Papa Pukka on Fatherhood and Freelance Writing

Husband to Instagram favourite Mother Pukka (Anna Whitehouse), Matt Farquharson is now also snapping pics, blogging and vlogging about #parentingtheshitoutoflife. We talk fatherhood and freelancing…

Matt lives in Leyton with his wife Anna and their daughter Mae – or ‘the urchin’, as she’s referred to on social media and below…

What time do you wake up in the morning, and what wakes you up?
7am if it’s the alarm, anytime from 6am if it’s our toddler.

Are you a ‘morning person’?
Not by choice.

You’re a freelance copywriter, what are your most productive working hours?
If I’m off urchin duty, I get most done from 7am to about midday, fade horribly around lunchtime and then get a second wind in a mad panic before going to daycare.

Who do you write for?
Anyone willing to pay enough. I have almost no shame.

Where do you work during the day?
At our dining table, surrounded by coffee mugs and toast crumbs.

What does your workspace look like; are you into immaculate tidiness or piles of books and paper?
I pack everything up at the end of the day, so it’s usually just a laptop, notepad and snack-based flotsam.

Fatherhood – and sharing the load

Until recently, you and your wife Anna were both working full time. How did you divide childcare duties: breakfast/nursery drop-off and pick-up/bath/bed?
Anna has always done about 60% of the parenting, but it varies depending on who has most work on. I’m occasionally guilty of mumbling about work to avoid the battle of the evening toothbrushing.

Anna has now quit her full time copywriter job with L’Oreal to be around more for Mae. How will this impact you as a family?
Mostly, it’s about flexibility. She’ll work as many hours, and probably more, but will have more control over when that happens.

When did Papa Pukka emerge?

Lately, you’ve become more involved with Mother Pukka blogging/vlogging – what prompted this?
It’s fun. I was a journalist originally, then a copywriter, and am now more of what tends to be called a content strategist. I started @papa_pukka for the pleasure of writing without a client or brief. It’s fun (and, of course, staggeringly vain) to be able to put words and pictures together for the amusement of no one but myself.

Papa Pukka, Mother Pukka and the Urchin - fatherhood -

Should more dads be putting themselves out there – showcasing their relationship with their children (the good and the bad)?
No one should feel obliged to, but they shouldn’t feel ashamed either.

Have you been a hands-on dad since Mae was born, or did it take a while to bond?
The real bond definitely came later for me. For the first six or nine months you feel affectionate, but do everything through a sense of obligation and get nothing back. I was basically a milk-dispensing hatstand as far as she was concerned. But that bond has become much stronger as she’s learning to talk.

What did you imagine having a child might be like, and what is the reality?
I imagined Guantanamo Bay standards of mental and physical degradation – sleep deprivation, noise torture: everything short of waterboarding. It wasn’t quite that bad, and I’m now kind of enjoying it.

On paternity leave

How long did you take for paternity leave?
Two weeks.

If Mae had been born last year, would you have taken the 50/50 shared maternity/paternity leave that’s now an option?
I wouldn’t rule it out but (and I think this is a guilty secret for most dads) I was ready to go back to work after two weeks. But it’d be a discussion. If Anna wanted to go back to work sooner, I’d happily step in. For a bit.

Do you think this paternity leave option will improve gender equality?
It’s definitely a positive step, but the key will be more flexible working. Most employers are hopelessly outdated and insist people sit at their assigned bit of laminated MDF at set times, when it’s not really necessary. All of the issues of gender inequality at work come down to that. Childcare costs and inflexible employers mean that many women have to make a choice at a key stage of their working life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In most jobs, it doesn’t really matter if an email gets answered at 10am or 10pm. Booking a Skype call is no more time consuming that booking a meeting room. And where things are time sensitive, it doesn’t matter if an email is answered from beneath an arbitrarily assigned bit of striplighting or in a café round the corner from daycare. In public-facing roles it’s down to smarter shift patterns. But most firms are too scared or idle to do it. The irony is, there’s so much evidence to show that the employer benefits: better staff retention, better employer brand, more committed staff, reduced office costs. It’s one of the few things the TUC and CBI agree on.

Advice for new dads

What three pieces of advice would you give a new dad, or dad-to-be:
1. You can ignore most unsolicited advice.
2. It’s more fun than you might expect.
3. It comes more naturally than you might expect.

Follow Matt – or Papa Pukka – on Instagram
Check out the Mother Pukka website

Are you a dad? What’s your experience of fatherhood been like so far: harder than you imagined it would be, easier, or about the same? And what share of the childcare and housework do you do? Let us know in the comment section below…