“I lost my father suddenly at the age of 12, so my own personal challenge is to just be there for Otis and Thea whenever they need me.” Children’s book author Mark Lemon on both the beauty and the challenges of fatherhood…
Mark Lemon, 38, lives in Bristol with his wife Simone and their two children: Otis, five, and Thea, two. He left his job as a store manager to become a full time children’s book author (and spend more time with his young children).
“Having a family was something I always wanted, but it had to be at the right time in my life. After Simone (my wife) and I first met back in 2009, the birth of Otis happened pretty quickly. He joined the party in April 2011.
In terms of conception it all happened very quickly. Just before we found out that Simone was pregnant, we were on holiday in Turkey and she thought that the morning sickness was due to eating some dodgy lamb. Oh how wrong we were!
It’s incredible how each birth differs. All in all, the birth of Otis was quite a drawn out affair. Simone’s waters broke on the Friday afternoon and he was born at 4.40am on the Sunday morning. Thea, however, was a totally different birth; waters broke at 9.30pm and she was born at 12.50am!
Otis’ birth turned into quite a scary and complicated one, due to his umbilical cord wrapping around his neck. We were quickly rushed into theatre and greeted by fifteen midwives and doctors in masks and gowns. The doctors had decided to carry out an emergency caesarean; thankfully the cord unravelled itself and Otis arrived naturally. It was a fantastic feeling holding Otis for the first time. I phoned my mum and blubbed down the telephone “It’s a boy, Mum.”
Fatherhood, in a sentence: a supportive and positive role model, attempting to co-steer a ‘parenting juggernaut’.
I wouldn’t say that I was well informed about childbirth. I personally found that ignorance was bliss when it came to the actual birth. Once you’re in the moment all you can do is support your wife or partner, however you can. No birth is the same, which makes it extremely difficult to plan for. We experienced two very different births and I wouldn’t say that being well informed would have helped me much for both arrivals.
If I’m honest, the first time you walk through the front door with a newborn is pretty scary, but that soon disappears once you are settled in after the first night. The early days with Otis and Thea were truly amazing. Simone is a brilliant mother (like all mums out there) and quickly taught me how to change nappies, and how to hold a baby correctly. I must admit, like all fathers out there, one of my main fears was “Am I holding the baby correctly?” You soon get the gist of it.
For us it started to get easier after the first month, once we had discovered a routine (if that’s possible with a newborn). But it was completely different for both children. Anyone who has more than one child will understand that no birth is the same, and no child/baby has the same personality! It’s extremely hard to plan and predict, so try and go with the flow, if at all possible.
For both children I took the statutory paternity two weeks off (not enough). At the time Otis was born I was a shop manager working for clothing brand Superdry. One of my main reasons for leaving the company (two years after Otis was born) was due to the fact that I wanted to spend more time with him – one of the best decisions I have ever made. My transition back into work was hard to be honest, but we’ve been very lucky to have a supporting family network. As a couple you want to support each other and do your fair share of the parenting, something companies need show more flexibility with, especially with mothers returning to work.
Before embarking on parenthood, I wish someone had said: Enjoy your sleep. You won’t see it ever again.
It might sound cheesy but becoming parents has brought Simone and me closer together. We have always taken it in turns with putting the children to bed and making sure that it’s a balanced parenting relationship. Don’t get me wrong, like all couples we have our moments, but as long as we’re talking it out then things work fine for us.
Most surprising about my parenting journey so far has been how much fun you have. Once you accept that you can’t control everything and that shit just happens out of your control, then you can fully enjoy the beautiful smalls you have brought into this world.
My advice to expectant parents is to spend as much time with your children during the early years as possible. Also, just accept that things can be out of your control and try not to worry about what other parents are doing/thinking. You’re the captain of your own ‘parenting juggernaut’.
The greatest challenge you face, as a father, is ensuring that your kids are healthy, happy and loving life. I lost my father suddenly at the age of 12, so my own personal challenge is to just be there for Otis and Thea whenever they need me.
And what makes it all worthwhile? Watching them grow into adults that you are proud of as parents.”