New Dad Diaries 29: Dad’s lowest point




Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week – Chris navigates a low point in his fathering journey.  

I had my lowest moment as a father this week. It was Sunday night, and my wife was at a carol concert at our church. Thea was tucked up in her cot, fast asleep and I had free rein of the TV.   

Just as I pressed play on the Premiership Rugby highlights, Thea woke up crying. I ran up the stairs faster than a prime Jason Robinson, armed with some formula milk, hoping that this would settle her.  That was by no means guaranteed, as until this point she had been almost exclusively breastfed. But milk is milk, right?   

Wrong. Thea did not want it. Nor did she want me. She only wanted mum. That’s nothing personal of course, but I have got to say it sucked.

For over an hour, I could do nothing to settle her. She was getting louder and angrier, and she whipped herself up into a panic. I tried giving her solid foods, cuddling her, jigging her and singing to her (which in fairness would make most people weep). Nothing was easing her suffering.

At one point, to stay calm, I gently put Thea back into her cot, walked into the other room and screamed silently into my pillow. I did this for all of ten seconds, then walked back into her room, picked her up and tried again to settle her. I recommend this strategy for any dad, as it allows you to release any pent-up emotion, gain some composure and go again. You are more useful to your baby that way, and it also prevents you from showing anger toward them – which is not helpful.

Still, nothing was working, and can I be honest?  It all eventually became too much for me. I picked up Thea’s favourite book, Dear Zoo, read the first page and started sobbing. To see my girl in distress and to not be able to help her was the worst feeling. I absolutely hated it. A father’s protective instinct is a powerful thing, and not being able to do so was torture. I have told you before that parenting was a humbling journey, but this was my lowest point yet.

In a random twist of fate, the sight of her father crying made Thea laugh. This plus reading Dear Zoo over and over and over and over and over again, kept her settled until her mum got home.  At which point a quick breastfeed got her back to sleep.   

With Thea now cuddled up to her mum, I remember walking down the stairs feeling like a fraud of a father. I beat myself up for being weak, for the moments that I felt powerless or angry at Thea, and for ultimately not being able to help my little girl in her moment of need. I wouldn’t wish this feeling on any father, although my guess is, we all have or will experience it.

Which is why I have shared this with you. As much as I would rather not share my low points with the whole world, there is so little out there to help Dad’s navigate the challenges of fatherhood, that I felt I had to. There is no harder job than being a parent, largely because you love and care for someone so much that you’d do anything to stop them suffering; the harsh fact is, sometimes you can’t.  

When this moment comes for you – and it will – let me tell you what I wish someone had told me before I started to feel like a failure. Your little one doesn’t need you to have all the answers. They just need you. In other words, think of it less as an outcome – stopping them from crying – and more of a process, namely that in their time of need you are there for them and you are going nowhere. That may not stop them crying immediately but this powerful message will save them many tears later on.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Being a present father is both wonderful and difficult in equal measure. It’s good to spend time with other dads who know what its like. Grab a steak and a beer with a mate. It’s important.   

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.

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