Wednesday, 25 May 2016

What is post-fatherhood drinking like? Part 1.

A suitable amount of time has passed now from the birth of my child, and I thought it was time I broached the subject of post-fatherhood drinking. How do your drinking habits change? What is it like? Is there life after parenthood?

I’ll be addressing all these questions as I take you now… into the dad zone. And I swear this will be the last time I talk about kids – unless something hilarious happens that is specifically relevant to the narrative, or I figure drinking at childrens’ parties is worthy of its own post. Time will tell.

Sadly for Mrs Cake, purging her womb of the little one doesn’t really make her any closer to renewing her acquaintance with alcoholic drinks. She’s breastfeeding and despite what people tell you about drinking while in the act of breastfeeding being fine, it just doesn’t seem right. People are so judgemental of mothers these days and anyway – just because the alcohol won’t be in your breastmilk at the instant you’re drinking, what about an hour later when your newborn wants to feed again? Where can you draw the line? Po’ Mrs Cake.

To be fair, it’s not just the lack of alcohol for which she deserves our pity – she’s essentially got nothing to look forward to now besides 12 months of baby care. I at least get to go to work 5 times a week, and while I’d probably rather be able to stay at home with our daughter, the reality of that would be far worse than you can imagine. Yes, Mrs Cake will get more precious moments than I will, but she has to assume responsibility for everything, and there’s no real prospect of leaving our little princess in anyone else’s care. I can merely help out in evenings and weekends and try to alleviate some of the strain. Can you tell it’s still the first month as I write this? It’s hard. Relentless. Po’ Mrs Cake.

Yes, I will go home tonight, and instead of going to band practice – from which I’ve taken a sabbatical in order to share the parenting load – I can have a beer while I cook tea, then later I can have a glass or two of spirits. Enough to relax and appreciate the boozy craftsmanship and maybe give me something to write about. Not so much that I can’t care for our daughter, get up in the middle of the night, and then still get up in time for work tomorrow morning.

As far as my home drinking is concerned, the biggest inconvenience so far is that little Sylvie will require some attention moments after I’ve sat down with my ice cold beer. I like my beer ice cold, and I’m always painfully aware that every second I’m away from it, some of that vital cold energy that I’ve imbued it with by keeping it in the fridge (or freezer) for so long is being lost and hence, my potential enjoyment is frittering away. I may sound annoying to you, but I’m probably exaggerating mainly.

The point is, as a result of our Distinct Beers Challenge, I tend to spend more on bottles of beer these days and I want to enjoy them as much as possible. Sometimes that doesn’t always happen now because I’ve had to take little Sylvie to the nursery for some daddy-daughter time and change her nappy and sometimes her clothes and sometimes both and sometimes both twice. After that she may be wide awake and I might want to try entertaining her for a while. I’ll try to grab a sip or two of my beer in the meantime, but it’s already approaching room temperature after the nappy episode. A lot of the time it takes two hands to bounce our spawn up and down, pat her back or whatever – and you don’t want to be burping beer fumes into her little face – that would be rude, and it’s never too early to start teaching manners – though we haven’t stopped swearing or watching grown-up programmes while she’s in the room yet.

Such things a new dad takes in his stride. You just do it because you have to and this little person is important to you. I’m not complaining, it’s just a thing. I’m observing it. I refuse to be one of those people that complains about their kids. Yes it would be nice to drink that beer uninterrupted, but it’s just a beer isn’t it? And our little girl’s a delight, even if she’s screaming in your ear, headbutting you in the face and struggling in your arms.

Other slight changes to my drinking habits concern my irish cream intake. I took the first 3 weeks of little Sylvie’s life off work, which was lovely and gave Mrs Cake and I the chance to have fresh ground coffee every morning, like we do at the weekend. I found though, that while I might normally replace the milk in mine with irish cream, I did so… much less – because I might need to drive our precious bundle somewhere and, while a drop of irish cream in coffee doesn’t really represent enough alcohol to make a difference, my little girl is more important than enjoying Columbo accompanied by coffee and irish cream. Not complaining, just an observation. Mind you, I haven’t been able to enjoy an episode of Columbo properly since the birth – there’s always lots of noise, something else is being done at the same time and the subtitles on these low budget tv channels are either way ahead or way behind the lieutenant.

One of my worries about becoming a parent was whether we would become boring people. Would we be compelled to talk about our child all the time to everyone? I’ve been determined not to, but there is a world outside the home for me – less so for Mrs Cake. We’re both fairly resolved not to post every little thing on Facebook though. I still mostly post stupid things and I’ve posted barely anything about our little girl so far, though I have taken lots of photos and film footage.

So we wondered one Friday evening when Sylvie was three weeks old, what will we talk about when Pablo and Veronica come round? We’d invited them over for pizza and, as very good friends who were committed to childless lives, we wanted to maintain our friendship however we could.

We actually talked about all kinds of things. Luckily they are interesting people who are always doing lots of things, and we can just talk about crap instead of serious adult matters – even Mrs Cake, for whom it must have been difficult as caring for a baby is her life at the moment, and the only people she gets to talk to in her day are other mothers who talk about babies.

People say, “you won’t be able to go out and get smashed” or “you’ll never get another lie in”, but I don’t really do those things anymore anyway. I’d probably like to at some point, but Mrs Cake and I have already agreed to facilitate each other’s nights out by looking after little Sylvie over night and well into the next day while the other one has fun and then recovers. We just need to wait until a proper routine can be established and the breastfeeding is over. That may be some months off, but the thing about time is that it passes.

We’ve manged to get out to the pub once or twice in the afternoon, though not in the evening yet, and it’s fine as long as you’ve got your changing bag and mummy’s breasts with you. You can’t just stay out all day, or make a sudden decision to go on a crawl or anything, but you won’t be as bothered about this as you might think.

The first big test looked like it would be this year’s Indy Man Beer Con that we’d bought tickets to, just on the off-chance that we’d be able to work something out. Sadly, you can’t get a professional babysitter until your child is 6 months old, and my parents had a prior engagement to attend my nephew’s birthday party. I could possibly have booked them earlier, but I didn’t want it to be as soon after the birth as it would have had to have been.

Mrs Cake and I have entered into parenthood a little later into life than might perhaps be advisable, and the reason is that for many years we just weren’t sure. I certainly wasn’t ready, but mostly we looked at parents around us, and what we knew about parenting, and didn’t really want to see ourselves doing it. That did change. One day I realised I was getting bored with life. What was there to look forward to beyond going to work, just to earn enough money to go on holiday, have some evenings out and buy some bottles of fancy booze? It was fine, like, but when you picture that that is all there is, stretching into your future… it’s a bit depressing. And just like that, I realised there needed to be something to give life meaning. So I found god. Just kidding. I didn’t find god.

We still weren’t entirely sure, but it’s funny how your mind seems to prepare you subconsciously for these things once the decision is taken. Before we became pregnant I worried that having a child to be responsible for would be a burden, that I’d have to worry more about the state of the world and the future, and that I wouldn’t be up to the task. Those worries started to fade once we were pregnant, though I was still apprehensive about all the work we’d have to do – hundreds of nappy changes, feeds, sleepless nights and all that. But that’s all when the baby is still an abstract concept. Once it’s an actual, living, breathing human being all that changes. You just do all those things and you don’t care so much about all the things you were worried about compromising on before. I must have said it before, but when little Sylvie was born I changed from being apprehensive about the future to looking forward to it. We do have a lean period coming up, when there will be less money to spend on ourselves as we make up for a dip in Mrs Cake’s salary as she takes extended maternity leave that I’m slightly worried about but… we’ll just deal with it. You do.

So yes, things will change but you can be ok about it. 

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