Boozy nights out have been replaced by afternoon buggy strolls with old friends. But the really weird thing is I haven’t found it weird at all. In fact, I’m enjoying myself more than I ever have done before…
I could never have had a child while I was in my 20s because I was far too selfish with my time. There were so many places I wanted to visit, sports I wanted to play, pubs I wanted to drink in and bands I wanted to watch, that there was just no place for a baby in my life. But over the past few years before Sonny was born, Gemma and I watched our circle of friends evolve and shrink around us. All of sudden, everyone was married with kids and we were the odd ones out. We were only in our early 30s, but as hangovers got worse and beer prices kept sneaking up, we realised endless nights out weren’t what we wanted any more.
Last summer we bought a bigger house that we privately hoped would become a family home, and over the past 12 months we’ve invested most of our time and money in that. All of a sudden instead of going to the pub we were drinking wine over a home-cooked meal, or sipping cups of tea on the sofa. Our interests were gradually changing and we realised that what we really enjoyed doing was spending time together in the home we were creating. The next thing we knew Gemma was pregnant (a little sooner than we expected!) but the sense of anxiety and fear I’d always expected to feel at that announcement didn’t arrive. In complete contrast to how I always thought I’d react, I was absolutely elated and incredibly excited.
Gemma’s pregnancy didn’t really change us at all. We carried on seeing friends both together and separately, I carried on playing sport and sneaking away for weekends in the mountains, we went out for meals together and went to gigs together; but we also spent more time than ever before at home – and were more than happy doing so.
When Sonny came along on April 10th this year, we both felt ready. We loved hosting the endless stream of visitors including family, neighbours and new and old friends. Suddenly mates we hadn’t seen for years were coming to stay and bringing their kids with them, and while in the past we may have found this terrifying we were surprised to realise we were looking forward to every visit. It’s hard to explain something like this until it happens to you, but all of a sudden it just feels natural.
The moment that brought into perspective just how much my social life has changed arrived when England played Wales in the group stages of Euro 2016. One of my old university flatmates travelled over from Warwickshire to watch the game with me – and brought his wife, 8-month-old son and labrador with him. I’ve been through a lot with Drew. He’s the first person I met at university when I was 18 years old and we’ve had a lot of fun over the last 15 years – from Fresher’s Week in Preston, a crazy summer coaching football in California and a wild stag do in Bulgaria, to breaking into sports journalism together and now facing the formidable challenge of fatherhood. Our boys will be in the same school year and it was a wonderful moment to watch them interacting, holding each other’s hands and smiling as Daniel Sturridge grabbed a dramatic last-minute winner for England. Fifteen years earlier we’d both thrown pints of lager around the pub when David Beckham’s injury-time free-kick against Greece sealed England’s qualification for World Cup 2002; but this time we just had a couple more drinks, ate some cheese and biscuits, then walked the dogs around my local park before grabbing an early night. The following morning we strolled with the boys through town in their prams, checked out a few market stalls and laughed with each other about how brilliantly crazy and different both of our lives have suddenly become.
And like i said at the start, the really strange thing about all of this is that none of it feels strange at all. In fact, it feels absolutely natural for me at this stage of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I still love going out with the lads, drinking too much and swearing at the football in the pub; but being at home is my primary focus now. It always will be. And not because that’s where I feel as though I should be, but because that’s absolutely where I want to be.