Inspired by one Dad’s calamitous entry into the peculiar cosmos of arch parenting, SuperDad SpeedBible is truly a “High-performance toolbox for Dads with young Kids”. It is a big fun, no-nonsense, fast-paced, effective source of information on child health and safety, your health and safety, diet and nutrition, entertainment, sleeping, behavior, milestones, balancing work and parenting, finding good childcare and plenty more. There’s even a chapter with (almost) foolproof techniques to help keep partners happy or pick up women if you’re single.
My son hadn’t seen me for a little while so he was a bit standoffish when he arrived. But it didn’t take long and we were back into it. His smiling, happy face helped me to feel much, much better. The minute he began walking around I remembered just how much work I was in for. He was walking but only just and that is a dangerous, dangerous time. I had stairs with no baby gate, electrical goods, glass, a bathtub and plenty of doors ready to cause major injuries. Toddlers need 100 per cent attention. You can’t take your eyes off them.
The reality was that when my boy’s Mum had left I was on my own. Louis and I played but my heart wasn’t in it because I was so worried about everything else. He went to bed at 7pm and I stayed up watching TV and ironing work shirts. Then I laid out his breakfast. Rolled oats in a bowl, soy milk locked and loaded in the fridge, a banana ready for cutting. I prepared his pram for the morning walk to childcare. I packed it with too many nappies, wipes, sun cream and a banana for the journey home. I found his hat, laid out three outfits, one to wear and two as back-up for when he would inevitably get dirty. Then I hit the kitchen and made a batch of Mexican beans and vegetables with rice. I froze some and left a couple of meals in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner. Everything that could be done was done.
Yet I was still deeply uncomfortable. I went to bed and didn’t sleep at all. I drifted and rolled and turned thinking about my son and thinking about my job. I now had $105 a day in childcare costs, a big rent bill and a mortgage on a unit in Brisbane. And, most importantly, I had to give him a good life. Without my job I was in the Badlands.
The morning went to plan. Louis was fed and watered. We played for a while but I still couldn’t relax. I walked him to childcare and he screamed with sadness when I left him. That broke my heart. But I had to go to work. I raced to the bus stop compulsively checking my phone, hoping and praying the boss wouldn’t email.
At work I felt like a foreign species. Not man, not producer. A ghostly thing that moved with the speed of a sloth, the reflexes of a tranquilised elephant and a mind like chocolate fudge. It felt like a dissociative state. Strolling into work, standing next to household names like the Sunrise breakfast show’s star duo Mel and Kochie along with Samantha Armytage and newsreader Chris Bath. Was that Larry Emdur or Sonja Kruger who just walked past my desk? Hang on, I better file my story. Hang on, I haven’t written it. Oh dear.
I tried to collect myself but there was nothing there. I couldn’t keep my mind on the job, literally. Over the next few weeks my split personality flourished. One week I was “single Dad/career man”; the next I was “single man/career man”; then it was back to being “single Dad/career man”.
I was being spun, stretched and flung from one situation to another, racing through the day like a madman: sneak a quick shower, greet my smiley son when he woke to the sound of splashing water, change him, feed him breakfast, feed myself breakfast, have a little play, bring him to my room so I can watch him while I change, pack the pram, race to childcare, say goodbye while he bawls, run to the bus, run to work while making a hundred calls on work stories, try to find a childcare centre that will take a child on a week-on/week-off basis, try to please the boss, try to find stories, try to produce good stories, interview people, write, race out the door at 5.30pm (far earlier than is acceptable in a news environment), catch a bus to childcare, grab my happy-to-see-me boy, pram him home, feed him dinner, give him a bath, have a little play, watch him like a hawk, take him to bed, have something to eat, clean up, prepare for breakfast, clean clothes, iron a shirt for work, watch TV, wish I could sleep, get up and start over again. I felt I never really saw him, yet my entire existence was devoted to him.
The weekends were the only times I could breathe: beaches, parks, trains, trams, buses, monorails and nice food. I had sun and happiness for a couple of days. He loved me and I loved him back. This part was worth all the work. Then came the Sunday afternoon handover. These were painful for a long time. My son and I were just starting to enjoy each other’s company when it came time to hand him back for another week. I know his Mum felt the same.
My plan at this point was to throw myself into work and make up for lost time in the week I was on my own. But it didn’t quite pan out that way.
Superdad Speedbible by Ryan Heffernan | Jane Curry Publishing | 9781922190949 | AUD$24.95