Father figure: Jordan Watson on his 'How to Dad' seriesby North & South
Jordan Watson on his 'How to Dad' series, paternity leave and shared parenting.
It was a classic social media launch. A joke-video, “How to Hold a Baby” – posted online and tagged to a mate – went viral, and in mere weeks, Aucklander Jordan Watson was a YouTube and Facebook star. Three years later, the How to Dad web series has topped 200 million video views and two books (How to Dad and How to Dad: Volume 2, Allen & Unwin) are still selling their woolly socks off. We tossed some parenting questions to the sleep-deprived father-of-three.
North & South: How does it feel, the prospect of being relegated to second-most-famous Kiwi dad, now the First Baby is born?
Jordan Watson: Ha! I think Mr Gayford and I will have to have a Gumboot Throw Off or Jandal Race to determine that one!
N&S: Now you have three daughters to wrangle, does that mean How to Dad: Volume 3 is imminent or are you too sleep-deprived to contemplate it?
JW: Too sleep-deprived – but that’s when I do my best work (look at me, sounding like a real author).
N&S: More seriously, do you think your high profile has helped break down some of those barriers around men being hands-on parents?
JW: Yeah, absolutely, all unplanned. I set out to make fun, funny parenting videos. What I didn’t foresee was the amount of positive feedback about playing/interacting/being a goofball with my kids. I think it’s bloody awesome that a dad can see me play Barbies in a video and then go and do it himself. Being a parent means we can be big kids for that little bit longer.
N&S: Do you think women are better at looking after children? Or are dads more chilled?
JW: I think it’s each to their own. In some couples, Dad is the enforcer and Mum the softy, and others the complete opposite. My wife and I are a mix. Some days, she is the bossy one; next day, it’s me. It’s like a screenplay written by drunks. Who knows what’s coming next and you just roll with it. Our biggest success is we communicate a lot, so always know who’s the good cop/bad cop.
N&S: Do you think dads would develop better relationships with their children if they were more involved parents in those early years?
JW: Yes and no. A lot of people saw my videos and jumped to the conclusion I was a stay-at-home dad. I was actually working 9am to 6pm but making the most of the time I did have with the kids, making it memorable; for me, that was the norm. Of course, more time with your kids will help a relationship, as long as they aren’t just pooping everywhere during that extra time. I now work for myself from home and love the flexibility. I can go to school shows, daycare trips or look after the wee one while the missus pops out. It’s a whole new experience.
N&S: What’s your view on New Zealand’s paternity leave?
JW: Jeez, this is the most politically loaded question I’ve ever had! Again, I fall back on my own experience. When my first two kids came along, I was working and had only seven days off because, living in Auckland, you need to work. I made the most of my time before and after work and at weekends with them. It just wasn’t financially viable for me to have more time off and I don’t regret that. I’d say most dads would like to have more time off, but I think financially we’re all in the same boat. It’s that “holy sh*t” moment when you’re suddenly down to one income. Your work hours become very important because that’s what keeps your family afloat. But not all couples are the same… one of you might be on the tip of a huge career moment and the other isn’t… things can change your plans as to who stays home.
N&S: In some ways, you play on being a parent who doesn’t know what he’s doing, at the same time you’re a prominent example of a true hands-on dad. What kind of feedback do you get from dads, mums, online busybodies?
JW: Touch wood, but I’m very strangely a “troll-free” page. In more than 200 million video views, there are only two or three instances that have stuck with me. A funny example was a mum from Sri Lanka who was outraged when she saw me washing my baby in the sink with the dishes (tongue in cheek, of course). She thought it was serious and said she had called Mark Zuckerberg! On a serious note, I do get new dads private-messaging me and asking for real advice. I freak out for a second and then do my best to answer in a mature manner. I get so much positive feedback, it’s insane. So I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
N&S: Today’s fathers are certainly much more involved with their children, especially in the early years, than were their fathers and grandfathers. We have a way to catch up with the Scandi countries regarding shared parenting, but are we getting there?
JW: Definitely. My dad used to just grunt and you’d watch whatever he was doing, but never be a part of it. Even in smaller, more traditional rural towns, you don’t see much of that anymore. Dads are cuddling, laughing, playing with their kids IN PUBLIC and even more, in front of OTHER DADS. That was not a thing in my childhood. We’re on the rise. She’ll be right.
This was published in the June 2018 issue of North & South.
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