Parenting is a rewarding but tough gig. And those who say it’s easy aren’t telling the whole truth. Most parents will attest to this. And none more so than Justin Bechtold, the 40 Year Old Dad, who believes the only way to tackle the role is with a good sense of humour.
Justin Bechtold and his wife tried for 10 years to have kids. After nine tumultuous failed IVF attempts, and a trip to a witch doctor, the pair all but gave up on their child-rearing journey and moved to Bali. One month into their island life they fell pregnant naturally. Faced with the idea of fatherhood, Justin turned to his parents, who couldn’t really remember much so his wife suggested he start a blog to document his own experiences. Alongside the birth of his son, and later his daughter, the 40 Year Old Dad blog was born.
Enjoy the ride
So, what are the lessons new dads can expect to learn along the parenthood ride?
Justin pretty much sums it up when he says: “I’ve learned more lessons in parenthood than a graduating Shaolin Monk theorising professor.” As the saying goes, parenthood is the one job you’ll never have enough experience for. “Parenting is always a work in progress, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” Justin attests. “As a dad, you need to monitor and reassess your own behaviour as much as you do your kids. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is responsibility. Not just feeding, bathing, clothing, etc, but being responsible for making them feel safe, loved, respected and important. Responsible for ensuring there’s magic and fun in their lives. If your kids are scared of you, then that’s on you. You need to be responsible for noticing things like that, reassess yourself and change your own behaviour, which inevitably, changes theirs.”
It’s important to me to make their memories of childhood the most memorable and magical of times in their lives
Another thing you’ll need to prepare yourself for are the changes that are about to happen, and not just regarding the extra life you’ll be responsible for. “Certainly being a father makes me ever-present to how fleeting these childhood years are. It’s important to me to make their memories of childhood the most memorable and magical of times in their lives,” Justin explains. “It’s made me more creative, understanding and self-reflective. It’s also made me more protective of my family in both their personal and physical growth. My dad wasn’t involved as much in my childhood so I’ve taken extra steps to ensure I’m a constant presence in my own kids’ lives. I’ve been nicknamed ‘King of the Kids’ at my kids’ school and kids often flock to me to perform magic tricks, play tiggy or do silly dances.”
Laugh it off
And finally, key to Justin’s success as a dad is laughter, because sometimes, that’s all that will get your through. “There are so many funny moments it’s hard to condense them. The time when my son was a toddler in bed with us and my fart made him cry and dry-wretch like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. The moment things were ‘too quiet’ in the lounge room to discover our kids looking like ‘White Walkers’ from Game of Thrones after emptying an entire bottle of baby powder. To simple pleasures like the kids and Mumma all ganging up on me, chasing me around the house exploiting my aversion to green peas,” he says.
How to prepare
While it’s very difficult to prepare for something you can’t definitively know about, it’s still possible to do so. Sure, you can go out and get the furniture, nappies, clothes and read all the books, but it’s important to have some practical steps in place too. Things like pre-cooking meals, arranging for help if and when you need it and coordinating care days, for you and your kids, is all part and parcel. But there’s also the insurances you should consider – things like updating your health insurance, making sure any life insurance policies you have taken out are up-to-date and considering income protection insurance so you have all the protections in place to make sure your family’s needs are covered if you were to fall ill or were unable to work.