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Dads: ‘We’re no good to our kids if we aren’t in full flight’

Father with child on beach at sunsetPonder this: You’ve had a long and arduous week at work.

Last night you had some playtime with the little one before shuffling her off to bed. You washed down a cheesy pizza with a bottle of red wine or a six-pack watching the footy, then the late news or some other late night TV trash before hitting the sack at midnight or 1am.

You shut your eyes, then tap, tap, shuffle, shuffle. You feel like you only just went to sleep. It’s still dark. And there she is, two inches from your face: “Daddy,” she beams. “I hungry”. “Ha. What? What time is it? 5.45am. You have to be kidding!”

No, she’s not kidding. The little one’s day has started and it’s not going to finish until at least 7.30 tonight. You need to get up and pull it together, fella. She doesn’t care how tired you are. She’s 4. Or 3 or 2 or even 1. She’s a first-class narcissist and despises negotiation.

So get up and get interested.

There’s only one way to handle this kind of onslaught. You need energy. How do you get energy? Get well. Look after yourself. The same way you look after your kid. Nurture is a foreign word to many men, but that’s precisely what we need to do — to our kids, yes, but also ourselves.

We’re no good to our kids if we aren’t in full flight. So let’s start with us:

Do you exercise frequently?

Do you stress?

Does your work sometimes give you the shits and make you lose sleep?

Are you forever staring at and responding to emails?

Do you worry about things that haven’t happened yet?

What do you eat? Are you fat? Are you skinny?

What do you do to wind down?

How much do you drink?

Do you take drugs?

Do you get depressed and/or anxious?

When was the last time you went for a walk or a jog?

How clean is your house?

Are your bills paid?

When was the last time you did something nice for yourself?

When did you last take a holiday?

I don’t want to sound like some health hero on a soapbox. No chance. In truth, much of my adult life has been an Elvis impersonation (with the focus on his later years), but no one is bulletproof. No one. I know I thought I was and I was so, so wrong. Now I am converted … to an extent. Embracing a series of small changes can really instigate a monumental shift in your outlook. Things that seemed impossible, too hard or even just too boring can all of a sudden look achievable and possibly enjoyable.

As you probably know, when you’re in the midst of parenting, it’s all too easy to forget yourself. You’re bathing, dressing, feeding, nurturing, entertaining and protecting this thing you love completely.

And all the while you’re working. You miss a meal here; grab some fast food there. You go to work, you raise a kid, you go to sleep. You might drink too much. You might smoke or eat crap food. You certainly don’t exercise enough. This is unsustainable. If you don’t look after yourself, your parenting will be that much harder and less enjoyable.

Do you want to spend your days with you child tired, stressed and impatient? No? Good, because that’s no fun for anyone. We need to look after ourselves to get the most out of parenting.

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