What does being a dad mean to you? Five fathers from Suffolk and Essex share the joy, heartache and gratification that comes from being a parent

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day - Credit: Su Anderson

Daddy, papa, gramps, the old man - today we are celebrating Father’s Day with the dads of Suffolk and north Essex.

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day - Credit: Archant

We asked five very loved fathers and grandfathers what being a dad means to them.

Every now and then the whole escapade comes into focus and it all makes sense

Father-of-two Richard Porritt from near Woodbridge.

“Women always say “men get it easy”.

Well, there is some truth in that. We don’t have to go through the gruelling gestational period or the body-breaking labour.

But frankly if us chaps did carry the baby the human race would have died out long ago. Imagine the Men’s Health headline: What to cut out for ripped beach body abs - burgers, beer and babies.

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But, putting the physical aside, it is no stroll in the park. Mums have a huge support network from the moment they first announce “I’m pregnant”. Female family elders gather around with practical tips and hints for everything from expressing milk to a sleeping routine.

And mums get preparation time - as their bodies change so does their way of thinking.

Porritt and son

Porritt and son - Credit: Archant

For dads it is somewhat different. Never encouraged to explore our feelings previously we are suddenly expected to provide love for a screaming, pant-pooing, insomniac. Our usual default setting of “ignore it and it will go away” is useless. Babies, children and even the grown-ups they become need time, attention and love.

Being a dad is a seismic shock. It is like getting a promotion with loads more responsibility – and a pay cut.

I am not naturally paternal. So working at it and trying as hard as possible to get it right is what being a dad means to me. Hard work and the odd reward. Admittedly, for the most part it is rather like hard labour – what ever age they are. But every now and then the whole escapade comes into focus and it all makes sense. Then the wailing starts again.”

Am I a glutton for punishment? Bring it on!

Liam McGrath, from Redgrave, dad to one, and Happy Daddy to three granddaughters.

“Becoming a dad ushered me into an emotional world of extremes and opposites that I just didn’t know existed.

At baby’s first cry I was filled with immense happiness and an indescribable feeling of protectiveness. This almost immediately gave way to an agony of worry about baby’s future wellbeing and my own inadequacy as a dad.

And so it has been ever since. Pride at her first steps - worry that she might fall. Joy at how well she is doing at school - worry about that rather strange boy she seems overly fond of.

'Happy Dad'
Liam McGrath reading to granddaughter Matilda.

'Happy Dad' Liam McGrath reading to granddaughter Matilda.

Overwhelming happiness at how radiant she looked on her wedding day tempered with sadness at rightly being elbowed out of number one position.

The roller coaster of emotions continues with each passing year.

So is it worth it? All I can say is seeing that smile of hers and hearing “Hi dad” is priceless. And after all those years of ups and downs guess what, yes grandchildren.

Am I a glutton for punishment? Bring it on!”

She makes my day

It was in May last year that our amazing daughter Evie was born, says Brad Jones, from Ipswich.

It’s been as life-changing as everyone said it would be.

Lazy lay-ins seemingly gone forever and tiredness that leaves your brain in the densest of fogs. Suddenly there aren’t nearly enough hours in the day. All new parents know the drill.

Brad Jones and daughter Evie

Brad Jones and daughter Evie - Credit: Archant

And planning every part of my life around someone else certainly didn’t come easy to someone with a selfish streak.

But it’s also the best thing that’s happened to me. Watching Evie learn and grow up is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever experienced - and really great fun.

For me, being a dad is - currently, at least - teaching her new things: like trying to take her first steps (nearly there), her first words (oddly, I think it’s going to be ‘hoover’ - and I’ll insist she starts using it when she can say it), and trying to sleep through beyond 5.30am (very slow, work in progress). She’s now nearly 14 months old, has a brilliant personality, and I feel like we’re becoming the best of mates. Her excitement when I get home from work makes my day, every day.

At the age of 40, I may have been a latecomer to parenthood, but it was the best decision I’ve made.’

Being a dad is the best job in the world - even if the hours are unpredictable

Phil Hoodless, from Great Notley, dad to grown up daughters Amy, Natalie and Vanessa, and granddad to three-year-old George, and Matilda, 18 months.

All three of my girls now own their own homes, two are married and one has two children herself, but still they seem to call on dad when they have a drama, a household emergency or just need a taxi somewhere.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way, because it gives me a sense of pride that they all know I am there for them. I clearly did something right, and am honoured that they all remain so close to me, and their mum.

Phil Hoodless with daughter Natalie

Phil Hoodless with daughter Natalie - Credit: Archant

I can remember the moment my wife first announced she was pregnant with our first.

That first scan was nerve-wracking but that was nothing compared to the actual birth, a moment etched on my mind forever.

Then comes all the firsts - first words, being called ‘daddy’ for the first time and those first steps, all momentous occasions and moments that made me extremely proud each time around.

But being a parent means you have to take the rough with the smooth and the terrible twos is not something I would ever wish to repeat, or perhaps the troublesome teenage years, when they would whince at my dad jokes or cringe at my dad dancing - I think they all still have nightmares about me dancing to YMCA at family weddings.

It was hard to imagine at that point that they would soon be off our hands. Then, just a few short years later, they started to venture out on their own - getting jobs, going travelling, learning to drive and meeting their future husbands - and we watched on knowing we had given them the very best start we could.

Being a dad is the best job in the world and now I get to experience all of those milestones all over again as I watch George and Matilda grow up. And as well as the occasional cuddle from my girls, I get extras from my gorgeous grandchildren.”

My children are without reserve the best thing that have happened to me

Steve Dodd, from Ipswich, daddy-of-three.

Steve Dodd and daughters

Steve Dodd and daughters - Credit: Archant

“It wasn’t the best day to be asked what being a dad means to me.

I was shattered. A snotty and teething toddler had kept us awake the night before. I felt poor. Another pair of Clarks shoes and endless demands for ice cream/new felt tips/dance lessons/a pony. I felt guilty. We were running out of childcare favours and I felt I was always running off to work. Yet, despite all this, my yearnings for single-life are fleeting. My children are without reserve the best thing that have happened to me.

They fill ever inch of me with emotion - they make me feel alive. They bring out the very best in me - and sometimes the very worst. They encourage the child in me (the little boy who loved to build the tallest Lego towers or blanket dens) but in the same breathe they make me feel old and very sensible. Sometimes my sense of responsibility knocks me for six, consumed with worry and feelings of inadequacies - how can I protect, love and support them? But then something silly happens, and they explode into giggles, and I remember all is right with the world.

Some friends of my wife like to read all manner of books and articles about how to best raise your children. Things like the merits of limiting TV and tablet time and what foods to avoid, and while I’m sure they have a point, I wish my children three simple things - that they go bed every night feeling loved, happy and secure. Today, that’s job done.

Happy Father’s day to all of our dads.