We spoke with Win of 2 DADS about what it was like to become a father at 17 years old, and the wisdom he’s learnt along the way.
Win and Steve are both passionate skateboarders, but they’re even more passionate about being dads. Both Win and Steve had kids at a very young age (Win was 17 when Cameron was born, and Steve was 21 when Zach was born). Some 15-odd years later, Win and Steve understand the pressures of being a young and single father and have joined forces to create “2 DADS”, an organisation aiming to raise awareness about the mental health issues of single dads.
“Both Steve and I separated from our children’s mothers early on in parenthood and were faced with some very trying and low times.” – Win
Having struggled with growing up themselves as all teenagers do, plus becoming a young parent, Win and Steve know first-hand the challenges young, single dads face. They’re both proud fathers, and pleased to have come out the other side stronger and wiser. Although they acknowledge that their struggles took them on a difficult and sometimes dark journey, they both know they have built amazing relationships with their sons.
Ultimately, for Win, the coolest thing about being a parent is just that, being a parent. Win explains, “Everything about it is fulfilling: the challenges, the teaching, guiding, nurturing. I’ve become who I am because of my son, I’ve matured and found a new way of being able to love someone unconditionally. My son looks up to me the same way I look up to my Dad. I’d have to say that the coolest thing about being a parent is knowing that I’m my son’s hero.”
Six tips for Dads
- Never give up on yourself: you have to be in peak condition to be a good Dad, so taking care of yourself is a major priority.
- Never be ashamed to ask for help: being a parent is tough, and men don’t have the networks that women do for support. Seek out networks of support, or start your own. Reach out for help, and receive it when it comes your way.
- You’re responsible for these kids: own it. Take that responsibility by the horns and run with it. If you’re scared just remember, people have been doing this parenting thing for hundreds of years. The only way to fail at it is not to try.
- Educate yourself: read all of the books (from the library if need be) whether they’re for dads, for mums, for parents, or for teachers. Get your hands on any information out there, including the internet and your peers. Never stop learning.
- When it comes to navigating a relationship with the mother/your ex/the grandparents, keep remembering that the kids are the most important part of all of this. Sometimes you need to take the high road, bite your tongue, and get on with things. As Win shares, “Breakups are hard and messy but try to be an adult and mature about the whole situation. As a father you have to respect how difficult it is being a mother and that they are the mother to your children, so treat them with respect and love. I know it’s easier said than done but try.”
- The best thing a Dad can do is show up. Put in an effort to be there, whether that’s a regular phone call, going to sports events or showing up to school assembly once a term. Prioritise being available and being present.
If you know a young, single father, take the time to reach out and offer them your support, there isn’t a lot out there for Dads trying to figure things out on their own. Be there for them, so they know they have someone to turn to when they need to have a cry, or a vent, or when they need a hug. Often Dads put themselves down, and they truly believe that they aren’t a good father, so positive reinforcement can go a long way.
Win and Steve teamed up with Headspace to create an event – GET RAD for DAD – in Northcote, VIC. It was a skateboarding based event with food, games, prizes, raffles, skate prizes for the skaters, demos etc. The event was for the whole family, everyone was welcome, and a gold coin donation helped to raise funds for local youth and young fathers, just like Win and Steve.
MensLine Australia has professional counsellors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing confidential and anonymous information and support for all father and parenting issues.