Lockdown Let Me Be A More Present Dad – And Partner

Amid the chaos and negativity of coronavirus, being here for my partner and newborn has been a silver lining.

Make all the plans you want for how things will be during and after pregnancy, but it rarely goes to plan.

This was especially the case for me and my pregnant partner as we approached the due date of our newborn’s birth amid the coronavirus pandemic outbreak. Our world changed when our newborn son arrived on 22 March. Then, everything changed again two days later – when the government announced its national lockdown.

From labour, to birth, to all the chaos that comes with bringing a newborn home, to adapting to everyday life in the pandemic, our time as new parents has been an experience that we won’t ever forget.

But while looking after a newborn at a time when we were being restricted to our homes was daunting at first, eventually it became a blessing in disguise. In fact, I’ve come to believe the pandemic allowed me to become a much more present father and partner. Here’s why.

Had the pandemic not happened, after my two weeks of paternity leave I would have had to go back to the office, back to the nine-to-five, and be forced to spend the majority of the day only able to see my son through pictures and videos. I would have had to come home later in the evening and, in just a few hours, cram in all my time with the baby and my partner, and time for myself, before going to sleep and getting up to do it all over again.

But lockdown eliminated these worries. Working from home, and being ordered strictly to stay inside, meant I was able to be with my partner and our son 24 hours a day. It meant I was able to support my partner in looking after the baby on a much more consistent basis than I ever would have otherwise. And it means I’ve been able to appreciate the little things more: family time; our son looking into my eyes and smiling; seeing him develop from week-to-week.

“Lockdown brought home to me that you can be present physically, yet still emotionally and mentally distant – your body physically present, but your thoughts elsewhere.”

Pre-coronavirus, life was fast-paced and relentless. There was always something to do or something to distract us from our realities: work, going out with friends, exercise, and son. Lockdown brought home to me that you can be present physically, yet still emotionally and mentally distant – your body physically present, but your thoughts elsewhere on other pressures and distractions in life. This can remove you from being in the moment for things like supporting your partner at home.

In the early stages of the lockdown, I was still heavily in the mindset of trying to sort out my work-life balance, with dealing with the management of my workload at my job while working from home and coping with the new and ever-changing demands of parenthood. I found that despite my best efforts, I was getting the balance wrong. I was focusing too much on work that my mind was not fully engaged in my household responsibilities. Quickly, I saw how important it was to make sure I was 100% present for my partner, and on hand to fully support our baby as a priority.

Even more than we planned, I have been there for washing bottles, changing, feeding, and more. I’ve also had the joy of giving my partner more rest during the day, which proved helpful to her as a recovering new mother. Whatever I do during this time, I know I could have done much more to support her, knowing how much new mums can be affected mentally and physically.

At home, my partner developed routines for the baby with my support, and lockdown meant that we were free to implement what we thought was best without interruption. With people unable to visit due to Covid-19, our baby saw nothing but us for months, and as a result, we have a much stronger connection than we would have if I had been out the house working as planned.

“Being present emotionally and mentally is equally, if not more, important than being there physically.”

Of course, this period has not come without its challenges. While transitioning into fatherhood has shown the importance of being attentive, it’s also shown areas that I need to continue to grow in to become the father and husband I’ve been called to be. I’m still working on seeing the things my partner and child will need and acting before I’m prompted, and on being someone that can be so relied on for support that my partner never feels like she is doing things on her own.

Lockdown has meant I can’t simply avoid or ignore these areas of growth – I need to face them head on now to be the best influence I can be on our child. That means getting myself together so I can break the negative cycles in my life that have affected me. This period has taught me that anyone can be a dad, but not everyone can be a father. It requires consistent action rather than words and being present emotionally and mentally is equally, if not more, important than being there physically.

Our family has slowly started coping with the fact that things are getting back to a new normal. Happy as I was to have been at home for so long, I’ve had to return to work daily again, which we knew was going to happen eventually (my partner, the super mum and woman that she is, has taken it fully in her stride). We’ve been having friends and family over, which our son has appreciated. And we even managed to move from a studio flat to a two-bedroom apartment.

As a family, we have grown stronger during this pandemic. Although coronavirus has caused so much chaos and negativity across the world, in our household I have managed to find a silver lining in being able to be more present for my partner and my son. And I can wholeheartedly say I am much better off for it.

Tonte Bo Douglas is a writer. Follow him on Twitter at @TalkWithTonte

Have a compelling personal story you want to tell? Find out what we’re looking for here, and pitch us on ukpersonal@huffpost.com