There is a perception that parenthood should mean sacrificing our own happiness for the sake of our children’s, but this doesn’t have to be the case, says Dubai-based dad Marc Cirera. We are used to the idea of working mothers’ guilt, as mums struggle to square their need or desire to have a career with their responsibilities for their children, but this is “nonsense” says Marc, who believes that if working dads don’t feel guilty then neither should working mums, and if couples empower each other then they can bypass the guilt all together.

Marc, who is husband to Laura and dad to five-month-old baby Eric, says: “Mothers should not feel guilty for working exactly for the same reason fathers shouldn’t. Having a baby is the most wonderful thing in life and we all want to spend time with the newcomer.

“But at some point we all have to go back to reality. Partly because we need to pay the bills, but most importantly because we’re not doing any favour to our babies and children by devoting our lives to them. Spending time with other adults as well as missing our children is healthy, for both mums and dads.

“Historically women have been the ones staying at home taking care of the children – and the house, and cooking... And this tradition still remains in some cultures, or household, and is perhaps the reason why some mothers feel guilty... Or perhaps it is because of the breastfeeding? Or could it be the social pressure? Or all of them together? But I strongly believe mothers should leave all this nonsense behind and enjoy their motherhood while doing whatever makes them happy in parallel, whether that’s their job, doing yoga, or doing voluntary work.

Marc, Laura and their son Eric

“Luckily, nowadays the concept of ‘family’ has evolved to a place where both mums and dads can have professional careers. Very often, mothers have more senior roles than their husbands and that’s something to celebrate. Someone once asked me, ‘Don’t you feel undermined that your wife earns twice as much as you do?’ I responded, ‘I wish she would earn five times what I get!’

“Achieving work-life balance isn’t easy at all. Yet, these days, many women are outstanding professionals while also being amazing mothers. Working guilt? I say forget about it... you are superheroes!”

Marc shares his experience of pregnancy, birth and the newborn period from the perspective of a father:

Pregnancy was…

“Much better than expected. I had heard from friends that their pregnant wives were sometimes a bit cranky, sensitive, or demanding. My wife was happy and sweet throughout, which made the nine-month gestation period a wonderful and exciting experience. The only thing I could say about it was my wife was asking for fresh fruit 24/7, which wasn’t so bad.”

If we did it again…

“We’d try to be a bit less worried about everything and just relax and travel more.”

I was surprised by…

“How physically and mentally strong my wife is. Laura was always saying that she was afraid of the pain involved in giving birth and she was dreading it after hearing stories from family and friends. When it was her time to go into labour and give birth, she was a star. She kept super calm throughout the entire process, she handled all surges calmly and consciously to the point that, when she felt it was time to go to the hospital, our little one was with us only six hours later.”

Our birth was…

“We had a natural, water birth. No oxytocin, no epidurals, no external interventions. Laura had everything under control and she handled the situation by breathing and trusting life. I did my bit, of course, by just being supportive and giving her calmness and love, but that was nothing compared to what she did that day. If we did it again, we would try and do things similarly to last time, as the experience was super positive.”

The biggest surprise of having a newborn was…

“How difficult it was to properly breastfeed little Eric. Laura and I thought the toughest part was giving birth, but then came the ‘latching’ during the first days. The baby was clueless about how to latch and suck the milk and he was getting hungry and irritated. We also were clueless and, on top of that, Laura had sore nipples. So, every breastfeed was a bit of a show during the first week or so. Then it all got better and he has been feeding like a champ ever since. If we did it again, I think we would put more emphasis on the breastfeeding part beforehand and do some courses and learning in advance.”

On parental leave…

“In an ideal world, I think both parents should have six months off. In the mother’s case, of course, to be able to breastfeed the baby until at least six months. In the father’s case, despite not being needed physically as much, it would be ideal to close the gender gap and to give more liberty to mothers, so they can have free time, go to the gym or meet up with friends.”

The hardest thing about parenting is…

“Not having as much free time as before. My day is pretty much split between work and Eric, but I wish I also had time to see friends and do things with my wife, like go out for dinner, go to the cinema,.”

What is the best thing?

“How much love and joy a tiny little thing can bring.”

My top dad tip is…

“Knowing my kid’s favourite songs, so as to distract and calm him when he is moaning.”

My advice to new parents is…

“To follow your instincts. There are so many books and theories out there – many of them contradicting each other. Friends and family (in good faith) give you advice, but every child is different and so are the parents. So just be yourself, be calm and be patient and everything will be just fine.”

My favourite moments…

“I love being outdoors in the nature with Eric. We walk around the lakes in the Springs community, I show him the birds, I tell him stories, we watch other kids play… it’s just daddy and baby bonding time.”

Parenthood in three words:
Love, dedication, fun

Read more:
What pregnancy and birth is like – from the dad’s perspective

Dubai dad: “It is a privilege to be my daughter’s primary carer”

“The best advice my dad ever gave me…”