I recently took a trip aboad for work, just a night/two days. I initially thought this would be a really good oppotunity to selfishly enjoy some quiet time. No worrying about a toddler in the airport, no faffing with feeding, no huge amounts of luggage. I only had to look after me, myself and I for two days. I was a little excited.

The reality was, I could not switch off Dad Mode™.

My son is experiencing a little separation anxiety lately, so the goodbye wasn‘t great. Literally a few weeks ago I would‘ve had to force a kiss and cuddle goodbye prying him away from his favourite toy or an episode of Bing he’d watched six thousand times already. But this time there were tears, shouting “daddy cuddle!” making it so much harder to say goodbye. And I am very much a sap… I cried and just had to let him know his dadda will be taking him out to the park once I’ve gone and he’ll be doing bath and bedtime. It was awful leaving him like that.

All the way to the airport I was worried that he would be kicking off at home or was just generally being a complete emotional nightmare, hence feeling guilty about leaving my husband at home with him for two days in this state. I just couldn‘t stop, relax and enjoy the time I had so been looking forward to on my own.

I never get time to myself. It just does not happen. I work Monday to Friday, so evenings are with my family, and weekends the same. I just don‘t get a minute alone. I don’t really mind. I love family life. Although I do think it’s important to have that time… I should probably look at getting some serious time to myself booked in the diary.

At the airport I was checking in with them both, making sure everything was ok. The two hour flight was the only time I was forced to disable Dad Mode™ so I shut my eyes, turned the phone off and tried to sleep. I didn’t sleep though of course… I can never sleep unless I’m on my sofa or bed, covered up, all warm and snug.

When I landed the phone was back on and I instantly checked how bedtime went. It didn’t go too well. Cue my anxiety level increasing. I knew that if bedtime wasn‘t good, then it’s likely to be a disrupted evenings sleep for them both. That was going to make the wake up and nursery drop off in the morning interesting. Turns out nursery didn‘t even happen. My son was in meltdown city. In a bad way. There was no leave him there and he’ll settle’… that apparently was not going to happen. So it was a day off from work for my husband and a full day ahead with a tired, emotional toddler. I felt even worse being in a different country, unable to help.


Two days felt like forever, I hadn’t had a chance to have that time out like I’d hoped and I was feeling frazzled. And it made me think can you, as a parent, ever truly switch off?

All day in the meetings I had all I was thinking about was the boys. Afterwards in the car back to the airport, then the flight, the car journey home… I just wanted my son to be happy and sleeping soundly. My mind was focused on that and not a lot else. And before I knew it, I was getting through my front door. Two days felt like forever, I hadn’t had a chance to have that time out like I’d hoped and I was feeling frazzled. And it made me think can you, as a parent, ever truly switch off? I don‘t know. I don’t think I have. And maybe that’s how it is now? When you have your kids we all know you are making a lifelong commitment, but those are just words. The actual every day, brain and heart consuming feeling from being a parent is massive. They don‘t tell you this when you have a baby/adopt that you won‘t ever really be able to solidly focus on you or have alone time again. Well at least ’til the kids are a bit older and a little more self sufficient. Oh, maybe they did tell me this and I was just so self consumed in my own world I wasn’t listening to that bit… well those days are certainly now long gone! I will never wish the time away, but also secretly look forward to the day we find we have a little more time or the odd wekend away while the thirteen year old version of my son stays with a mate or family. I’m holding on to that vision for the future…


Tom is an adoptive dad. A gay dad. But also just a dad? He is immensely proud of the journey he went on to become a parent and loves to share his experiences of toddler life on his popular blog ‘The Unlikely Dad‘. For Tom being a dad is the best role he’s ever had. In his other role he’s a digital brand manager and lover of Instagram.

Follow Tom on Twitter @unlikelydad and Instagram @thommcox