Sunday, August 2, 2015

Who's Your Daddy? The Joys and Tribulations of Fatherhood in the 21st Century

It was January 2006 when my wife, Jennifer, and I learned that we were pregnant and going to have our first child together. We were living in the Republic of Korea at the time on Jeju-do, otherwise known as Honeymoon Island. Ironically, we had gotten engaged Christmas day, just two weeks prior to our discovery and needless to say we were feeling overwhelmed. We had spoken about having children and in every way possible I knew in my heart that Jennifer was the one. Still, as confident as I was in my ability to be a good husband I was not so confident in regards to becoming a father. Fatherhood is something of an enigma to me. Despite having worked with children and adolescents in the past nothing quite prepares you for the inevitable tasks that lay ahead when your own child is born into the world. Adding to matters, we left Korea in April to return to the Republic of Ireland, a place that had been home to Jennifer and her immediate family since 1998 when they immigrated there from Zimbabwe. We decided it was the best thing given that her family was there but I would be lying if I didn't confess that I had some reservations about returning to Ireland myself. 

Don't get me wrong, it was not her family that I was worried about. It was Ireland itself. I had moved there in 2003 and decidedly left in August 2005 whilst still completing my masters degree at the University College Cork (UCC). I met Jennifer at UCC, who graduated with her masters in 2005 prior to moving to Korea with me. Adding to my insecurities about becoming a father was the total lack of consideration towards father's rights in Ireland. Unless you are married, a father has absolutely no rights to his child! In fact, I would go so far as to venture that being married changes very little. I had no legal right to even include my name on my son's birth certificate without my wife being present and officially giving her consent that I be added. I found myself on more than one occasion walking away feeling as though my thoughts and feelings were not acknowledged or respected, especially during ante-natal courses that I attended with my wife. I recall one incident where we (the men) were told that the best way we could help our partners (an attempt at being politically correct) was to ensure that there was plenty of tea available to them.

This was rather disappointing considering I had been brainwashed into believing that Lamaze classes were universal. I had even started practicing my breathing technique the day before going to our first ante-natal class. Two short breath's in, one long extended breath out. I was giddy (yes, men can be giddy) and excited at the idea of sitting behind my wife and rubbing her beautiful baby bump as seen on t.v. Imagine my surprise when we found ourselves confronted by a nun who happened to be a midwife. We sat there, week after week, in a room with uncomfortable chairs and dimmed lights. I found the latter particularly odd given how grey it is in Ireland on the best of days. You would inevitably feel exhausted by the end of the session. We would go to ante-natal appointments where I would try to actively participate and be a part of the process and time after time my comments were ignored. On one occasion the midwife asked Jennifer a questions whilst taking her blood pressure. Jennifer didn't answer, as she was nervous and trying to keep her blood pressure low. The latter was a particularly sore topic given that Jennifer was prone to 'white coat syndrome'. I answered the question eagerly, trying my best to protect my pretty wife from this barrage of questions that seemed endless at the time. I kid you not, the midwife didn't even look at me or acknowledge me in any way. She stared continuously at Jennifer and asked the exact same question again. It seems that I was not qualified to answer the most basic of questions on behalf of my wife.

Now, on our third child, there are many things I suppose you could say we wished we knew when we had our first two sons. The noticeable difference from our first two sons was that Canada has a much more progressive and inclusive approach towards fathers. The experience between the two countries and their attitudes towards fathers was night and day, but more on that in future. Nevertheless, it's been a steep learning process. My role as a father has proven to be vitally important for not only my wife and children, but equally, for myself. My children complete me and to think that there are countries like Ireland that don't even recognize father's rights, it makes me all the more appreciative to be living in a country where men are equally recognized as an important part of their children's life.


  1. Great Reading..funny thing about your piece on MY wife!!!! When it first came up..the first thing that I saw was a pic of a motorcycle....OMG...I thought!!!!! Marriage Over!!!! You`ll never catch me on the back of the bike...I know you love them..HMMMM


  2. You have to imitate Arnold when you say that....Who's your daddy, and what does he do...wink emoticon...