On Being a Dadvenger, With Nigel Clarke
Dadditude Newsletter #27
Dadditude interviews dads (and mums) from different backgrounds, professional fields, and ethnicities to get their insights on what it means to be a parent in the current moment.
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Nigel Clarke is a 43 year old dad of 2. He’s currently working as a TV presenter for a show called The Baby Club (which airs on CBeebies), and is the founder of Dadvengers, an online dad community. He’s also worked in theatre – having performed in Stomp for over 20 years, and this year will be making his pantomime debut! You can follow him on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
We spoke about parenting very driven kids, being the original Dadvenger, and child-led communication.
Please introduce your kids.
My son is 13 and my daughter is 12. I'm a really proud dad, they are good kids, and both have interests that keep them very busy.
My daughter is into entertainment and the arts (a bit like me). She's worked on TV and in Film and is currently doing a show in the West End. I would say she has a very strong mind and knows how she wants things done.
My son is a gymnast and trains 5 times a week, which totals about 22 hrs and has aspirations to go to the Olympics. I would say he's very mature for his age and very driven… which has its own challenges as a parent!
Tell us about the mission of Dadvengers?
Dadvengers was formed after making an all-dad episode of The Baby Club. Making the show highlighted to me that there isn't enough support out there for dads. Plenty for mums but hardly any for dads and the stuff that I did find didn't quite hit the mark. Hence Dadvengers.
We are a community, a website with blog, a podcast, a support group and more. It’s all about supporting Dads on their journey through parenthood. And unlike a lot of dad’s groups, we encourage mums to get involved too. I believe that it's only through good role models from both sides that we will achieve a parenting balance that will nourish our kids. We all need to understand where each other is coming from.
How do you manage to mix work and family?
As well as living parenting, I'm working on it too. It might sound like a parenting overload, but I enjoy seeing it from many different sides. So being a father influences all of my work, and vice versa!
I am a hands-on parent to my kids; I want to be involved in their lives and interests. I love being with my family, and my kids inspire me, and make me laugh every day! I have always been really present with my kids – even when I work away from home, I have lots of contact with them and am available to them as much as possible.
Between the work I do with the Baby Club and Dadvengers, I spend most of my time talking to parents. I have seen many dads struggle to be present, or hands-on in their kids’ lives, and that can be for so many reasons. I learn so much from my kids, and I want to take that out into the wider parenting world and help other dads see how much joy and learning we can all get from our children.
What do you think is your biggest strength as a parent?
My biggest strength as a parent is being able to communicate with my kids. Lots of parents think they listen and understand their children, but if you ask the child, they will give you a different answer. I like to pull myself up on this from time to time by asking them directly, “what I can do better” and what they want. Then we come to a child led compromise because if you feel like you’ve made the decision yourself it is always a little easier to swallow.
What stresses you out the most these days as a parent?
I don’t really get stressed. My default is problem solving, not problem panicking. Time can present answers in most situations. I think it is something that I subconsciously picked up from my dad. I also think that because I have that good communication level, we deal with things together which makes everything less stressful.
What side of parenthood do you wish you had invested more time and energy in the past?
This is a difficult one because I work in the parenting space, so most of my life is parenting. But, in the early years I didn’t feel I needed any help or a support group, or other people. I had my immediate family, and they were all helpful, I felt like that was all I needed.
But knowing what I know now, having a parenting group, parenting support, and parenting resources, I can see how there may have been more benefits to having those when my kids were younger. Which is another reason I am so passionate about Dadvengers.
Can you tell us about an especially favorite/special moment with your kids recently?
With my son, he just had a national competition and, after not competing for nearly 2 years due to the pandemic, there were lots of anxieties about where his performance would be returning to high level competition. But we had lots of chats, took the pressure off, and this led to a relaxed atmosphere where winning wasn’t the goal.
My daughter tends to really doubt herself. Being a second child, to a confident sibling, this can often be the case. But of late, we have had a couple of conversations about her strengths, as opposed to what she thinks other people are focussing on. These chats have enabled her to think about things differently and realise that people see her amazing strengths, rather than what she perceives as her weaknesses.
Thank you Nigel!
Fatherhood in the News:
Becoming a new parent is challenging – and fathers need support too
Becoming a new father can be a difficult and overwhelming time. And more and more, we’re hearing about the mental health impact this can have on men, with some research suggesting as many as one in ten men suffer from postnatal depression.
What Paternity Leave Does for a Father’s Brain
Fathers are made, not born: Time with infants is a key ingredient in building the fathering brain.
UK-based dads (of children 6-11yo)! Take part in academic research on paternal wellbeing, parenting and child development during the COVID-19 pandemic. This way for the survey.
Throwback: Dadditude Newsletter #16: On Adopting Siblings, With Matt Jex
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