With his second book about to come out, Tom Kreffer looks back at how his journey to becoming a dad blogger.
On the day I found out I was to become a dad, I started writing in a journal to document my experience as a soon-to-be parent. I don’t know why I did that, but I did, and I maintained the practice right up until my partner gave birth to our first child. My journal became my first book, Dear Dory: Journal of a Soon-to-be First-time Dad, the story of pregnancy as told from a dad’s point of view.
But I didn’t stop there. I kept up my journaling during the first year of my son’s life, and that resulted in the creation of my second book, Dear Arlo: Adventures in Dadding. In it, I cover just about everything during the first year of parenthood: the sacred moment you hold your baby for the first time, surviving those early sleep-deprived weeks, the highs and the lows, and what it is like for a new parent to reach all of those special milestones in a baby’s first year. I also describe what it was like to raise a baby amid a global pandemic. And, of course, I document some outrageously eventful nappy changes, including a few dreaded ‘up the back’ jobbies.
I took advantage of the UK’s Shared Parental Leave scheme and took four months off work to stay at home with my family, a choice that played a crucial part in developing my relationship with my son. It also helped me get to grips with my new job. Taking as much time off as possible is something I strongly urge other dads to do (circumstances permitting).
When Dear Dory came out, I had no idea what its reception would be like. Still, I’d always felt that the journaling format was a unique lens to tell a story and that by capturing pregnancy in this way, I would be able to give readers an uncensored front-row view of the whole experience, allowing them to get as close to the real thing as possible.
It turns out I was right.
I was, and often still am, blown away by messages from other soon-to-be dads confiding in me that they share many of my fears going into parenthood, and that they find solace in knowing they weren’t alone.
I’m hoping Dear Arlo will have a similar effect, letting parents know that they’re not alone, that raising a baby isn’t easy and that it’s OK to have some pretty lousy days on the job. Another highlight for readers of Dear Dory was its humour. If test-reader feedback for Dear Arlo is anything to go by, then I’m confident readers will have plenty to laugh about and enjoy – mainly at my expense.
Part of my remit as an author who writes about parenting is to speak to a lot of parents, and I’ve never come across a single one of them who believes they’re qualified for the job. We’re all headless chickens ad-libbing our way through the chaos, trying to aim broadly in the right direction, doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Some days, we feel like we’ve stuck the landing. Other days, it feels as if every life form on the planet has come together and conspired to make us feel unworthy of the title ‘parent’.
Unfortunately, that’s the gig – it’s not all cute mewling videos and skin-to-skin cuddles. But for me, the highs easily outmatch the lows and there is a long list of magical moments to enjoy, like seeing your baby sit up, take steps, smile, laugh, talk. Or my all-time personal favourite, hearing your baby say ‘Daddy’ for the first time. These are all special, sacred points in time and every single one of them is to be cherished.
If you look at old photos and videos, the images and footage act almost as a sort of search engine, a catalyst for retrieving and reliving old memories and experiences. Writing is just as effective (if not more so), and that’s why I sit down at my desk every day and write to my son. It helps me process all the emotional baggage that comes with being responsible for him, and it’s an investment for my family and me that will in due course allow us to look back on and revisit days past. Finally, and more importantly, it’s bloody good fun!