THE BLOG

Are You Suffering From Toddler's Back?

20/03/2014 14:44 GMT | Updated 20/05/2014 10:59 BST

There's no great secret about the fact that we are doing things older than we used to. Take having children for example. Research shows that the average age of a first time father in the UK is now 32, whilst first time mothers are around 30, with many choosing to wait until their 40s, and older, as they set aside their younger years for career goals and other priorities.

This in itself is no bad thing, people are choosing to wait until they are more prepared to start a family, both financially and emotionally - I'm perfectly sure that I was neither one of those things in my 20s.

However, there's no doubt that having children at an older age presents some practical problems and, potentially, has spawned some brand new ailments.

As the proud dad of a (just under) two year old myself, I think I have discovered a new medical condition - "Toddler's Back".

Before I go on to explain the finer details of this painful middle aged affliction, I would just like to point out, for vanity's sake, that I actually don't consider myself to be an 'older dad', per se. I am in my mid-30s, still play lots of sport, go to the gym, etc, and really don't think of myself as 'older' in any way.

However, despite my self-professed sportiness, having a kid has meant that my lower back has been pulled, stretched and generally mistreated in a way that it really was not accustomed to until my beautiful little girl came along.

To anyone without kids who is now reading this, thinking "come on grandpa it's only childcare, hardly rock climbing is it?" - I challenge you to try taking on two hours of soft play with a toddler after four hours sleep and then come back to me. I've played plenty of football and other team sports over the years, and I played them hard, but never have I suffered so many severe back aches as I have had since my little girl started running the show.

Sleep deprivation is a key cause of Toddler's Back, when you have kids you just don't get to rest like you used to - fact. Our daughter is no fan of sleeping, and despite being a perfect little angel (well almost) during daylight hours, she turns into something of a diva at night. It was during a particularly difficult night time shift this week, when my Toddler's Back really struck.

She was, to employ the Sunday league football parlance, 'smashing us up pretty bad', waking up every hour and refusing to go back down without a long cuddle and sway each time. And when I reached over her cot to pick her up for the fourth time in a row, at around 4am, my back screeched like it's never screeched before.

I squealed like a pig and my poor wife (who I must say, for the record, has to endure a lot more of this titanic struggle than me) came into to find me lying prone on the floor - with an expression on my face like I'd just swallowed a large pot of English mustard.

Now, thanks to the miracle of prescription drugs, I'm struggling on and the pain has subsided. But on a serious note this kind of new back problem does worry me, as a father. I need to be big and strong to make sure I can look after my little girl, and being struck down with such a serious and debilitating bout of pain like that does make me think that we all need to consider these things when we are planning our lives. Are you really going to be physically prepared for the testing combination of sleepless nights and adventure playgrounds in your 50s?

My parents, at 21, might not have necessarily have been 100% ready to have me when I was born in the 1970s (presumably by accident), but they could never be accused of shirking their duties when it came to playing with me, my brother or either of my little sisters - who came along when they were at a similar stage of life as I am now.

I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't have children whenever they want to. God knows there are plenty of people who have children at a young age, for all the wrong reasons. However, when we are weighing up our life's goals and aims, it's worth bearing in mind that being a parent is a pretty full on physical experience.... queue thousands of comments from women telling me to man up and stop moaning, pointing out that the experience of childbirth puts my sore back in the shade.

Of course I'm not suggesting that women don't have the biggest physical burden to bear as parents, far from it - I was there at the birth of my child and it was only then when I realised that my wife actually was much, much tougher than me.

But for me, being able to throw myself around and get involved with my children's lives is very important, and I am hoping this back trouble doesn't become a serious problem that stops me taking on my full role as an active, fun and protective dad.

In fact, I'm going to make sure that's not the case (the drugs are really helping I have to say). Pilates, yoga and other girly sounding back strengthening exercise classes beckon. I'll put on a leotard if it means I'm still able to beat the other dads at school sports day.

I'm confident I'll be able to manage my Toddler's Back, but it has made me think twice about adding to my brood much later than the age of 40. I need to make sure that I am fit and able to get involved in all the high octane activities my kids want me too. Not to mention being tough enough to scare the hell out of any potential suitors my daughter brings home to meet her dad in the future.