most interesting, mains cables, plug sockets, window latches, etc. I guess it’s like every parent says, you need eyes in the back of your head! Still, having said that we haven’t kiddie-proofed everything as she still needs to understand the meaning of the word “No” and also needs to know how to behave when we visit family and friends houses.

Walking started at 14 months, later than some of her friends but I think that because she got so good (and fast) at crawling, the extra effort of hauling herself up to walk didn’t interest her at first. However, we did decide to pack away her baby walker as she got into the habit of leaning on it and pushing herself around i.e. not really making any effort to walk! Pretty soon after we did that we had a funny two week transition period of Baby D shuffling around on her knees before she finally found her feet! She now has her first proper pair of shoes from Nanny C and there’s no stopping her, she’s already trying to run everywhere, climbing up stairs (when very closely supervised!), enjoying the garden, and I now have another ever-expanding list of kiddie-proofing jobs to do!

Weaning and solid foods.

With Baby D now happily on formula milk and Mrs D back at work it was also time to start with some solid foods. So, as Mrs D liked to remind me at the time, I became a weaner (ha-ha, very funny…). We both enjoy cooking so were keen to make her some decent home cooked grub, starting with fruit purees and moving on to veggie stuff like sweet potato, carrot, courgette, butternut squash, etc… We found the Annabel Karmel book “Feeding your baby and Toddler” very useful for recipe ideas in the early stages, I’d also recommend investing in a mouli, a great kitchen gadget where you can puree the food easily and it holds on to the fibrous bits that baby can’t digest. Don’t bother with the cheap plastic variety though, it’s well worth paying a bit more to get a full size stainless steel one, this will mean you can make up food in larger batches and freeze them in portions for later use – anything like this that can help to save time is essential in my book!

We’ve been quite lucky with the food side of things, Baby D is pretty adventurous and will eat most of our home cooked favourites like spaghetti bolognese and macaroni cheese, she’s also progressed to “grown up” cereals like Cheerios and Rice Krispies (or “bibbies” as she calls them!), she’s keen on lots of fruits too with grapes being her current favourite. We try not to give her too much processed food but just stick to the “everything in moderation” rule which, for now, is working just fine.

Fun with formula milk and teething.

My new job (for an incredibly demanding little boss I might add) started when Baby D was 6 months old. We’d managed to get her off the boob and on to formula milk and after Baby D had tried every conceivable variety she decided that she liked Aptamil the best. One bit of advice I’d offer at this point is to try and alternate between boob and bottle from the start as this should avoid the week of tantrums and tears (from both mum and baby) as we tried to persuade our little one that formula milk is not as bad as she thinks it is, or to use a poor analogy, you can’t have steak all the time, sometimes you have to settle for a burger! Teething had also started so that didn’t help Baby D’s mood, coupled with the associated dribbling, snotty nose and nappy rash it wasn’t the happiest experience for her.

We stocked up on teething gel, Sudocrem and bought some plastic water filled teethers that you cool in the fridge and bring out when required, she took to those very well. We also found the Tommy Tippee Nuby bottles really good, the teats have nobbles on them which are designed to be comforting when baby is teething, we still use them as they’re still very effective. The side graduations can be difficult to read if the bottles have just come out of the steriliser (and especially if you’re half asleep at 03:00am) but the plus points definitely outweigh this annoyance.

Monday, 1 June 2009

How it all came about.

Well, it’s now officially a year since I left work to look after our daughter (Baby D) and I thought I’d put a blog together to share the experience of being a full time stay at home dad. Mrs D and I had talked about it at length, she’s the educated one with the qualifications and the salary to match whilst I worked an enjoyable but less well-rewarded service industry job. Neither of us were keen on childcare with somebody else bringing up our daughter and us being at work missing all those special moments like first words, first steps, etc. After looking into childcare costs and seeing just how expensive it was, it seemed the ideal solution was for me to leave work and become daddy-day-care.

At this point I have to give total credit (mad props, much respect, a big shout, etc..) to Mrs D for having the strength to go back to work and for having the confidence in me to step into her shoes without treading on her toes – if that makes any sense?!? This past year has been a total change of lifestyle, responsibilities, priorities, a very steep learning curve (which continues on a daily basis), frustrating, rewarding, immense fun and probably the most important thing I’ll ever do!