Fatherhood in Lockdown

HBD’s James Cinicola talks about the joy his son has brought him – as well as some of the pressures that came with becoming a ‘lockdown dad’.

Every parent knows that feeling of watching your emotional baggage from ‘the daily grind’ get cast aside the moment your newborn looks at you. Whether it’s that glance of recognition as you return from work or that gaze of absolute wonder as you pass them an everyday item like your set of keys, you just get sucked into this static moment of nothingness…where the only thing that exists is the moment itself.

For me, I sense this feeling was amplified – as it would have been for every recent parent out there – by the fact we welcomed the arrival of our first child during lockdown. The sheer scale and significance of what was unfolding left everyone desperately searching for something (anything) to cling on to, something that would get them through such a difficult period. What are the silver linings in all of this? Where can I find a welcome distraction? Well, for me, the answer to both was my son.

Becoming a father naturally changes your perspective, but I would guess even more so when civilisation as we know it seemed to be enduring such seismic change, upheaval and uncertainty… and I’m not just talking about lockdown and the pandemic! Other issues like the climate emergency, the Black Lives Matter movement and of course the unprecedented level of political, social, economic, and environmental concerns that were all riding the outcome of last year’s historic US presidential election.

Remi arrived on the hottest day of the year (7th August) and all my worries instantly vanished. Here was the ultimate silver lining, just the boost of strength I needed. In many ways it became a true privilege to be a first-time father during lockdown. It meant more time at home for me to build that special bond, and to acquire insight into Remi’s daytime routine and requirements (something I would have otherwise missed out on).

I also had the luxury of working for a dynamic company, where a seamless (and successful) transition to ‘the new normal’ was rolled out at rapid speed and with absolute transparency from the top. Every step of the way, I felt supported, whether it was having an enhanced sense of job security (owing to the company’s strong financial position going into lockdown) or my receiving of a sit-stand desk for use at home. HBD has a healthy approach to flexible working, something I feel was already evident pre-pandemic. In this sense, I feel there has always been a level of trust that employees will do their job more effectively (and be more productive) if they are given the flexibility to strike a sustainable work/life balance. This is so important within the context of well-being, which is obviously a hot topic right now.

In spite of all these positives, middle-class parenthood wasn’t all plain sailing. The struggles were just as powerful as the comforting feeling that radiated from my son. Family and friends were denied the opportunity to meet him and they were unable to lend a hand during days when we had simply reached our limit. Even the strongest parents need a break.

It was hard for my partner during her maternity leave, as she couldn’t have visitors, trips away or baby classes. I don’t mind admitting that I found this hard to deal with myself. As a father, you just want to do everything you can to ensure both mother and baby are happy and supported.

Remi will benefit from our collective resilience as we navigate our way back to normality, and of course beyond – into a greener, more sustainable future. So, to everyone who has played their part in following the rules (I hope that applies to everyone), I say thank you.

In the words of my own father: ‘Tough times never last, tough people do.’

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