I can’t believe that my little one is almost 2 years old! Time literally flies and he has gone from this…
To this, in what equates to the blink of the proverbial eye!
As you can imagine there have been a lot of trials and tribulations throughout my relatively short foray into the parenting world. From the time it took me to come to terms with my son’s birth, to the utter elation of the day he said Daddy for the first time, the ever increasing temperature he gets when he is ill to the endless tiredness that only parents can even conceive (I REALLY did not know it was possible to be THIS TIRED).
But above all of these things, I still have not mastered the navigation of adult talk at playgroup. This may seem like an odd thing to say, but every group I go to, I feel that I am missing out.
The big secret is that these groups are just as much for the parents as they are for the kids – a chance to chat over a hot beverage and a jammy dodger to someone who can relate to you without even an ounce of judgement. All of my friends and my wife swear by it:
“I couldn’t have got through this first year without the playgroup mums”
“Thank god for NCT, they are some of my best friends in the world”
And other such sentences are uttered every day – but for me, not so much. Being of a nervous disposition around new people, but a extrovert when on stage, its a combination that a) people don’t understand, and b) it’s confusing to live! Part of the reason my career never took off was that I found networking an impossible task. I would hug the walls and skirt the inane conversations with nods and silence.
Meeting new people is difficult because I have the personality type that needs a little time to grow on people. I am not a quick thinker, so if I am left with the task of “making conversation there are invariably difficult silences to navigate through, which raises my stress levels and makes me even more self-conscious.
I envy my confident friends and family – I wish I could change it.
So it’s not surprising that being the only Dad at playgroup can be a bit challenging, for me. After almost 2 years of attending various different groups, you would think that I would have got the knack for it by now, but I haven’t, I just sit in a Siberia of my own making.
As much as the majority of this is in my head, there is also some truth to why I feel the way that I do…
I am literally the ONLY Dad.
All of the mums have a shared experience of childbirth, and I represent the person RESPONSIBLE for it. That and the fact that I haven’t had to push a baby out of me (which is a fair point).
Mums think I am hitting on them.
I am not. If I approach them to start a conversation, you know like “how old’s your little one?” I must automatically be coming on to them, right? Why else would the only guy in the room want to speak to you?
Mums stay in cliques.
If it’s bad enough walking up to a lone mum, try joining a conversation circle – or if you are me, don’t!
I am at playgroup on a Wednesday morning, so I must be a jobless, useless,sorry excuse for a man
I am not. But I did negotiate each of my job contracts to include some regular time with my son.
I am not like the other dads that I know.
All of the dads that I know are cool, calm and confident. Good-looking men whom people seem to want to speak to. I wish it was a case of just being too hard on myself, but the reality is, all of my dad mates are genuinely nice, interesting people and it can be hard to compete.
I want to get more out of these experiences and have someone to talk to. Being a dad can be quite lonely sometimes and I would love to make more of it. I feel I get so little time with my son that I don’t want to spend 2 hours a week internally worrying about what that mum thinks of me.
I don’t dispute the struggles that all of the amazing mothers go through every day, but I know how alone it can feel to be a dad and the judgement that people can have of us. I am not unique in this. I am sure there are men and women who feel exactly the same. But if you are blessed to be one of those amazing confident parents, promise me you will try to include the loner sat on the floor playing dinosaurs with his son – he/she probably looks like they could do with a chat, and behind the nerves they could well be the best mate that you never had.