Step 10 – Great Escapes.

When you’re looking after kids in the house, day in day out, it can feel a bit like you’re in prison. Like Steve McQueen in ‘The Great Escape’, throwing that baseball against the wall, time after time. Except that, instead of Steve McQueen, it’s your kids. And it’s not a baseball they’re throwing, but your crockery.

Before you start tunneling out through the floor, take a look at this list of 5 great things to get out to with your kids.

1. Storytime.

Most public libraries and even some cafes run a mid-morning storytime/singalong session for kids and parents. Some toddlers don’t  sit still during the stories, but the singing and dancing is great for tiring them out in time for the afternoon nap. If the host is good they’ll throw in a few jokes for the adults along the way to keep you entertained.

2. The pool.

Kids love water. Splashing, screaming, divebombing – there’s plenty of ways to burn up that toddler energy. On the other hand, babies love a good relaxing float. Swim nappies for babies are a must, though. And make sure to time it so you hop in after they’ve done a poo. We don’t want any of those floaters!

3. Crybaby sessions.

Sounds like Hell. Listening to babies crying? What torture is this? Well, it’s not what you think. This activity involves going to a special screening at the cinema where the theatre is full of parents and babies. A lot of cinemas have them, especially the smaller independent places. It’s a great way to catch a flick without having to worry about your kid piping up at the wrong moment and ruining the atmosphere. The atmosphere is already full of cries. Unless the little ones are all asleep. Still, there’s a reason the movies are subtitled!

4. The park.

The good old park. If you’re lucky enough to have a play-park close to you, make the most of it! A 30 minute spell of running about between swings and slides and seesaws and sandpits can be the difference between a  little angel and a destructive dynamo when it comes to nap time. As long as the equipment is age appropriate you can also get the chance to chat to other parents that may be there. If you have the place to yourself, why not join in the play. Go on! Down the slide! Nobody’s watching…

5. The beach.

Who doesn’t love the beach? Ok, maybe whales and dolphins, but most other higher mammals do – including your child. There are waves to run from, sand to build castles with, and discoveries to be made in the rock pools. Why not get an ice-cream and walk along the beach, teaching Junior how to skim pebbles? Go on, show the kids your amazing record of 7 skips of stone along the water…if they have the time.

‘Hold on…1,2,3…aah!…

wait, wait, wait…1,2,3,4,5…gah!…

this time,this time..1,2.3,4…bah!…

Hey…Wait up!!!’

So… if you feel like every day is Groundhog Day, just remember this motto:

Don’t break down. Break out!


Step 9 – EXPOsure Therapy

Many psychologists believe that the best way to overcome anxiety is to expose the patient to the feared object/situation in a secure and controlled environment. Following this line of thinking, I took a deep breath, went to my safe place inside, and toddled along to the ‘Pregnancy, Babies & Children’s Expo’ that’s currently touring  Australia.

After all, how bad could it be?

The key to running a large-scale public attraction (if I recall my teenage years playing Theme Park) is traffic flow. In other words, getting the customers from start to finish, making sure they get to all the important  points in between. The analysis of crowd flows is often used by supermarkets to maximise sales and police departments to predict how protestors will behave.

The Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre must have done a bit of crowd analysis before hosting ‘Australia’s Favourite Parenting Expo’, judging by the perfectly planned layout of the foyer that led a long line of mostly-Mums to the event.

First stop, the mobile coffee shop where Mums and Dads can fuel up and wake up, respectively. De-caf for the breastfeeders, full strength for the bottle-feeders and double shots for Dad. Once the kids’ faces have been prised from the glass wall of muffins, next stop is the toilet.

The combination of weak pelvic floor muscles and diuretic beverage makes this stop a necessity for Mum, but a trip to the loo also offers the chance for baby to freshen up and Dad to wipe the cold sweat from his brow.

Onwards to the ATM. After all, although the goal is to blag as many free samples as possible, there might actually be something worth buying!

The queue is long and has been there long before the 10am opening. No sleep-ins anymore for this crowd. Anticipation and toddlers’ frustration building, eventually the pram-train rolls forward and the Expo welcomes us with grins and goodies.

I felt like a soldier entering a warzone. Much of what followed was a blur. However, with the aid of hypnotherapy I was able to locate these fragments from the recesses of my memory:

Dorothy the Dinosaur & Captain Feathersword – The on-stage entertainment. Although they may sound like  a psychedelic rock band from the 70s, they are in fact characters from kiddies supergroup The Wiggles.

The Booby Trapper – A novel and funky design for a nursing cover that was…wait for it… born in the USA!

Nursing Cover, Nursing Blanket

Nosefrida the Snotsucker – Not a Viking. Instead, a nasal aspirator for unblocking children’s noses and European baby product of the year. You’ve gotta love those Europeans.

Australian Breastfeeding Association – An important stall for Mums to visit for a wealth of information from trained nurses about milk-related issues.


Panadol for ChildrenI don’t really agree with giving painkillers to kids. On the other hand, after your Expo experience you may want to swing by their table and get some yourself for that splitting headache!


He probably should’ve made that a double dose…

Step 4 – Opening Night

If I can tailor the the words of Swedish playwright Henrik Ibsen to suit this important step: “You should never have your best trousers on when you go out to fight for freedom and truth… or help a woman through labour.”

The plays of Ibsen tell us a lot about giving birth, concerned as they are with stresses, inner pressure and self fulfillment. They have much in common, and so give Dads a peek through the curtain at what to expect on opening night. For example, the dialogue in both cases is a mixture of sentence fragments and exclamations, and what’s on view is potentially shocking to a conservative audience. However, the most obvious similarity between the two is structural – each is comprised of 3 ‘Acts’.

Act 1The Cervix Opens

The longest stage of labour, it sets the scene for the action and can itself be split up into three parts.

Scene 1.1 – Early Labour

The cervix thins out and opens up to a diameter of 3-4cm. Contractions can be gentle and more than 5 minutes apart.  To avoid discomfort, encourage your partner to move around, take a shower/bath, and try different positions.  For some women, early labour starts and stops, lasting for days. Others progress smoothly towards…

Scene 1.2 – Active Labour

The plot speeds up from this point on. Powerful contractions, coming every 3-4 min, rapidly open the cervix in this stage – but it can still last for hours. Employ relaxation techniques and back massage with your partner, and in between contractions give fluids and snacks to eat to keep her energy levels up. Also, cycle through the phrases “That’s it”, “Well done” and “Breathe”.

Scene 1.3 – Transition

A labouring woman’s waters will commonly break during transition, so change into your trackies. Covering the period from 8-10cm dilation, this can be an overwhelming stage for many women. Contractions come in double waves and your partner may become irrational – saying horrible things to you. She doesn’t really mean them. Still, write them down for later…


After the transitional phase there may be a lull as your partner’s body gathers itself for the task of pushing baby out. You just might be able to nip out for a Choc-Top.

Act 2 – Down And Out

Now there’s a big enough gap down there, the uterus changes gear and starts pushing baby down into the birth canal. This is not a series of locks, but one of many euphemisms that refer to the vagina. Use gravity as an aid by helping your partner up.

Act 3 – Enter The Placenta

Once baby is out, smaller contractions deliver the placenta – a dinner-plate sized organ which has been nourishing your child over the last 9 months. You may want to have a look but there will probably be no resemblance.


There you have it. ‘Labour: A Three Act Play’. Now you’ve seen it, work with your partner to push your child out into the world – it’s good practice for when you have to do it again in 25 years time!

Step 3 – Coming to terms with the terms.

When a man’s got a job to do, he needs tools. But you won’t need a hammer or saw for this labour. All you need are some handy jargon words and definitions.

It’s time to run through some of the things a Dad needs to be aware of when his partner goes into labour. This is necessary because, unless you time-warp back to the 1950s, you will probably be there to see the show. Suffice to say : like a spectator in the front row of a stand-up performance, you will inevitably become part of the act. So know your stuff!

These are some of the terms that my wife suggested (insisted) I learn:

Dilation – From time to time in the hospital, a nurse will check your partner’s dilation, by seeing how many fingers she can fit through the opening in the cervix, the muscle wall that holds a baby in the womb. The goal is a gap of 10cm. That’s ten fingers. Two hands. Yep.

Epidural – At some stage during labour, your partner may shout this word at you, the midwife, or even the hospital janitor. An epidural is a potent anaesthetic administered into the spinal column. Like absinthe, it numbs from the waist down and usually has no lasting effects apart from involuntary shaking as its influence wanes. While a popular form of pain relief, epidurals greatly increase the chance of further medical intervention during the labour.

Oxytocin – Amazingly, this naturally produced chemical is referred to as “the hormone of love”. It is created as a result of such actions as kissing, lovemaking, hugging or watching ‘Love Actually’. What’s also amazing is that this description is not only used by people who sleep under dreamcatchers, but by doctors and scientists. Keeping oxytocin levels high during labour relaxes the mother and helps speed up the process – so why not put some Barry White on the iPod labour playlist?

Perineum – The stretch of skin between the vagina and the anus – not the ancient Greek who slew the gorgon Medusa. That was Perseus. You may have to summon some of his courage, however, if called upon to massage this area during labour to prevent it tearing during the final stage. If this does happen, perhaps follow Perseus’ example and don’t look, else you be turned to stone…

Episiotomy – If, when the baby’s head pops out, the attending doctor suspects that the mother’s perineum is likely to tear, then he will make an incision, increasing the diameter of the vagina. This is promptly stitched up after the baby has been delivered. NOTE: It is accepted practice for the father not to ask the doctor to put an extra stitch in.

Crowning – The baby’s head is beginning to come out. When you hear the phrase “The baby is crowning”, that is your cue to stop fiddling with the camera settings and get down there to greet the new arrival!!!


Step 2 – The Changingman

Mod muso and ‘Dadrock’ legend, Paul Weller, might not have written “The Changingman” in honour of the new father – but that’s what you’ll need to become unless you want to end up in a Jam.

We’re not just talking about the changes that involve wipes and bum-cream.  A child plopping into the mix can transform everything. Not only your fudge cake recipe. It’s arrival can create mere ripples in your previously smooth life, or you may feel like you’re facing down a tsunami. Either way, the best thing you can do is embrace it, prepare yourself and learn to ride the wave

Outlined below are some of the ways in which these baby-changes commonly manifest themselves:


Dinner dates may increasingly be staged in restaurants whose ambient noise will drown out piercing cries. You’ll find that there are some places, perhaps even your former haunts, where babies are not welcome. Fair enough. No-one wants a sharp pain in the ear, while sampling the nose on their Shiraz or pouring a well earned pint down their throat.

There might not be as many pubs, clubs or live gigs on the cards as there used to be. That’s understandable. If the bouncers didn’t let the other guy in the door because of his Nikes, how can you expect your baby’s ribboned booties to elicit anything other than a “Not tonight mate. Not in those shoes”?

While these changes may seem restrictive, they are actually doing you a favour. No-one wants to have to deal with a child while nursing a hangover. A baby’s cries have been designed via the process of evolution to be impossible for its parents to ignore and, unlike mobile phones, you can’t switch their profile to silent and disappear back under the covers.


Do not operate heavy machinery in the early days of being a Dad. A lack of sleep can initally produce to a manic and slightly enjoyable mental state, but once that passes it’s all downhill and eventually it can kill you! As a new Dad, you’ll feel the effects of broken sleep.

You usually notice the change through other people’s behaviour. Women typing their PIN at the ATM may glance nervously over their shoulder at the the bloodshot eyes of the new Dad behind them. You may attract the attention of shop assistants more often, as you dither in the centre of a store wondering what the hell you came in for. You may even find that you have, like Mr.Magoo, wandered unknowingly through various life threatening (and comical) near-miss situations in your new Dad daze.

On the plus side, however, your status as a new Dad will endow you with almost superhuman abilities. Abilities that will allow you to:

  • Walk in complete silence on any surface and in any footwear.
  • Detect the rustle of bedcovers at a distance of 500 yards.

And, most importantly…

Fall asleep, when you do get the chance, absolutely anywhere!


Step 1 – The Buff Dad Workout.

Ok, so you’re going to be a Dad. Be embarrassed by your dancing – not what’s under your shirt.

Milliseconds after hearing those memorable words,
“Honey, you’re going to be a father”, you may have felt a strange sinking feeling. You may have detected a slight wobble in your balance. Don’t worry. It wasn’t a disruption in the Force. What you experienced was your gut relaxing out and down, sensing that its days of being worked out (or sucked in) were finally at an end.

After all, flat stomachs are for those young bucks who are still trying to mimic the Darwinian feat you’ve just accomplished. “We’ve been through a lot, you and I”, you may whisper, stroking your trusty tum amidst a mental montage of sit-ups, pies, pints and belly-button biscuit crumbs.

These gut feelings are understandable, but a ‘sympathetic pregnancy’ paunch is not.

Why do men feel that it’s ok to let go when their partner is prego? In parts, it’s unconscious conditioning and our perception of what is normal. It’s about what you’re exposed to when you’re young. Ever wondered why all of the stories your Dad told you, when you were lying in his bed as a kid, involved someone walking up a hill? It was probably because he didn’t know his BMI from his IBM. He certainly hadn’t encountered ‘The Buff Dad Workout’.

Created by American Mike Levinson R.D. (which, alas, stands for ‘Registered Dietician’, not ‘Real Dad’), this fitness and diet regime is tailor made to ensure that you have less blubber than your new bubba. Although ‘The Buff Dad Workout’ is designed as a four-week routine of good eating and exercise, in on-again-off-again ‘man-time’ that means you should finally complete the program just before you’re called into action.  It’s very masculine as you’d expect and consequently it’s all about dumbbells, big balls and Atlas-esque squats. And it’s only available in old, dependable book form. Very solid. Very ‘Dad’.

You can start ‘The Buff Dad Workout’ in pre-season, so to speak, and keep it going once you’re match fit and in the game. Why not include your new arrival in the routine – as a replacement for your weights? A great way to spend some quality time while setting a good example for the next generation. Similar sentiments are at the foundation of ‘Catflexing’, which sees a feline companion take the role of dumbbell/baby. This form, however, is less humane – as during the first few months of a child’s life the cat is actually the more intelligent life form.

So that’s ‘The Buff Dad Workout’. But will you need it?

You will if you want to:

  • Carry that ‘compact’ nappy-bag which, once it’s full, wouldn’t get past an airport check-in desk.
  • Make it to 100 in the ‘Daddy-I-want-to-touch-the-ceiling-again’ game.

…And most importantly

  • Have the stamina to keep rocking little Junior in your arms for just that little bit longer, so you know that they’re actually asleep. This time.