Dad’s World with Jonathan deBurca Butler

THE news came late at night in the form of a WhatsApp text message.

“Baby boy,” it said. 

“Big fella. He’ll be walking out of the place. Mother and baby doing fine.”

The usual congratulatory text messages made their way back, but of course, this being Ireland, not all of them were simple pleasantries; one or two had the requisite dash of banter.

“That’s the end of Barry for the next 18 years,” read one. 

In some respects it’s a little bit true.

While it might not be 18 years before we see Barry for a night out, it’s unlikely his somewhat boxy frame will darken the door of a public house anytime soon.

In terms of getting out, one child is manageable but two is a different ball game altogether.

Thinking about that text a few days later, there was something about it that stood out.

It came from a very dear friend of ours who, as of yet, has no children.

As I approach 40, I look around and see that most of my friends have finally ticked the boxes of societal expectation.

It has been a long and relatively drawn-out process. 

Compared to my father and his friends, who all seem to have got married and had children within two or three years of each other, my lot — and I’m guessing much of my generation — are different. 

One or two of my mates had their first child in their late 20s and early 30s but most waited until they hit their mid-30s and now the stragglers have caught up.

I was somewhere between a midder and a straggler and made up for the straggling by hitting two bullseyes pretty much one after the other, christening myself with the superhero name Captain Virillious as a result.

The aforementioned text message got me wondering about how that friend of mine feels about not having kids.

He had lamented before that there were very few people to go out with these days and he’s right.

As a group of friends we simply don’t meet up as much as we used to and certainly not the way we used to. 

That side of it is more about missing your friends. But does it get to men who don’t have children that they don’t have them? Do they miss nurturing? 

Does it bother them they have to listen to dads banging on about the good stuff and the bad stuff of parenting (or are they just sick of it)?

And, more importantly, has anyone ever bothered to ask them?

I might be wrong here, and please I’m open to correction, but as a society we tend to focus a lot on women who don’t have children, assuming (often incorrectly) that all women want to have babies. 

I wonder, when it comes to men, do we assume that they are happy either way? 

Do men who don’t have children, pine for kids? Should we ask them? 

And is there a duty on fathers to make sure that their friends, and perhaps relations, who are not fathers are kept close?

Many people speak about fathers (and mothers) having to have an outlet, something that is away from the kids, a night out here and there, but I wonder is there an onus on fathers (and mothers) to make sure that childless people are not just part of our world on the outside, the people we go and have a few pints with occasionally, but are also invited to take part in our world on the inside — that’s if they want to of course.

In Ireland, we do have a slight tendency to look at people who haven’t ticked the societal boxes with a bit of a skewed perspective and it often comes out in how we might include or exclude them in various social gatherings, whether that be a couples’ dinner or a visit to the playground with a bunch of dads and kids.

Perhaps we assume too much of each other or perhaps we are too rigged with the roles we play in each other’s lives.

Now that I think about it, that ‘dear friend’ of mine has only met my kids once.

Perhaps it’s time to give him a call.


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