I can’t lie…I think of myself as being a pretty awesome uncle; my nephews’ and nieces’ “absolute favourite” according to my child-laden older siblings. But can your experiences as an uncle ever truly prepare you for the trials and tribulations of fatherhood?
Let me start by saying that I am somewhat of a special case. Being the proud uncle of nearly a football team worth of kids under the age of nine, I’ve learnt a huge range of skills that – WARNING: SMUG ALERT – most first-time dads can only dream of.
Through nearly 10 years’ experience of babysitting, bathing and bribing these little tikes (often looking after up to three at a time), I’ve changed hundreds of dirty nappies, learnt how to quickly calm a crying baby and ‘tantruming’ toddler and I’ve even eaten numerous Christmas dinners, one-handed, while balancing a baby on my lap.
I’m no longer afraid to make a fool out of myself in public for a child’s amusement, I have a wide repertoire of different character voices for story time and have practically joined the Peppa Pig fan club (although I must admit I’ll never get my head around the creepy YouTube series ‘Baby Alive‘ that my nieces are currently obsessed with…a terrifying watch).
And don’t think I’ve been taking the easy route, giving in to their every demand for chocolate or their attempts to stay up past their bedtime (to the detriment of their exhausted parents when they return home from a much needed night off).
After watching the excellent (and some might say, surprisingly sexy) Super Nanny – on more occasions than I’d like to admit – I’m a firm believer in the ‘naughty step’, of strict routines and bedtimes, as well as stopping negative behaviour patterns before they become a permanent fixture in the child’s life.
But even with all of this experience, I know that fatherhood itself will be an entirely different ball game.
Because unlike my time as an uncle, being a dad is so much more than just babysitting – it’s a lifetime of love, guidance, stress, joy, bank rolling and unwavering support. Of course I love my nephews and nieces unconditionally and would do all of these things for them without question, but being an uncle is effectively just a part time job, for no more than a few hours at a time.
When you become a father, you can’t hand back a crying baby for someone else to calm it down.
As an uncle you don’t suffer from serious sleep deprivation as a result of their nightly feeding schedule, while you aren’t the one rocking them back to sleep after they’ve had a bad dream.
They don’t call out your name when they hurt themselves or jump for joy every single time you walk through the door.
Sure, the skills you learn as an uncle may help you to look after a child for a day, but nothing can ever truly prepare you for what life as a new dad will bring.
Because fatherhood is not a temporary contract but rather a full time career…a gruelling, terribly paid, yet hugely rewarding job that you’ll have for life.
And, personally, I can’t wait to start. Just 30 weeks and four days left to go…
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s blog. As always I would love to hear your stories too, so please do share your experiences of your uncle/aunt to parent transition in the comments section below. Did you think you knew it all? What surprised or shocked you most when your baby finally arrived?