Olympic Gold Medalist Greg Rutherford takes on his biggest challenge yet: becoming a dad
Before: wake up. Feed the dogs. Neck a protein shake. Breakfast. Shower. Dress. Go.
Now: begrudgingly drag each limb out of bed. Make a large coffee. Scrap that, forgot to buy coffee beans. Remind Susie to buy coffee beans. Drink a protein shake. Make Susie a cup of tea. Hold Milo while Susie drinks tea. Watch Milo do a 13-second-long yawn. Whisper to Milo he might not find himself so tired in the mornings if he actually chose to sleep at night. Hand Milo to Susie. Breakfast. Shower. Dress. Take Milo so Susie can shower. Mentally moan that Susie takes 20 minutes to shower because it’s the only baby-free time she has. Outwardly tell Susie I hope she had a nice shower. Realise bin needs emptying of nappy sacks. Ignore bin. Kiss Milo and Susie. Go.
It’s been three months since our first-born made his debut. Eight pounds of euphoria got yanked (literally, with forceps) from my partner Susie, placed in our arms and despite our newfangled, disordered morning routine, we still couldn’t be happier. Sure, gone are the days when we’d throw some clothes in a suitcase and drive off for a long weekend somewhere. And our definition of a romantic night in is now a few hours of silence during Harry Potter back-to-backs while the baby naps. Life has most definitely changed.Obviously, being a professional athlete, there are certain parts of my routine which can’t slip and where I do have to be somewhat selfish. Susie is breast-feeding so Milo’s still feeding on demand every few hours and once my season begins again with full force I can confirm with certainty that there’ll be nights I sleep in the spare room to make sure I’m on form for competing and training.
Luckily, Milo arrived on my off-period and although I’d had an exceptionally busy 2014 and missed large chunks of the pregnancy – due to warm weather training and competing in Glasgow at the Commonwealth Games – we knew come the due date I’d be hands-on and ready to help out for the next few months. And that’s something we’re both very glad about. We each now have a great deal of admiration for those dads who return to work two weeks after their baby is born, and for the mums who then take on full responsibility. When we’re not just gazing at him, Milo takes up most of our hours being passed between us as we juggle the most mundane of tasks.
We’ve been blessed with silent reflux, which lots of other parents will know is in fact, no blessing at all. Milo would cat nap on our chests or in the car, but would scream like a banshee on helium if we so much as wafted him near a horizontal mattress. It’s no wonder… we’d hear him repeatedly choking on milk, coughing and spluttering hours on from a feed, and with the aid of baby Gaviscon we chose to miss out on forty winks and take it in turns to chest-prop him through the night. It was a real tag team effort.
At around eight weeks while visiting family, Susie’s sister presented us with a vibrating bouncer chair. A few days later, after finally remembering to retrieve it from the boot, we plonked him down waiting for the inevitable holler and were instead met with a satisfied expression and reticence.
While obviously intoxicated with relief, flinging our finally empty arms around with gusto and showing them to anyone who’d look (our dogs), we spent the next half an hour staring at him in wonder. We’d been prepared for parenthood to a point. We knew about broken sleep, stinky nappies, milky sick… but we weren’t prepared for never being able to put our baby down. After two long months, it had happened and we ate dinner together, with our free arms, to the tune of the bouncy chair’s playlist: Three Blind Mice, Baa Baa Black Sheep and Little Miss Muffet.
Another month down the line and we’re really comfortable in our new routine. There’s still the odd day where we struggle and realise it’s midday before we’ve even brushed our teeth, but we’re nearly firing on all cylinders again. The reflux has calmed down and he’ll even sit and watch from his heaven-sent bouncer when we’ve visited the athletics track or our home gym. I’m constantly trying to find new ways to include him in my daily workouts and I can’t wait until Milo will be able to watch me compete in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
All in all, I can wholeheartedly say fatherhood has changed everything for the better. It’s shifted my focus so I’m not just thinking about myself and getting training completed for that day so I succeed, but much more about completing my training so I can get home and enjoy family time. While my career is hugely important to me and always will be, nowadays I see it as something I strive to excel in so that I can provide for my family. It’s not just about winning, or about being the best within my field, it’s about being the best dad I can be.
Of course I’m worn out and slack on nights out and housework, but becoming a dad has given me a greater push in any sporting venture I undertake and I genuinely don’t believe there’s been any negative impact whatsoever. Things have just changed.
I almost think it’s a shame you get warned so heavily prior to birth about all the unfavourable consequences that might crop up: “Oh you’ll be so tired; you won’t have any moments to yourself; you won’t have time to do that.” No one warns you that you won’t care that your lifelong routine becomes so much less important because you’re too excited about spending time with a tiny human. And that’s the greatest, and nicest, shock about starting a family.
Tom Whipple talks paternity leave, presumptions made about stay-at-home dads and how, despite it all, he wouldn’t have changed the precious time he spent with his 10-month-old son Felix in any way. Click here.