Tony is a dad blogger who I’ve only recently discovered. The thing that instantly drew me in when I read Papa Tont is Tony’s honesty. He covers emotive topics that parents need to read, but not many are willing to open up about.
The other thing I find rather refreshing about Tony is that he is unashamedly glum. When I asked him to feature in this series, he was adamant that there was nothing inspirational about him. This theme continues within the interview with his inability to admit that he’s ever achieved anything great.
But aside from all his other achievements I think working, parenting and finding time to write a blog that helps people to be more open about the tough side of parenting is pretty amazing in itself. Don’t you?
1. Tell me about the most unexpected change to you as a person or to your life since becoming a parent?
As bizarre as it sounds, the biggest change in me is actually wanting to be a parent. I have never been a “natural” dad; I was always exceptionally uncomfortable around children, often preferring to shake their hands or pat their heads than give them cuddles. When children asked me a question, I would always answer in a very grown up way giving frank and often graphically honest answers – much to the horror of their parents. I never really wanted to have children, and after mine were born I didn’t love them, I felt little towards them other than as objects that I was responsible for the maintenance and care of. It wasn’t until they were about 2 or 3 years old and having developed their own personalities and the ability to talk with me, that I grew to love them. I’m now a completely different person. The depth of my love for my kids can’t be measured; I get down to their level, have fun, act childishly and often seem like the third child in our family.
2. What has been the biggest challenge you have faced since having children?
I think the previous answer kind of eludes to this already, but my biggest challenge was learning to love my kids. The inner turmoil that I was trying to privately tackle was an almost impossible fight: why didn’t I feel this overwhelming sense of love at the moment my children were born like so many other fathers and TV had assured me I would feel. What was wrong with me? It wasn’t until I spoke with a group of dads who said that they felt exactly the same way as I did, but openly lied about immediately loving their children because they thought society would turn on them that I realised I wasn’t abnormal, it was just going to be a bit more difficult for me to build a relationship with my kids.
3. What do you regard as your greatest achievement?
What a question and I don’t think I have an answer. Many would look at my life and say that I have achieved so much: I have (so far) raised two healthy and (relatively) well brought up children without anything major going wrong, I have forged a modestly successful career in the military, and have provided a quite comfortable lifestyle for my family. But in reality, I see these as expected norms that I should be doing. I chose to have my family, I’m obligated to create a safe environment in which it can thrive. Anything less and I feel I’m failing as a husband and father. The honest answer is that I feel I have not made a great achievement, yet.
4. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. What hasn’t killed you?
My wife’s mental illness. For the last 7 years she has suffered from some form of mental illness, from depression, to anxiety, to agoraphobia, to anorexia. Balancing the care of my wife, looking after the kids, and satisfying a very demanding work life, my own mental health has taken a battering but I feel that I, no we, have come out of the other side much stronger.
5. Who inspires you?
Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham. He is a blogger, husband, and father, but does it so much better than me. He has 3 successful blogs to manage as well as popular social media accounts; he has 3 kids that are his world and puts them at the forefront of his thoughts and deeds; he has a demanding job that requires a lot of his time yet somehow he manages to have a work life balance that I’m deeply envious of. Above all he is just a deeply humble, respectful, and loyal man who inspires me to be a better person. He is pretty much where I would like to be in all aspects of life.
6. I have just invented a time machine (and you thought you’d achieved something great). You can now go backwards or forwards to any point in time and deliver any message to any person, what’s your message and who is it for?
This is tricky if you believe in the butterfly effect. Plus if I change anything in the past, the chances are that I will never meet my wife and have my kids so it would be pretty selfish to do that. The default answer is to change some historical event that led to a disaster, but the world has a way of ruining itself regardless of history so I think it would be a wasted journey. I’m going to stick with selfishness and go back to when I was starting secondary school. I would give myself career advice and go down a completely different path to the one that I am on now.
7. You have the opportunity to influence the entrepreneurs of the future. What life changing invention would you like to see on the drawing board?
A transportation device. In my business I have to travel a lot, either by myself or with the family, and the very worst part is getting to anywhere. I want to be able to walk through a portal in my living room and appear anywhere.
8. I have waved a magic wand and all of your responsibilities have been taken care of for 24 hours. What are you going to do?
Something really boring. I would go to the gym and have a really unhurried workout, I would then relax in my paddling pool sunbathing for a couple of hours, I would have a BBQ and a beer and an afternoon nap. I’d then go to the cinema and watch what I want to watch, grab a kebab, go home and relax watching some box sets that I need to catch up on.
9. How can parents best be empowered to properly balance a career and a family life?
This is a political hot potato; whose job is it to provide the work life balance? Should your work bear the burden and provide the opportunity for flexible working and childcare in order to enable you to participate fully in both? Or is it you that needs to have a lower threshold in your needs in order to reduce the work requirement allowing you to invest much more time and energy at home? I think it’s a combination of the two, but we are our worst enemies for wanting more and more. If we just lowered our expectations slightly and put much less pressure on ourselves we’d all be a little happier.
10. You’re off for a night out tonight. Where will you go, what will you drink and what will be the topic of conversation?
I’d be going to Hudson in Colchester for a proper meaty meal and I’d be drinking anything that’s cold and fizzy. I wouldn’t care what we talked about as long as it wasn’t work, kids, kids’ things, or relationships.