Baby number three is here! Now it’s over to dad

Richard Porritt, with newly-arrived baby Number Three

Richard Porritt, with newly-arrived baby Number Three - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup is away – recovering in a hospital bed. That’s right Number Three has arrived.

So for one week only she has left her column in the hands of her husband Richard – what could possibly go wrong?

Previously our babies have arrived with impeccable timing.

Number One turned up on a Sunday evening before a Bank Holiday Monday meaning I saved £35 on central London parking charges.

And Number Two was kind enough to arrive on a Friday afternoon allowing me plenty of time to join the boys in the pub.

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Number Three, however, had other ideas and decided to make an appearance just as Ellen sat down to complete the weekly ritual of writing this very column.

So after the safe delivery of a bouncing baby boy, she passed me the laptop and said: “Get to work – we’ve got a deadline to meet.”

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Although I too am a journalist, I am not quite like Ellen.

I don’t do witty, I don’t do personal and I certainly do not do breastfeeding.

But for the purposes of not alienating her entire readership maybe I can try a column about fatherhood.

Sadly the role of dad is often seen as surplus to requirements.

Most kids with bruised knees, sick tummies, night terrors and in need of comfort cuddles call for mum.

And more often than not, she is the one who has sacrificed her career to spend time at home responding to every whine and whimper.

Many of us chaps leave with a stolen kiss early in the morning and arrive back for stories at bedtime - if the kids are lucky.

For years my work kept me far too busy for toddler and baby groups, school runs and park play days.

In fact for a significant period as a commuter I did not see the children from Sunday evening until Saturday morning.

But all that changed earlier this year when I began working for myself and, for the first time, Ellen and I started truly sharing the childcare.

It took a bit of time but I am now an expert at calming pre-school tears, mediating the often vicious arguments of pre-teen schoolgirls and nailing tricky homework assignments.

And, if I am honest, I am really enjoying being a dad – and I recognise how lucky I am.

Rewind eight years and I would have hated playing such an instrumental role.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love my kids. I did, do and always will.

It’s more that when I first became a father, I found the whole new level of expectation inconvenient and annoying.

I was no longer able to play music at top volume. I couldn’t spend endless days watching cricket. My beloved lie-ins became hated get-ups.

Even a few years later when The Boy came tumbling into the world and projectile vomited his way through a chaos-stained first 12 months I was not ready to take proper responsibility.

Again, I loved him with all my heart but he wasn’t half hard work.

And, perhaps even more shocking than these confessions is the added revelation that my feelings came as no surprise.

I never told myself that age-old lie of “when the baby comes it will be great fun – I’ll be a great dad”.

I was fully prepared for life to be turned upside down and for me to be a dreadful, camped-out-in-the-office-but-really-in-the-pub kind of father. As it turned out I was not quite that bad – but I wasn’t far off either.

But this time it’s different. I am actually looking forward to having a baby around – in fact I have even volunteered for baby yoga sessions.

I am not worried about the noise, the sleepless nights, the nappies, the tears, the tantrums, the expense … and I have a theory as to why.

I am old enough now. Wiser. Calmer. Happier. I am ready. Finally.

Let’s hope Number One and Two don’t take legal action.

Science agrees that older dads like myself and errr…. Michael Douglas, for example, are better for the children as well.

The older dad is, the longer the telomeres - biological caps that protect the ends of chromosomes from degrading with disease and aging – become.

And this means they work better.


Of course the downside is that the older you are, the harder it is to run around and play with the kids and by the time they are at university you’ll probably be in a nursing home.

But that’s my argument against having any more than three because at this stage I should come clean and say that Mr Douglas has quite a few years on me.

I am actually only two years older - at 35 - than the national average for first time dads. But something happens to men in their 30s in my experience.

It happened to all my mates and it happened to me as well – we grow up.

Don’t snigger ladies, it really does take that long for us boys to become adults – and even then there are regular relapses.

These days I don’t long for nightclubs, trendy bars or music festivals.

A good night for me is Sky Sports and half a light ale.

So am I saying wait until you are at least 35 before you become a dad? Of course not. Each to their own.

All I’m saying is that it’s tough and absolutely everyone will make mistakes.

The downside for me is that all of mine get highlighted - with the twisted comedic mirth of my wonderful wife – in a large regional newspaper column.

I’m sure she will continue to keep you posted on her return…

Ellen Widdup will return next week

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