From Fear to Paternity

Wingwalking WebresIntroducing NICK THORPE, journalist, travel writer, adoptive dad… and now National Development Officer for Fathers Network Scotland.

I love being a dad. It’s the hardest and richest thing I’ve ever done.

Before my son came along, I liked to think of myself as a self-reliant kind of guy, a journalist and travel writer with a passion for risk-taking. I crossed the Pacific on a reed boat, stood on the wings of a biplane, circumnavigated Scotland – but it turns out none of it was half as challenging as being a good dad. Or half as rewarding either.

That’s why I’m so excited to be starting work for Fathers Network Scotland. Because it’s often the emotional stretches many of us find hardest – the risk of reaching out to others for help, opening up to our partners, being honest about our needs, nurturing our children. And FNS is there to facilitate all of this, through the range of organisations we support in helping us men be the best dads we can.

A HINGE POINT

I’m looking forward to comparing stories with some of you as I take up my new role as National Development Officer at FNS and use my media experience to spread the positive news about dads. I want to connect as many people as possible to all the support that’s available through this young and expanding network. I believe we’re witnessing one of those hinges in history where the FNS message has a more receptive audience than ever.

With help from FNS founder David Drysdale and other like-minded people and organisations, the Scottish Government is now pushing for “dad-friendly” policies and services at the heart of its parenting policy, backed by a comprehensive report by the Equal Opportunities Committee last May. Scottish society seems finally to be grasping that “dad-friendly” does not mean “anti-mum”. Quite the opposite: the vision of FNS is progressive, egalitarian and child-centred. Because supporting men to be better fathers in the home will ultimately help the equality of women in the workplace – and allow every child benefit from the love of more than one parent.

Once a rare sight in a world where women shouldered all responsibility, dads are slowly but surely taking our places at the school gates, in toddler groups and early years education. It’s not happening fast enough, but we’ll change that as employers’ attitudes shift. It’s a win-win-win message, and I’m privileged to be able to help spread it.

HIGHS & LOWSNick Thorpe

I say that not because I’m now paid to, but because I’m a dad myself, living all the highs and lows and joys and frustrations that involves. My son is nine years old now, and he’s changed my life in a way none of my previous adventures ever could. Never mind wing-walking – can I handle a full-blown tantrum in the supermarket, or the question last thing at night: “Dad, what happens when we die?”

My son calls on me constantly to take the risk of intimacy, coaxes me to play as well as plan, pushes me into unnerving new situations with no map. And he has shown me how much I need the support of others to be a good parent: my wife, school staff, other dads. Whether it’s through organised peer groups or the unexpected kindness of strangers, I no longer default to that slightly solitary self-reliance we men are supposed to embody. Now the key is connection.

And that’s what Fathers Network Scotland facilitates: connections, resources and support for those who are committed to helping dads do it better. I look forward to connecting with many of you in the coming months as we share and develop that vision.

In the meantime, if you have 20 minutes to spare, I hope you’ll enjoy this TEDx video which tells my own personal story of the turbulent and risky journey that led to me becoming a dad – from fear to paternity, you might say! As you’ll see, I’m anything but an expert in the business of fatherhood, but I hope it gives you a sense of the passion and questions I bring to this new role…