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Yoga ball vertigo, inventive writing poses, ghost ships, and bullshit cooking environs
Hi! I’m Brad and this is Some Other Dad—the weekly newsletter about the day-to-day joys and challenges we face as parents. Click the button below to subscribe for free!
Like most evenings nowadays, I once again find myself bouncing up and down on a yoga ball, cradling my nearly-six-week-old daughter in the crook of my slowly numbing elbow. Writing on my phone has never been anywhere near my favourite way of getting work done, creative or otherwise, but more and more often I’m finding myself getting motion sickness as I continuously bounce as I put together every Friday’s post.
At least I’ve figured out a way of writing with two hands. The aforementioned crook of my left arm cradles my daughter’s incredibly dense head, but still allows freedom in my left hand as long as I bring her body in close to mine. My right wrist supports her little dangly legs, and my hand sprouts up to create a just-about-functioning two thumbed typing position. It’s far from perfect, but that good ship set sail, let out a distress signal and was found abandoned long ago.
Speaking of abandoned ships, the downstairs of our house is a near-accurate recreation of the Mary Celeste on a nightly basis. If you set foot down there whilst we’re upstairs fully entrenched in bath-time power struggles, the strewn toys, the mountain of dirty dishes and my three-year-old’s still-warm, half eaten dinner all tell the story of yet another chaotic episode of family life hastily abandoned once all hope was lost and the only option was to once again board the lifeboat named “Bedtime Routine”.
It’s not just around bedtimes. If we’re going out anywhere, there’s a fine balance of making sure the baby is fed and not restless when they get in the car seat, versus making sure our eldest has gone to the toilet and isn’t about to fall into another dreaded post-3pm nap the moment we roll off the driveway. It’s a balance that requires all of our attention, so making sure the house is tidy before we have is way down the priority list.
Some point in between trying to get ready for another day trip, and whilst we collectively came to terms with the fact that the house was—and for the foreseeable future would remain—a bombsite, I said out loud, in a moment of exasperation: “do other people with kids struggle getting them out of the house like we do?”
I was speaking from an emotional place; rationally I knew the answer, and my wife provided it for me with an emphatic “Yes!”
For the rest of the day I beat myself up a little for even asking the question. Of course other families go through the same thing. What on earth would make me think that?
About fifteen minutes later, I scroll upon a Instagram reel of someone making a toddler breakfast recipe. My eye looked straight past the banana/pumpkin seed/oatmeal concoction, and noticed just how damn clean this person’s kitchen was.
Ah. Of course. That’s what would make me think that about my kitchen—about my life.
That was just one video, but how many other had I seen during that particular doom-scrolling session? How many reels from “parenting influencers” had I happened upon in the last week, subconsciously ingesting their sterilised version of reality and internally comparing it to my own?
It was a timely reminder for me that no matter how well you think you separate social media and real life, or no matter how aware you are of the pitfalls of comparisons when it comes to parenting (or in all areas of life, for that matter), they can trip you up when you least expect them to. Comparing your entire life against a slice of someone else’s is a heavily curated Instagram recipe for self-loathing and parent guilt.
It’s not just social media where we’re only seeing a peek of other people’s realities. When we text our mum or dad friends, or chat to the parents at the school gate, there’s always a degree of guardedness; those particular details we don’t share with all and sundry. We all do it to some degree—it’s how we interpret these snippets of how the other half life that’s the issue.
We can never know what other people’s real life situations are, so torturing ourselves by assuming they’ve got it all sussed is futile as much as it is unkind to ourselves. We’re all better off just assuming that the other parents we see out and about—who look like they’ve got this parenting business down to a tee—have kitchens just as much of a mess as ours. Not only is it kinder to our own circumstances at that particular difficult moment, but it’s also far nearer the truth than whatever bullshit yarn our inner parenting critic spins for us on any given day.
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Next time you find yourself in the park, at the school gates or in any other situation that you might usually find yourself triggered by a well put together parent, just remember that there’s all manner of reasons why they could be triggered by something that’s going well for you that day.
Society can make us feel like we’re in constant competition with each other; things like grades at school, salaries and social media followers all contribute to the quantification of modern life, through which the seeds for these unhealthy and unhelpful comparisons are planted.
But the truth is that we’re still in competition with no one but ourselves. We take on the near-impossible task of parenting and tackle the issues and pitfalls ahead of us alongside other parents, not in conflict with them.
Some days you’ll have no other option to rock an unwashed top-knot at school pick-up, and the next day it’ll be someone else. Remember when that other dad smiled at you when you had to wear that t-shirt with the baby sick on the shoulder? That’s not a smile of condescension—it’s a knowing one, as he recalls doing the exact same thing when his kid was small.
We’re all running our own race—and we’re all doing great.
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Seriously, I’ve never had pins and needles so often in my life than in the last few weeks, thanks to this tiny human’s increasingly weighty cranium.
It’s me, hi. I’m the vomit t-shirt dad, it’s me.