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Dads House would like to introduce Simon

Simon will be will be taking charge of the new Dads House blog and writing about various topics related to single dads. He will be asking for your stories and contributions too.

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Dads House Blog June 2019

Dads House Blog July 2019

Thinking about Masculinity on Father’s Day - by Simon Haworth

Father’s Day came and went on Sunday 16th June, wow how time flies!! I am very lucky that my son made me a card and gave me a lovely present. It was so very kind of him and makes me feel very loved and special.

I have been talking with him quite a lot recently about masculinity and therefore views on what it is to be a man in our society. He has a beautifully fluid and inclusive view of what boys and girls, women and men, can do and can be. I want this to be nurtured and encouraged.

The origins of Father’s Day apparently lie in single fatherhood. In 1910, Sonora Smart Dodd, raised the idea that her father, a single father to six children, should have a similar day to honour him as Mother’s Day. Thus the origins of Father’s Day lie with a family headed by a single father.

Single fatherhood raises challenges for socially constructed gendered norms and hegemonic masculinity. Hegemonic masculinity enforces the idea that to be a “real man” we must show traits such as authority, aggressiveness, strength, and competitiveness. I know this really isn’t me, and my son recognises this too. But I am his main male role model.

As single fathers we can be understood to experience subordinated or marginal masculinities. Thus, we are different from societal expectations of the “real man”. We can thus be viewed as outsiders as men and as primary carers for our children, raising questions about who we are and where we fit within society. This makes us different in many ways.

We are living in times where populism is growing in politics and society, resulting in people considered different or belonging to a minority group suffering or being targeted. Yet difference is the essence of society and us as humans.

Therefore on Father’s Day what I really want is to return to my son’s beautiful and inclusive view of masculinity and what it means to be a man. I am confident that Sonora Smart Dodd shared some of these inclusive views way back in 1910. We need to promote this and work to ensure that once our children are adults, those considered different to the norm are fully accepted and celebrated.

What happens when you say and feel that you need someone and then they go

Louise was such a warm, bubbly, loving person. You always hear good about those that die, especially those that die young. In this case I swear on my life this is true. And if it true in all the other cases too, which I have no reason to believe is not the case, then thats a fucked up world in which we're living. But I'm not going to take this blog in that direction, at least not today. May be another day if I feel like it.

Louise had the ability to make friends quickly and at the same time make deep lasting friendships. She would be considered best friends with quite a few girls and someone who could be trusted with the most private and personal confidences. I first saw her in a nightclub queue, she was elegant and dressed in black as always and was laughing with her cousins over from France.

One evening we were in her favourite pub, The Swan, and my brother had wheeled out his new girlfriend. It was hustling and bustling and people filtered in from work on a Friday evening. We were a group of about 15 and the new girl didn't know anyone at the table. Louise started talking and within 5 minutes the new girl turned to my brother and said, 'she's so lovely. She's amazing'. To which my brother, jokingly replied, 'hey what about me, I'm nice, I'm friendly!'. She could make people love her immediately.

I don't know what it was that she had exactly, but she wanted to be liked. I think this comes from her upbringing and family circumstances that making friends was vitally important. She was chatty, funny, bubbly and positive so I suppose who wouldn't wantjto be around her. I don't know what she saw in me really, I'm not like that at all. More groucho than hello but whatever it was that she liked, she really liked it and we made a great team. I'd say partners in crime, but Louise was as straight laced as they come, so perhaps soulmates is a better way to describe it.

Cancer and Death

One sunny day in August 3 months after Freddie was born Louise was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiforme Grade IV. The medical term for a terminal brain cancer with a life expectancy of between 1 and 2 years. It's a bastard which they don't know much about. Normally found in older men. There are 4 grades, with 4 being the most aggressive. In its worst state it can double in size in a matter of weeks. There are also unique cases where people can live for years, but the bell curve peaked at 11 months on wikipedia, the Spanish surgeon said at 12 months and the UK surgeon 18 months.

None were right. 3 months 6 days later she died.

If, like me, you always watch The Snowman at Christmas. By the time it is shown in the late afternoon you might have had a sherry or two, and I'll always have a huge lump in my throat which even the neighbours can hear me swallow. Well, the closing scene chokes you up because in many ways, this is what it feels like to see your partner of 12 years pass away.

In no time at all you watch everything you loved, everything you built, everything you were excited about melt into a mere shadow of what it ones was. And soon you become painfully aware that there is absolutely nothing you can do, or say, or pay to change the nightmare that is taking place in front of you.

And in the end we are left with her scarf in the wardrobe, that I can’t bring myself to open; her hat on the shelf that I can't stop at and the other bits of our everyday life strewn across the house in exactly the same way it was before August.

As a father you forget that mum and son have already known each other over 9 months

Of course we had had the baby naming conversations. It took a few seconds to agree on girls names: she suggested one, I suggested one and we both liked them. Done. Boys names were harder and we had a list of about twenty.

Five minutes after birth Louise said, 'shall we call him Freddie?'. I said, 'he's only just been born shall we wait until we see whether he looks like an Freddie'. To which she replied, 'yes, yes, ok, lets wait'. Fifteen minutes later she asked one more time, ’shall we call him Freddie?'.

It was then that I realised they had been living together for 9 months. They already knew each other and had built a bond. It was me the new guy on the scene! And thats why I was crying and Louise (normally the soft one) was happy and behaving as normal. So I smiled and said yes, he's called Freddie.

When life is extremely unfair you look for the silver linings. And it does help me to know they were together for a year. But it doesn't take away from the fact we only had another 6 months all together.

Who could know that when Freddie was born we only had another 6 months all together

Freddie was born in April to Louise and I. Labour took 44 hours. It started on the Sunday night. When Louise elbowed me in bed and said, 'it's game time'. She was right, and by midday on Monday we were in the back of an Uber to the hospital in London. The staff were excellent, but after a few hours they told us to go back home and guestimate that we still had another 30 hours or so to go.

My principal job was refraining us from going back into the hospital too early. I held out till the next afternoon when we were back in the Uber. They said, 'you're just there, 4cm dilated (at 10cm you're about to pop). Go upstairs to your room'.

And from then it went into fast forward. Louise got comfortable in the bed. I looked out at the setting sun. The midwife took a look at Louise and asked her not to push, but Louise kept saying thats all my body's telling me to do. She rechecked, called over to me, 'Husband, press that red button on the wall... We're having this baby NOW!'

Within a minute we had 5 people in the room, a wheely table with scalpels and other metal tools. She had moved from 4cm to 10 in about 20 minutes and now it really was game time. About 8 minutes later Freddie was pulled out all covered in blood and looking like a drowned rabbit, laid on Louises chest and wrapped in blankets.

I was so proud of her. I can't imagine a generation before when the father often wasn't there, its such a powerful experience and the admiration for the mum is off the scale. The emotion hit me after a few seconds when I saw him and tears rolled off my chin. The nurses and midwives loved that! We had grown the family that we'd always wanted.

My journey to becoming a single parent via cancer and the pure beauty of fatherhood

My name is James and I’m a single father who’s looked after his son, Freddie, since he was 3 1/2 months old. 

I'll be sharing my experience here to raise awareness for Dads House and to show other Dads who fall into a situation like mine, for whatever reason, that it's been done before. And I'll tell you about the good, the sad and the funny. 

I am going to write about what it is like to be me. This will mostly be about the grief from the loss of a soulmate and raising my 9 month old boy.

The names have been changed because neither Freddie nor his mother can decide if they want to participate so I think it's fair to share our life accurately but with different names. 

I feel like I've mostly had a vision and direction in my life, and fought to make it happen with optimism and then let the details fall into place. So I think this blog will follow the same strain. Let's see what happens...

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