Bringing a baby into the world is a time of great joy, nervousness and excitement for most families. During these uncertain and unprecedented times of social distancing and self-isolation, it can be a completely different experience of one that has ever been imagined.
In our final instalment of our Milligram Dads series, we chat with the talented Jack Abbott, our beloved product designer behind Milligram's in-house brand Studio Milligram.
Jack's newfound role as a father is as new as 11-week old Florence, but with a situation many newborn parents don't face. With Melbourne currently facing a stage four lockdown and an 8pm-5am curfew, Jack shares the joys and challenges of welcoming baby Florence into the world during a time where the world has stopped.
Being a first-time father during quarantine must be interesting. How has this entire experience been for you?
It's been a weird time. The pandemic and the isolation have contributed a level uncertainty that I could not have imagined. I envisaged being under siege from family and friends with a surplus of support at hand, but instead it's just my wife and myself doing it all on our own, with support coming via less conventionally channels. It has been all parts terrifying and awesome at the same time and has given us an opportunity to bond as a small family unit.
There must have been a point where you realised that having your first baby during quarantine was a real possibility. That COVID uncertainty must have been stressful. What was this like for you and your wife? How did you prepare?
We were preparing for a scenario in which my wife might have to be in the delivery room alone. We’d read about this happening and it seemed like a very real prospect, but thankfully restrictions had been relaxed at the time of birth and I was allowed to be there.
Looking further ahead, it’s an uncertain time. We have devastating bushfires, a pandemic and relentless climate change and I don’t know what the world will look like in a few years. That said, children offer so much hope for the future and they are agents of change.
How do you balance fatherhood and working from home? It must be difficult not to just play with Florence all day haha!
I'll be honest, it is extremely hard to not cuddle her every minute of every day, so I really have to control myself. I feel incredibly fortunate to be working from home for this stage in my baby’s life. Most partners have to go back to work after 2 or 3 weeks, but I've had the opportunity to go back to work without going anywhere. Kids change so fast during the first few months, and I get to be present for everything which is an incredible privilege.
That said, my office is also a nursery & play room, so I've had to develop a light-speed mute-button trigger finger for video meetings when the crying starts.
"Right now her world is so small; it includes 2 people, our tiny apartment & a stretch of park nearby. I can’t wait for that to expand and envelope friends and family."
I know she’s only a couple months old by now, but how would you describe your baby? Has she shown any strong personality traits so far?
She loves pulling faces and she's starting to become really smiley. But at 11 weeks old we only see small glimpses of character with a glowing smile here and a cheeky laugh there and mostly she is a bit of a puzzle. Her nick-name is Milk Lord which perhaps offers some insight into her main focus presently.
Right now her world is so small; it includes 2 people, our tiny apartment & a stretch of park nearby. I can’t wait for that to expand and envelope friends and family.
How has your life changed since becoming a parent? Have you discovered things you didn’t know about yourself?
I'm coming to terms with having less agency over my life. Quite understandably, I don't really get to decide what I do and when I do things. I'm now a passenger, bending to the whims of an infant, where previously I felt like the captain.
And where I've spent my life trying to cultivate a somewhat care-free nature, I now find myself in the position of teacher and guardian. I've become someone focused on procuring shelter and security and looking further forward than I ever cared to in the past.
I'm also beginning to see the world through a child's eyes once more. I imagine their experience and try to impact it to be the best it can be. I'm taking pleasure in the minute and routine daily moments.
What values are you hoping to raise your daughter with?
I hope we can instil the ideals of strength and compassion. I hope they grow up to be open-minded, adventurous, inquisitive and creative. I want to teach them they can be whoever they want to be, and they can do whatever they want to do.
Lastly, how do you see yourself spending your very first Father’s Day?
One certainty is that the day will start with a cry and that will be our alarm clock. I’ll take my 1 hour allotted nature time and spend some quality time on the play mat.
I think Father's Day could also be a great chance for introspection. I plan to reflect on the last 11 weeks and make sure that I've been the most supportive and proactive a dad I could be. It will also be a chance to check-in and connect with other important dad's in my life - my best mate for instance who is also a new father, as well as my own dad.
To read more from our Milligram Dad series, check out:
Parenting Beyond the Binary with Ginger, where we explore Ginger Valentine's experiences with non-binary parenting, and raising their 4-year old Bug with empathy.
Photography, Post-Grad and Parenting with Michael, where we chat with our in-house photographer's experiences with balancing his studies, work and parenting, and how he cultivates creativity in his seven-year old son.