Brett (that's him on the right) is an Australian living in London, in a civil partnership with his partner. He’s a high-end Soho hairstylist who freelances in the fashion industry and has developed brands for companies like Soho House and Cowshed. He has a 21 year old daughter, who he met for the first time seven years ago. She lives in Australia. When he was meeting her, his partner became one of the first single gay guys to adopt in the UK. Their son is now 10. Together they recently adopted a three year old daughter. Brett, his partner their son and three-year old live together in East London. They see Brett’s eldest daughter in Australia as much as they can, usually once or twice a year and want to see much more of her.
At the moment it means the most that it's ever meant and I'm sure I’ll keep saying that as years go by.
I think it’s like you've got this little secret bond that no one really knows about. Your partner knows a little bit, especially mine because he's a dad as well. It’s almost like a little secret society. With each child you've got different keys that open different doors, each leading down different paths. Every day you're opening different doors and going down a different path. Some are amazing paths that you want to explore. Others aren't so amazing. It's forming these pathways with each child that’s so amazing. It’s a little secret club where you explore each other, you help each other and choose different ways forward, and you help them grow and grow together.
I hope there’s something in all dads of today that makes us take on those roles of parenthood that aren't necessarily what our forebears took on. We want to share the parenting, the housework and the bread winning. I think that we all want to work to make that dream of having a great relationship with your kids come true. As my husband has now gone back to work we have both decided to work four days a week. This gives us more time with the kids which is great.
If you'd asked me that question when I was 19 or 20 I’d have told you it hasn't changed me at all because I wasn't present in my eldest daughters life. I was an absent father. I had a daughter but I wasn't a dad. Anyone can have a child but it’s not until that moment you take responsibility, have an attachment and form that bond that you become a dad. It’s about giving, you have to give consciously. Being a dad is about being really present in a child's life.
When I finally met her in Australia, she was 13. It was also the time my partner got the go ahead to adopt our son. We were on the phone to each other and I was saying 'oh my god she's so beautiful, I love her’. Then he’s saying ‘oh my god he’s so beautiful, I love him'. It was one of the craziest moments of our life.
It wasn't just meeting her that made me a dad. That was just a meeting. It was me forming a bond, starting to email and call her once a week. Sitting on the end of the phone and those silences when I'm like 'just what do I talk about now?!' I'd literally write down points before the call. She was a teenager so she'd answer every question with a 'yeah' or 'no.' She would be yawning and I'm thinking it's going so badly. After a while, when we formed the basis of a relationship, we agreed to chat when we've got something to really talk about. It works perfectly. I remember what I was like at that age, as long as you have parental security, you just want to enjoy life and have fun. Knowing that your parents will be there for you when you need them, as I will always be.
So now there’s lots of contact through social media, texts, Facebook, Instagram. She’s working full time and living by herself. I couldn't be any more proud or confident of the adult she is and has become. I also can’t believe my daughter is 21. Where did the time go!!
We've officially just adopted our youngest daughter a year ago. I'm going through the process of officially becoming my 10 year old's adopted dad, rather than step dad, which we’re all very excited about. Three years ago my partner and I had a civil partnership ceremony in the UK. We also had the ceremony in Australia, where we're both from. Although it’s not legal in Australia yet, we wanted all our family and friends to share in our celebration. My eldest daughter walked me, and our boy walked my partner, down the aisle. There was so much laughter and tears of joy. It was such an amazing day.
After the ceremony, our adopted son turned to my partner and said 'What do I call Brett? I want to call him dad, can I call him dad?' Of course my partner said yes, so for a few weeks he'd say 'dad' and we'd both turn round!
I talked to him about calling me a different name, so our son said ‘I know, I'll call you daddy-b and I'll call dad, dada.' So I'm daddy b. I love it, he's got that tune - daddy, daddy-bee...Now since we've adopted our youngest daughter, she’s started to call me BB and Dada Papa, so I guess even our names are evolving.
Support, trust and respect. However your partner is parenting, the other partner should have the confidence in their parenting skills to support them. We trust and respect that we can both love, nourish and discipline our child in the best way. We respect and back each other’s decisions. We're a two man team.
Our son is amazing, kind and considerate (call me biased) but he’s also just been through a stage where everything we asked him to do is too hard. Probably as we have a little one and he has to do a little more for himself, us and his little sister. He would say 'BB, why do I have to be such a slave?! everything is soooo hard or Papa, why do I have to do this, or that?'
One of us will always explain why we ask him to do more and that this is part of growing up and helping. The other partner will come up and say 'son, do you realise how you're talking at the moment? Because as an outsider it doesn't sound very nice at the moment, so let’s take a minute and work out how we can communicate properly.' We really do operate as a team. It shows our kids that we are a family unit and we work together.
We also back each other up on the good stuff too. We both acknowledge when our son has done something amazing, like school work or activities after school. I was on the phone to my partner last night, he was saying how our little girl is doing so well with her potty training. Now that’s amazing and I have to tell her how proud I am of her!
Knowing how to work together with your partner is also knowing when they need a break. We both have different interests and make sure that we both take time out individually or together so we can have our time too.
To look at my kids as adults and be proud of who they are, hopefully parenting their own kids. My dad was a loving, hands on dad. He was a lifesaver when he was young and a gymnast, and I guess I followed in his footsteps when I was growing up just because I wanted to be like him. I also love art and culture so I'm giving my kids every opportunity to explore what gives them happiness.
When it comes down to it, I want them to be unique and have the confidence to express themselves, to be whatever they want to be.
My children are all beautiful individuals. They’ll have a great chat with anyone they meet, even my two year old. We teach them to have good morals, to be responsible and to be their own person. That’s what really matters to us.
I also want to look back and know that I've taken time and effort to understand them and that they have understood me.
My husband and I don’t like routine. We also love travel and I love to consider myself a free spirit that loves time out, wandering through galleries, going out and all that.
Of course being a dad and being a parent revolves around school and nursery runs and extracurricular activities. There’s always something to do and the diary is full before the month starts. But creating, sticking to, and just the general feeling of routines is tough though. Sometimes it feels like parenting is all about routines and schedules.
You can get to the end of the week, look back and think ‘how did we do all that?!’ Then next week, you do it again. We’re lucky enough to have a little cottage out in the country, so we escape there to chill as a family.
We travel a lot with our kids. We’re keen on the idea of having a few months’ sabbatical and going travelling for a few months as a family. It would be amazing to give them that experience, but we want the youngest to be old enough first.
So hopefully we always find ways to escape the routine.
Checking yourself to make sure you’re present in your child’s life mentally and physically. Working in Soho, living in the middle of London it would be really easy to just ‘have’ kids.
I check myself in terms of who I am now and who I used to be when I didn't have kids. For me now I try to always put the children first. Ten years ago, I’d have been up for staying up until 5 and have a good time. Now I'm in the door by 10.30/11 because I want to enjoy the morning and next day with my children. I want to be present and positive because they’re going to be excited for a new day.
You've got to make it amazing though. It doesn't always work, sometimes mornings or afternoons can be just hours of craziness. So you have to check yourself there and make sure that that craziness ends and that the next few days are amazing again. I want them to believe things are amazing. Believe in a constant 'aaaahhhhh' not 'uuurrrgggghhh'.
I think staying on track is about constantly checking yourself to see what role you’re playing in your child’s life.
It makes you better in every which way. You’re responsible for another living human being. A person who's looking to you for love and guidance. I don’t want to sound all preachy, but as soon as you give yourself a little you get back, so much. Rewards that you had never imagined before having kids.
Every minute of every day you spend with your kids, they’re looking to you for love and learning and you’re getting all their love and learning back. It's a give-give that always makes you a better person, because you want to be a better person.
Dad is a beautiful word, person is a generic version of that. You have to be a better person to be a better dad. You just keep on checking yourself, seeing how your kids are doing, rechecking yourself. That’s how I look at it anyway.
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