Signing up for daddy duty

ca dad and baby

THE prospect of becoming a first-time dad can be scary. Especially when you have several questions but are too afraid to ask.

After all, how do you, in a room full of hormonally charged pregnant women, ask if you’ll ever have sex again when it is assumed your main focus should be the baby? Or how long will it take to bond with your baby and what will become of your social life?

Radio personality and father of three boys, Richard Hardiman, pictured, has experience in this field. Hardiman says he used to do talks at antenatal classes for expectant fathers and mothers.

The questions in that forum were always very generic and it was usually afterwards that Hardiman would be approached by the dads with the questions they were really worried about.

These were usually about sex, relationships and sleep – the type of questions they felt may offend their partners.

This is where his idea to host the upcoming Antenatal Boys Night Out: Dudes to Dads event was born. The dads-to-be will have a few drinks, a few laughs, and listen to the experiences of men like Hardiman, comedian Rob van Vuuren and television personality Mark Bayly. Clinical sexologist Dr Marlene Wasserman, pictured, widely known as Dr Eve, will also be on call and will speak about what men can expect in their relationships once their bouncing bundles of joy arrive.

The biggest change for fathers, says Wasserman, is feeling marginalised, and the enormous weight of responsibility to provide and protect.

When it comes to sex after the birth, she says men should be aware that the sex may not be about penetration.

“A cuddle, a soft verbal connection, touch, and spooning are more than good enough. Sexuality needs to be redefined,” says Wasserman.

She suggests that men prepare themselves to be patient as lovers, without withdrawing their love and affection. And Hardiman presents his three children, aged four, two and nine months, as proof that new parents will get around to having sex again. Eventually.

Wasserman says the dynamics of a relationship will also change.

While many men feel they can take a back seat, all hands will need to be on deck and the only thing to take a back seat will be both parents’ old lives.

“By the time a man is ready to be a dad, he should be solid enough to manage himself emotionally and realise they are now functioning as a co-operative team which includes a child. Bear in mind you are forever different, you will never be the same again,” says Wasserman.

Before the baby arrives, some men may still have a sense of freedom. But, Wasserman cautions, all of that will change.

“The days of bachelorhood are now really over. Expect to be overwhelmed, fatigued, on a roller coaster ride,” she says.

This is something Hardiman can attest to.

Before he became a father, he would invite his friends out for drinks, but those with children were never able to come. “I couldn’t understand when they couldn’t come out for drinks. They had said that having kids wouldn’t change their lives, but it did,” he says.

These days, he understands it only too well.

Hardiman also admits that he didn’t exactly have a plan for when he became a father. “My wife wanted children. I was keen, but I had no idea what to expect. I was scared of asking questions, so I put my hands up in the air like on a roller coaster and just went with it.”

He says a lot of people just wing it.

It took Hardiman a long time to bond with his first son. “In the first six months, I wondered why was I not feeling the bond,” he says.

But all of that changed when his son was able to interact with him. He says there is something unique and special about being a dad to a boy and what he enjoys even more now, is watching his three boys interact and play with each other.

“They’re becoming a unit,” he says.

The thing parents loathe to talk about is the less-than-special moments they share with their children. “The worst part is when they’re all sick. You can’t negotiate with a child. They don’t appreciate you telling them it’s in their best interest to go to bed and sleep. It doesn’t work, and it’s incredibly frustrating. But, you just get on with it,” he says.

Hardiman is writing a book about his experiences of going from a dude to dad. He hopes to use some of what comes out of the boys’ nights out as part of his broader research for the book.

The event takes place on Thursday, November 15, at the Saints Burger Joint on Kloof Street, Gardens. Hardiman hopes to make it a monthly event, and take it to Joburg.

He says: “I want them (participants) to walk away and realise that it’s not so bad. This will be alright.”

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