Darren Barber, the founder of Barber’s Gym, on fatherhood

“Babies grow and change so fast and in the blink of an eye you’ll miss out if you’re not around.” Darren Barber, owner of Barber’s Gym in east London, discusses being a hands-on dad with his eight-month-old Frida…

This interview was originally published in March 2016. At that point, Darren Barber, 36, was living with his partner and their eight-month-old daughter Frida Liv Lønbjerg Barber in Hackney.

“I own a strength and conditioning gym called Barber’s Gym in Hackney Downs, east London. I work as a personal trainer and group training instructor. When my wife Kristina went into labour I got the group training sessions covered and cleared my diary for a few weeks. The birth was long and enduring for Kristina as she had a very long pre labour but I spent all my time with her throughout the birth and her recovery, four days in the end.

Welcome to fatherhood

From a planned home birth, emergency transfer to hospital and caesarian in the end it was important to me that I helped where I could and supported Kristina to aid her recovery after such a big journey. I found a new respect for all mums out there. You have no understanding of until you witness it for yourself.

The birth was such an amazing experience for us all even under the circumstances, and our hypnobirthing practice was so useful. We spent the following two weeks after Frida’s birth together recuperating and getting to know our new baby Frida.

Those first few weeks are hard to recall as we were tired and in some kind of autopilot mode, but I have a very positive recollection of becoming a father. As I work so close to home I returned to light duties at the gym, returning home between coaching clients and easing myself back in but also aware to be there for my girls.

I’m lucky as I have a fairly flexible work life. I walk five mins to work and between training clients and I can still nip home to help out and hang out. This has made the transition very comfortable for us both. It’s been great to have the normality of work and the usual daily routine. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on Frida’s development like many 9-5 or even 8-late fathers do, I’m very lucky to be in this situation.

Being a hands-on dad

On an average day, I wake up at 6,30am and sneak out to the gym for the 7am strength and conditioning class, then return via the coffee shop for breakfast with the girls around 8.30. Sometimes they are up, otherwise I’ll take Frida for a nappy change and hang out until my next personal training client.

My day then revolves around training clients and squeezing in my own training. We catch up for lunch most days and take our dog Reggie for a walk together, but then it all gets a bit hectic for the evenings. They tend to be busy for me but I sometimes get to enjoy the bath and bedtime routine otherwise I miss it.

Frida generally hits the sack around 9pm so on my late nights returning around 9.30 she is already in bed but that is also nice to experience, and I then enjoy some time with my partner. I tend to get to bed around 11pm, which leaves me with far too little sleep but I’m surviving, I used to enjoy a good eight hours and ideally would regain this somehow.

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My partner Kristina is full time mum at the moment and is loving that. She worked freelance before and may even change her career since having Frida. We will no doubt pop her into kindergarten a few days a week some time but happy to be spending as much time as possible with her at the moment.

I have a great work/life balance. I love my job and enjoy the time time I spend at the gym but it’s great to be able to see the girls throughout the day between training sessions and running the business.

Fatherhood’s greatest challenge…

I’d say the most challenging thing about fatherhood is sleep. Frida is a great kid but babies are babies and will wake you. My job is physically demanding and sleep is an immensely important recovery process so reducing this has been the toughest part for both me and my wife.

My advice for other working dads? Find a good work/life balance as soon as possible, as time is always ticking. Babies grow and change so fast and in the blink of an eye you’ll miss out if you’re not around. Spend as much time together as a family, as a dad, as a partner, and get flowers delivered regularly.”

Barber’s Gym

What was your experience of new fatherhood? How was the birth, how were the early days? Let us know in the comment section below…