11 June 2018
A version of this piece was first published in the Sheffield Star.
If you’re a baby, you should be aware that being seen out on your own with a proud looking man in his fifties will raise eyebrows. Grandparents with babies generally come in pairs, although female-only elder companionship is also common when parents are busy working.
Friends of the man in question will often do a double take, particularly if the man is known to already have children in their twenties, and a wife.
My approach is to calm people’s nerves / suspicions by announcing: “She’s our foster baby.”
Not the product of an affair then, or a sudden grandchild, but a temporary baby in the family. And just as cute, cuddly (and quite often, smelly) as our genetically-linked offspring of the 1990s.
When our first set of kids were growing up it was still quite unusual for dads to take care of their children, to the extent that our local newspaper ran a feature on the subject.
Not quite so much nowadays, but I still get a few shaking heads after I’ve dropped toys, blankets, nappies, vomit etc. on a bus, or when I run out of tissues when discussing politics in a cafe with friends and a snotty nine month old.
Somehow, having that quarter century break puts baby caring into perspective, as I’m sure grandparents know.
You’re a bit more relaxed about things, and can enjoy the experience of nurturing a ‘small human’ (as our son calls her) without the allied sense of panic.
When we signed up to look after 0–2 year olds on Sheffield Council’s fostering service a year and a half ago, we kind of anticipated the broken nights, the bodily effusions, the washing chaos, but maybe weren’t quite expecting how privileged you feel to be a foster carer.
So far we’ve looked after two highly contrasting small humans. We’re very much still learning, and I’m aiming to share our experiences in case you’ve been thinking about fostering yourself, or just want to hear what it’s like.
In the meantime, if you do see a smiling fifty-something bloke with a pram, think again, he could well be a foster carer. Or George Clooney.