Opinion: Matthew Munson – Taking the decision to be a full-time dad

Beach fun

I try to always be very appreciative of my home, both literally – the four walls around me and the area I live in. These past two and a half months have reminded me again of its beauty; the parks right on our doorstep and the beaches that give us such views out to sea.

I’ve never been much of what you might call a beach person; some people are, and whilst I wouldn’t call them mad, if the cap fits … I jest, of course, before you start sending letters to either myself or the editor of this fine newspaper (although if you do, perhaps consider a small gift of chocolate as well).

Bryan and I went to the beach yesterday, for Bryan to see one of his friends and me to catch up with his mum; his first play date since the schools closed back in March. I was intrigued to see how the boys would react, seeing each other in person after such a long time (face time chats are never the same for kids). They both dealt with it brilliantly, and it was like they had never been apart. We ended up spending four hours together, and the two adults chatted just as easily – it was just as therapeutic for us, I would imagine, to have adult conversations.

This whole lockdown scenario has been enlightening, to say the least; we’ve slowed down and appreciated different moments in time. But I’ve also been working during the lockdown; I’ve continued working for an organisation supporting children in foster care to realise their potential, and when we make a difference – wow. But finding a balance between work and home life is hard – being a working father is very tough, I don’t mind admitting, and I don’t mind admitting that I’ve not always got it right.

After my paternity leave last year, I returned to work in November and embraced it – Bryan did too, and was very brave, despite being confused and (I suspect) nervous about it too. I think I was as well, looking back, and I’ve worked hard to find a balance over the past few months. But the lockdown brought the time conflicts into sharp relief, and I had to take a step back to evaluate what my family needed.

I ended up taking a tough decision; that my career could take a back seat whilst my family needed my focus. In just four weeks, I leave my job behind (except for occasional events where an extra pair of hands could be useful) and I call myself a full-time dad instead. I did before, when I was on paternity leave, but that was for a fixed period of time. Now, it’s for the foreseeable future, until the time is right – but now, the time is right for fatherhood to be at the centre of my life. I feel sad that I’m leaving behind a role I’ve learnt so much from and forged a powerful bond with the people I work with, but … but … but … this is more important. Bryan is more important, and I have to follow my heart.

No, I don’t “have” to follow my heart; for once, I want to. To be a parent is a privilege I never intend to forget, and I want to savour every moment – even the moments when we bicker over something or other.

And while I think about it, here’s a poser to readers; I’m going to be doing some school work with Bryan very soon on myths and legends, and I’m trying to decide how to structure his week – as well as decide the specifics of what to teach. I would welcome your thoughts.