Joel Defries on fatherhood: ‘One year of my life, gone in a flash’

We often hear about women becoming mothers, and how their lives transform. But what’s it like for the father? Joel Defries shares his honest, hilarious and probably rather relatable thoughts on his first year as a father…

Done. Completed. Later. One year of my life, gone in a flash. At this point it would be valuable to give myself an appraisal. So, I thought it best to break it down into a five-part review…

The Internet: Friend or Foe? 
If one was to make a montage of the past twelve months, it would be mostly me googling all my baby’s ailments. Always ending up on Babycentre, Mumsnet or – in severe moments of anxiety – the Huggies forum. I’d be scrolling through insufferable drivel until I found some ailment that vaguely resembled my son’s, and then shout the written advice verbatim to my girlfriend who would be giving my child his 10th impromptu unscientific health-check of the day.

I mean, at what time in your life do you seek advice of a totally unqualified lunatic blogger who refers to their children as DS (darling son)? But, in the desperation of parenthood, you sink to new lows. Google becomes your friend and enemy. Use it wisely. Or, alternatively, don’t use it at all and live the “we have been having children since the dawn of time, they never used the Internet back in da day and they were fine” approach. Be prepared, however for your pro-internet diagnosing partner to say “everyone was dead at 35 in those days”.

I am someone who doesn’t use a diary. I am risky in that way; I use my brain. But my brain is not as good as it was so I generally forget and therefore have no routine ever. I sometimes forget if I have eaten lunch. For real! Having a baby has made this impossible. I always know what time it is. My favourite question to my girlfriend is “what time is it?” It is all we speak about. What time did he get up? What time is his first nap? What time did he have breakfast? What time is his lunch? What time is his lunchtime nap? What time did he wake up from his lunchtime nap? ANON ANON ANON I AM BORED OF WRITING IT!!! (…As I pick up my phone to find out how long my baby slept for over lunch, like it even has any sort of impact on my working day).

My dad likes to constantly remind me of his lack of routine when he was raising me. How fluid and chilled bringing up kids can be. He would leave me in a restaurant till 12am and smoke opium (exaggeration, no opium was smoked) and be like “hey man, kids are like… so whatever”. He is convinced that our generation is utterly obsessed with our children, consequently limiting our lives with our Nazi-like regimes and having no fun ever. He may have a point.

This is probably the central thing to Year One. Our son is most likely a genius. Apparently clever people don’t sleep. I mean, Thatcher slept like ten minutes a week or something. Not that I want my son to be like Thatcher, but they definitely appear to have similar sleeping cycles. Having a lack of sleep means that you become OBSESSSSSEEEEEDDDD with your baby’s sleeping. Lack of sleep leads to insanity and rage, which results in weird arguments at 3am. One night, in a fit of anger, my girlfriend, not being able to draw on any good hurtful jibes whisper-shouted at me “You stupid… boy”. (OH NO YOU DIDDDDNN’TTT). We made a pact that all arguments during the night are forgotten in the morning.

You will go to the end of the earth to get sleep. You’ll even try and re-live days to the letter in order to recreate the good sleep day you once had a week ago. You will walk for hours round in circles in subterranean temperatures to get some peace and quiet.

We phoned sleep experts who charge a fortune only for them to tell you: “I mean, I am not a qualified sleep magician. Hahahaha I am so funny. All I can do is help you get a healthy sleep routine for your baby”. F*ck that! Make the f*cker sleep. That is why I am paying hundreds of pounds for these phone calls. I mean a f*cking phone call! At least meet him! They then give you some absurd technique that’s obviously not going to work, but you do it regardless because you’re stupid and hopeless and mildly depressed and spent £250 on it. And this is all because your partner can’t bear hearing their child cry at night, until they’re taken to the darkest place on earth and then finally say, “Leave ’em to cry, do whatever it takes. I’ll move out for two days. Get it done. Don’t contact me”.

In short, you spend a year trying to be the responsive – I’m not going to let my child cry – perfect parent. You then realise that doesn’t work. So you leave them to cry for an hour. They sleep the whole night. You are confused and live in regret that you didn’t do this sooner.

Newborn baby paraphernalia
Your newborn baby is about 30cm long. They are utterly sedentary, and in their first precious months of life do very little. So, in theory, that sounds like a cheap date right? WRONG. This tiny piece of flesh and bones apparently requires thousands of your hard-earned pounds. I was under the impression that you would just need a pram and a cot and everything else is from weird aunts and uncles you never see. Ha! You idiot. No. To demonstrate, I am going to bullet point one example.

The Pram:
*Caveat. This is the middle-class-I like-to-spend-money-to-look-a-certain-way-list. *
Overpriced Pram
Foot muff (muff – ha) for overpriced pram
Sun umbrella for overpriced pram (they are like mini Michael Jacksons)
Sun canopy thing for overpriced pram so it is dark for baby so they sleep
Cup holder for overpriced pram so you can drink overpriced coffee whilst walking (God forbid you would just hold a cup like a normal human)
Overpriced sheep skin for your overpriced pram (I still don’t get this one – keeps them warm in winter, cool in summer?!)
Mobile toy for your overpriced pram
Another lightweight overpriced pram
The other ‘must-have’ lightweight pram which is only light because it doesn’t have the four-tonnes of utter shit you have attached to the other pram. You are like one insane wide load strolling the streets, unable to get into any room without getting half the room to assist you. The whole of TFL is delayed because of people like you, as it requires 40 people to help you lift this thing 11cm off the ground.
Total cost of above £3491.13

Your relationship (RIP – joke not joke, joke)
Do you remember when you first met your loved one? It was all romance, pubs, friends, dinners, sexy-time, cinema and strolls by the river. Okay. Remember it… now mourn it. It goes. I know there are clichés about all of this so I wont bore you with the same stuff everyone says. But what I will say is that it changes. Your relationship is now essentially a competition to prove who is more tired.

You will say how you have worked all day. They will say how they have looked after the baby all day. You will say that you woke up at 6am with the baby and then went to work. They will say that although they didn’t physically get up at 6am their spirit was awake and therefore that despite the fact that they slept till 9am, they were basically up at 6am. You will say you were up three times with the baby last night. They will say they breastfed 16 times last night and they couldn’t possibly be anymore tired. You curse that you don’t have boobies so you could breastfeed 17 times and be the true tired champion. Basically, breasticles trump everything. On breasts, they become less the fun, romantic body part you once lusted over, and more of a vessel of resentment that constantly remind you that the woman you love, loves your baby a thousand times more than you. You cannot even touch them without anti-baccing your hands now.

Amazon Prime
This is a postscript. Amazon Prime is the person I now truly love. End.

Follow Joel Defries on Instagram: @joel.defries