Things for Dads to Know About Mums

As a follow-up to my blog post “Things for Mums to know about Dads” I’m hoping to share what I think I’ve learned vice versa – Mums forgive me if I have completely misrepresented you, but this is a man’s perspective.

Just listen to her

If you’ve read the “Things for Mums to know about Dads” post you will see a trend where I talk about how much we Dads like to fix things, we like to have answers. A lot of the time your wife/partner doesn’t want an answer or a fix!

Have you ever noticed how when she talks on the phone or has her friend around for a coffee and they chat – they often talk about lots of problems and issues but rarely interrupt those issues with an answer to it. SOMETIMES they give an answer but most often they just listen.

It’s almost a secret code but I’ve concluded that Mum’s just want somebody to talk to. That’s it, don’t fix their huge dilemma with an “answer” that took you 2.5 seconds to come up with – they wont herald you as a genius, but they might throw something at you.

Listen, discuss, agree, share, connect – fight the urge to throw out the first solution that comes to mind and move on to the next problem.

Remember Her

Not the machine she feels she has become, fulfilling all the special needs precisely and at a superhuman rate. She’s not just the mother, expert, advocate, voice, physio and everything else that she’s been told she is – She is your wife/partner. The reason you guys got together was around long before all of this and the kids came along. I know this applies to all relationships but its particularly important when you’ve got so much more responsibility.

If you lose that “reason” you just end up becoming colleagues in a very difficult job. If you can get time away from it all for an evening just you two, do it – most of us can’t, I know, so you may have to get a bit creative.

Even if you do something cheesy and rubbish or spend time together at home watching or doing something that doesn’t seem spectacular – it doesn’t need to be good, it just needs to be effort. It says, I’m not just here with you because I have to be (for the kids etc), I’m here because I want to be. (I know I’m cheesy but who doesn’t love cheese).

My wife and I have managed to watch a few series together recently in the evening and it does help taking the time to watch something in common. (I recommend Man in the high Castle on Amazon Prime, such a good series).

Give her a break

Yes, this applies both ways, but we guys tend to forget this a bit more. I know there are certain tasks with the kids that she has gotten better at than you, so you usually let her do them – makes sense.

Remember to give her a break from it though, having your routine broken for once where something you usually do is already being done and you’re sipping a cuppa instead is really valuable or maybe she needs a super early night or a lay in once in a blue moon. Read the signs, if she looks exhausted, take over one of the mundane tasks.

This could be an additional pointer (again could apply both ways) but Let go – as in, don’t be shackled to each other and your duties.

The only person my wife fully 100% trusts to look after our daughters for a long period is me, this means if she ever wants to be able to be free from the shackles of the house and the routine, I am the only possible key – sometimes its not even that she wants to break from the shackles, but she has to know that she is able to.

She has been asked to go out places and do things with friends etc – don’t make it difficult for her to go, make it as easy as possible.

I love when my wife can go and do something that makes her happy in complete freedom for a while because she will usually return not only happier, but she can’t wait to get back to the house and the kids and the routine because she missed them.

Additionally, guys – she’s a lot more likely to make it easier on you when you’re going to go out or to do stuff for a while. So many couples shackle themselves to each other and make each other’s life hard work – if she moans when I go somewhere, I’m going to moan when she goes somewhere – break that cycle, encourage each other.

Don’t run away

The trend I’ve seen in Mums and Dads in the disability world is that once Mums are over an initial grieving process which I mentioned in the other post they tend to run headlong into the battle and Dad’s are ready to fight a battle in the beginning but end up running away from reality).

Mums tend to get involved in care, hospital life, get counselling and help, meet with other mums for coffee and find solutions for problems.

Dad’s I see are throwing themselves into more work than ever or anything else that will take up their time and when they meet up with Dad’s in similar situations, they go Go-Karting or paintballing or some other 10-year olds birthday party arrangement and then often use hospice and respite care to go on holidays.

Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing dreadfully wrong in those things, its useful to escape reality for a bit but Dads we seem to be constantly escaping reality. Like in the last point, its good to help each other have a break but Dads you need to get yourself help as well as escape, (which can be important) so you can be fighting fit when it comes to going back into battle and that’s not going to happen at a racetrack.

The most loving thing you can do for your child is to love/care for their Mother


Adulting. You’ve undoubtedly seen the memes or heard people talk about how they don’t want to “adult” today. If, like my husband, you’ve never heard the word before (at least in that context), it means the practice of behaving like a responsible adult.

I remember the exact day, time and circumstances of the first time I felt like an adult.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t when I went away to university.

Nor was it when I got my first job or even when I got married. And although I probably started to feel a bit more “adultish” after the birth of my first daughter, it wasn’t then, either.

It was on the 30th of September 2011 at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

I was working from home when the nanny came into my office, carrying my six-month-old daughter and said “Miss Z is acting funny. What should I do?”

I remember very clearly taking Z from her and noticing how she seemed to be very stiff and rigid and her breathing was rapid, shallow and strangely rhythmic.

I had no idea what was wrong with her.

I had no idea what to do. The only other adult at home was the nanny, and she was waiting for me to tell her what to do.

I was the adult. I had to decide.

“I think we need to call an ambulance,” I said.

I had never had to call an ambulance in my life. As far as I knew, you only called an ambulance when someone had a heart attack or was hit by a car. But calling one because your baby was acting funny? Would the paramedics tell me off for over-reacting? Would the 000 operator even agree to send an ambulance?

I became the adult.

I made the decision and called an ambulance. The paramedics did not tell me off – probably because they were too busy saving Z’s life. The funny behaviour turned out to be a status seizure that took over an hour and several powerful drugs to stop.

During the hour or more that it took the paramedics and then the Emergency Room doctors to end the seizure, Z stopped breathing twice. She had to be incubated and spent nearly a week in intensive care.

In many ways Miss Z’s story, and my story as her mother, started on that day.

She had been a difficult baby and there were missed milestones, test referrals and concerns that came before that horrible day, but it was September 30th, when my husband and I stood in the Resus area of the Emergency Department and watched 18 doctors and nurses working on Miss Z that the seriousness of the situation and the frightening possibility of what lay ahead became clear.

And it was from that day onward that we have had to make difficult, grown-up decisions about our daughter on a regular basis.

Miss Z makes me “adult”.

From that day onward, I’ve always needed to be ready to take difficult decisions – Will this surgery improve her quality of life? Is she sick? Should I call an ambulance?

And caring for Z is a constant job. It includes everything from basic care, like changing her nappy, dressing her and trimming her fingernails, to drawing up and administering her medication to coordinating her multiple medical and therapy appointments each month.

I’m often up in the middle of the night, helping her to breathe by suctioning her and repositioning her because she can’t roll over in bed by herself.

I watch for seizures and give her emergency medication if a seizure runs too long. I take her temperature and monitor her SATS levels and respiration rate when she is unwell.

Caring for Z requires constant adulting.

However, one thing I’ve learned while I’ve been adulting is that it doesn’t mean my life is without joy. Miss Z, and her sister are constant sources of happiness and laughter and just plain goofiness in my life.

And watching the two girls together is my greatest source for joy.

And it doesn’t mean I have to behave like an adult all the time – as Miss Z and her sister will tell you. When I’m with the girls I sing, and dance and make up songs about “poonamis” (those massive dirty nappies that swamp everything like a tsunami).

I got my nose pierced for my birthday, because I fancied it. As Z’s sister heads into the pre-teen years, I am increasingly amused the ways I (usually inadvertently) manage to embarrass her.

Being an adult also means learning my limits and asking for and accepting help.

It means taking time for myself so that I can live to “adult” another day. Being a responsible adult means knowing that I need to stay strong and healthy to make those hard decisions. This is a work in progress for me, but I’m learning that being an adult doesn’t mean doing everything by myself.

Adulting. It can be hard and it can bring joy, but most of all, it doesn’t need to be done alone.

Journal Entry – January 23, 2013

“After being at an appointment with J for over two hours, I am so grateful for a healthy child. Alexander is so happy and healthy, I am beyond blessed! And when things get tough I always have to think of how different/worse it could be.”

This is an actual journal entry 3 months before our middle son was born. I came across my old gratitude journal as I was cleaning out my bedside table. I half grinned and shook my head as I read my scratchy handwriting on the striped paper.

You see, J is a young boy I cared for who is severely developmentally delayed.

He can’t walk or talk but he can light up a room. His laugh is incredibly contagious and caring for him filled my heart with so much joy. He also has a seizure disorder, and I’m guessing we were at a specialist visit on January 23, 2013.

If I only knew.

If I only knew that our lives were about to be different.

If I only knew that things were about to get really tough.

Not just a little tough, a lot tough.

If I only knew that a few months after I penned that short entry our son would be born with a rare genetic condition filled with therapy appointments, specialists visits, sleepless nights, and tremendous worry.

But I didn’t know.

I had no idea that the “worse/different” I thought of when I wrote that entry was about to become mine. Our life was about to change.

After I read that I wondered what I would have said to myself on January 23 if I knew. What if I knew that Christopher would be born medically complex and severely delayed? What if I could have told myself that he may never talk? What if I could have told myself he may never walk?

What if I would have whispered that when he gets sick your anxiety will be paralyzing and you won’t stop worrying?

What if I would have told myself that the fear of losing him will never go away?

I’m not sure if I would have sat in the corner and cried or if I would have spread my arms wide open in an effort to say ​bring it

Because what if I would have also told myself that yes, the worst days will be days that many parents can’t even fathom. And yes, there will be days when the tears won’t stop falling because life simply isn’t fair. But I would have told myself that the days with triumph and joy are days most parents can’t even fathom.

And there will be days where the tears will fall for reasons other than sadness. The tears of joy will fall over the most seemingly miniscule things and the only people who will understand are those who live a life like yours.

A different life.

If I could have only told myself that the life you think could be worse/different will only make you better. And the child you will have will teach the most meaningful life lessons not only to you but to everyone around him. I would have told myself on January 23, 2013 that my life was about to change.

Big time. I would have told myself that there will be grief. But there will also be joy in journey that I wouldn’t trade it for the world because if I did then he wouldn’t be mine. And as much as this different life can be a struggle, Christopher is mine, and I would never want him to be anyone else’s.

And you know what I find the most ironic in that journal entry is that I truly thought I knew what gratitude was.

If I only knew.

Things for Mums to Know About Dads

We’re different!

OK you already knew that didn’t you? I’m sure you did but it does sometimes slip our mind to remember that Men and Women, Dads and Mums are different, particularly in a stressful environment like dealing with disability in a family.

My Wife and I have always been best friends as well as spouses but a diagnosis of disability for your child can put a colossal amount of strain on even the best relationship.

After much discussion, many mistakes and learning curves we’ve found that frictions can be cleared up with a bit of understanding and discussion (which we’ve had to learn to do more).

First, I’m going to write about what will help Mum’s to know about Dads, Step Dads, Male guardian – whoever is in that role, loving a child with a disability – from my perspective.

We’re confused.

We love you and we love our child(ren) but we’re not too bright, not when it comes to this. Men know how we’re supposed to care for our families, provide and protect etc.

Now the way we need to do that has changed, and we’ve got to learn how to care, all the while trying to seem like we know exactly what we’re doing. We are designed to be the calm one who doesn’t freak out, we’re supposed to be as solid as a rock.

My wife and I were present one time when our little girl had a cardiac arrest in the hospital, I knew someone had to be there with her, I also knew that my wife would not cope with watching her being resuscitated so I asked a nurse to take her out of the room.

I couldn’t cope either, but I had to, for her and for her Mum who I know wouldn’t have left unless I was there with her. I had to be in there, calm and focussed – like I knew what I was doing.

We can’t break-down, we have to love, protect and provide. We have to look like we know what were doing when we really don’t.

We do what we know.

This is how we love you, by doing what we know. As well as learning all the new stuff slowly and painfully we still want to care for you in the way we know.

Maybe he doesn’t say mushy things or seem very sentimental, maybe he doesn’t say much of anything – even less than he used to.

However, he is keeping the car cleaner and fixing things around the house without 6 months of you asking. Maybe he’s become super cautious about germs and the things that can take you all back into hospital. These are ways in which he’s telling the family that he loves them.

Some of the things I’ve mentioned are the things I have been doing – A lot of it I’ve done sub-consciously, my wife noticed, and we thought and talked about it and this care is what triggered it.

He sees the effect it has on you and the kids when we go back to hospital as well as the illness itself, or how sad you are that you’re overwhelmed that the car isn’t clean, or the house isn’t together and yet at the same time you feel you need more time for the kids.

Don’t think we’ve become distant and uncaring – we’re fixers we’re trying to fix it the way we know how. At other times we may just have to disappear into a hobby or something to straighten our heads – again were not being distant, we just need to do things we’re good at to fight the feeling of being useless that often comes.

We’re angry and protective.

One important difference I’ve seen is that a woman seems to grieve the life and child they expected and although we Dads are struggling with our situation, we don’t need that time to accept that our child isn’t what we expected. Rather we are frustrated that we can’t do anything about the disability itself.

When I spoke to my wife about the grief she was in over our child I was angry with her and protective of our child. I think we men go into fight mode, I was ready to fight the whole world for my little girl, but the problem was I didn’t understand the battle and I didn’t know how to fight it.

I didn’t get why my wife was grieving and she didn’t understand why I was angry – now we understand each other’s perspectives it’s much easier to discuss and progress.

We’re blown away by you – but include us too.

I’ve seen a few articles from Mums praising Dads (Step/guardian etc) because its mainly Mums writing these sorts of things but not many written to you. Quite simply it is astonishing what you do, my wife can roar like a lioness to protect our cubs and still be as gentle as a dove as she nurtures them.

Being a Mum is a colossal task at the best of times so becoming a super Mum should not be underestimated. The unwavering dedication you have to our children now and looking to the future and the next steps, studying medical science, dietary requirements and every help that we couldn’t think of is amazing – from them and us Dads, thank you.

*Additional note – keep us involved.

We may be in work or elsewhere and miss a few meetings and you’ve become used to getting on with things yourself, but we want to be experts in our kids too. I would hate a stranger to know things about my child that I don’t and Mums, you’re going to want/need help eventually, keep us in the loop – It gives you a great chance to talk to each other about the task we have in common.

The most loving thing you can do for your child is to love/care for their Father