Al Ferguson is founder of The Dad Network, which he set up in 2014. In Al’s own words he is married to his gorgeous wife (and hot mum), Jen and they now have a brand new baby boy called Ted. In addition to running The Dad Network, Al works as a teacher and describes his likes as sports, eating and mountains.
“…I was told that your love for your baby is beyond words but I didn’t realise quite how much I would love absolutely everything about him, from his fingernails to his facial expressions…”
Al, we recently discovered The Dad Network and we love what you’ve set up. Please can you tell us what prompted you to create the site and network?
Thank you. I set up The Dad Network when my wife and I experienced a miscarriage. I found it difficult to talk to people face to face about my feelings and I wondered how many other men were in similar positions, wishing they had people around them that they could speak to and that understood.
I wanted to provide a place for dads to feel free to share their emotions and ask for support and advice within a private forum. A place where they would be supported but other dads, not experts, but just other dads who may have had the same experience or who may have some advice. I know that it may sometimes be difficult to admit needing help and to ask questions but The Dad Network provides a supportive forum without judgement.
Dads can ask anything they need to – from how to change a nappy to the best ways to support a breast-feeding mum. The Dad Network blog aims to provide a variety of talking points for dads but also aims to provide valuable information, and support.
What was it like when that image of you and Ted went viral and what were people’s reactions?
Never in a million years would I have thought a picture of Ted and myself would make it into the depths on Indonesia… but it did! It was so crazy how far and wide that picture went. I think that the reason it was so popular was because so many parents could relate to it. It must’ve happened to most parents out there, but not many have caught it perfectly on camera like that.
People’s reactions were positive on the whole. The trouble with reading so many people is that you reach the whole spectrum of opinions. You’re always bound to get a few people respond negatively, but for every one negative we had a hundred positive.
What was the best source of information you found when you were supporting Jen through her pregnancy?
Good question! The best source were other people in our NCT [the UK’s largest charity for parents] / antenatal groups. There’s very little information aimed at dads and written by dads so it’s hard to find a dads perspective… Hence, The Dad Network!
At the time I struggled to find anything that wasn’t mum focused. If only The Dad Network was around then!
What were the things you wish someone had told you before Ted was born?
I was told a lot of things before Ted was born but none of it hits home until you experience it for yourself. The overwhelming love, the joy, the exhaustion, the frustration, the excitement. You need to live those things to truly understand them.
I wasn’t aware of how difficult I would find it going to work each day and leaving him at home. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the mess of weaning! I knew I would be tired but I didn’t know just how tired! I was told that your love for your baby is beyond words but I didn’t realise quite how much I would love absolutely everything about him, from his fingernails to his facial expressions.
What is the role of the Millennial dad today?
A guy from our dads group said this, “Being a dad means I can write and navigate the adventures of my children.” It was a passing comment for him, but for me it resonated. It is in my control and is my responsibility to help write and navigate Ted’s adventures through life. There’s only one way of doing this: by being as involved as possible. Today’s dads are doing just that.
Tough question. I like politics but a lot of it goes over my head and I never know who’s telling the truth. (Probably because no-one is!)
I think that we are starting to see government changes which are recognising the importance of dads. Slowly and surely, parental equality is coming into play. The reform in paternity laws is a good example of things moving. I’m not saying this is the perfect solution to paternity, but the fact it’s happening is a step in the right direction.
How can work be made more flexible to accommodate the needs of the family?
Work isn’t flexible. That’s why it’s called work. Unfortunately, life has always been such that we have to work to live. In my mind, I can’t spend energy complaining, I just have to value and treasure every moment I have with my family when I’m not at work.
Work isn’t all bad; it opens doors to meeting new people and having time doing something else. Variety is the spice of life, right?
I don’t think that work can be made more flexible. The flexibility has to come from us.
What is next for you and The Dad Network?
Good question and who knows! We have some exciting projects coming up! Our first annual Father’s Day event is on June 13th and we hope to repeat this next year. We may adapt it slightly and turn it into more of a conference for dads.
We’re also running an online charity campaign with a global charity, but I don’t want to say too much or it will ruin the surprise!
The aim of The Dad Network is simple; to be a space for dads to find information, support and other dads. That’s what we hope will be next!
As for me, I’ll continue to spend as much time as I can gazing into Ted’s beautiful eyes and watching him grow up fast. I can’t wait till he’s old enough to explore the great outdoors with me.