Brothers in Arms- Joining the Cool Dads Club
The majority of writing on parenting is all about the mums, though to be fair they do handle the bulk of the heavy lifting. However, it’s easy to forget that it can be a daunting time for the dads and they, like mums, need somewhere to discuss their experiences.
Step forward Rob Powell and Steve Bond, founders of the Cool Dads Club website. They realised their experiences were probably shared by dads everywhere and decided to create a home for dads who actively engage with their responsibilities – Dadsnet, if you will.
We chatted to the guys about the fun and funky site as well as fatherhood.
Rob: We’ve worked at the same design company for 13 years, so unfortunately we spend more time together than with our wives! Steve: We didn’t have much in common at first. Rob was into football and trance music and I was into punk rock and skateboarding. But having the same sense of humour and thirst for design, we became friends.
Has having children changed your friendship?
Steve: It’s just given us an extra things to talk about among all the other nonsense—get rich quick schemes, generally moaning and trying to educate Rob about music!
Rob: We’ve taken the whole parenting thing and incorporated it into what we do. Being a dad doesn’t mean you have to be someone different.
What’s the story behind The Cool Dads Club?
Rob: We came up with the idea in the park one Saturday when both of our wives were working. We noticed lots of other dads out and about, playing with their kids, taking more of a share of the parenting than maybe previous generations did. We joked about starting a website, sharing our experiences, stories and tips for modern day dads.
Steve: We’re no experts—we’re just a couple of dads enjoying the experience, and wanted to hear from others who feel the same.
Do you think dads get a bit of a raw deal because of the mum-centric advice out there?
Steve: Generally parenting websites are aimed at mums. But there is an increasing number of dads who are eager to get involved and would like advice.
Rob: Our approach with Cool Dads Club is to offer real stories but with a humorous spin. Mums can look as well, if they like!
Rob: My wife Saira had a really tough 36-hour labour. But some of the bits in between were just comical. It started with us in the hospital at 11pm trying to figure out how a TENS machine worked, while the cleaners carried out their work around us. Then a complete stranger entered our cubicle to check the windows and knocked over our Jaffa Cakes. It concluded with a very young trainee doctor arriving at the critical moment. I will never forget shaking his hand and asking him if this was his first. The birth of our little fella will stay with me forever.
Steve: One thing that sticks in my mind is a holiday we went on when Zach was one. He got excited by some seagulls and started waving his arms about, managing to slice my eyeball with his fingernail. I ended up at an eye hospital. All the bad things were wiped out in an instant though, as that’s when Zach took his first steps. Such a great moment to be a parent.
They say the first few months are the hardest. What were your toughest challenges?
Rob: To be honest, I hardly remember. I had become a zombie and even the simple things were difficult. But time flies and they’re climbing the stairs before you know it.
Steve: I remember getting home the first night and both Laura and I saying, “What the hell do we do now?!”
Rob: Sleep deprivation can do crazy things to a man—we’re not great at multitasking at the best of times. But once you get through the first few months you’re less frightened about dropping them and the gaps between feeds grow so you get more sleep and function a bit better.
Rob: It’s just made us a bit more tired and grumpy.
Steve: One thing we do often ask each other is what we did with our time before the little guys came along. So maybe it’s taught us to value our time more.
Has it changed your relationship with your wives?
Rob: That’s a serious question. We’d both been with our partners for a long time before we had kids. It helped having a good relationship and friendship before becoming parents. Sleep deprivation and tantrums can really push you, but knowing when to give each other space or back one another up is a big help.
Steve: We wrote an article on Cool Dads Club about date nights, saying how important it is to spend time together. Luckily we’ve got family to hold the fort every now and then.
What’s your best piece of parenting advice?
Steve: What works for one child won’t necessarily work for another. But a bit of reassurance can do the world of good.
Rob: A couple of weeks after Rhys was born, I bumped into a dad across the road who had a few months on me, and I’ll never forgot his words. He said: “Try not to listen to other people’s advice because it probably won’t work. Do what you think’s best.” Cracking advice: nobody knows your baby like you do.