For the longest time, having a child and becoming a parent was a completely alien concept to me and, to be honest, something I dreaded.
From the time I left high school as a naive teenager all the way through my twenties, I did not plan for nor could I imagine being a father and having a family.
Then at 29, studying a Masters in London in 2011, I met a Floridian woman who was sassy, flirty, clever and incredible. A year later, we finished our studies and had returned to Sydney to build a life. One day in 2012 we walked along the sandy promenade at Watsons Bay. Julia took in the magnificence of the harbour in summer. As we chatted about our future plans she said, ‘I want kids. This is happening for me. And I want to have them with you’.
Her statement was simple but transformative for me. I thought deeply on it for several years: Having kids, the thing I rejected, can I do it?
Now in February 2016, I am less than 10 weeks from becoming a father to a little girl. The pregnancy has been a thrilling cocktail of contradictions – fast-paced and slow-moving, exciting and worry-inducing, invigorating and burdensome. I can not wait to meet my daughter.
The question that plagued me the most for all my adult youth was, why have kids? Not what is the point of having children, but rather, why me? What would I offer to society by having a child, and what could I instil in a child that was significant to him or her? Ironically the question that plagued me turned out to be the motivating force behind my 180 degree reversal on the whole idea.
As my wife advised me in her typical soft wisdom, it will not be the parental chores like the feeding and cleaning that define our kids, but the love, values and character that we engender in them that will make them unique; that will make them individuals; that will make them emotionally intelligent and, importantly, that will make them ready, responsive and resilient for the greater world.
This struck a deep chord with me. Julia and I both work in not-for-profit organisations and want to use our personal privilege and comfortable backgrounds to give back to our community in a meaningful way. She works as a legal advocate, and I as a public policy researcher. To partner with her in raising a thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate daughter, open to our values and beliefs but free to build upon them in her own way, is a profoundly wonderful and tantalising prospect.
Amidst the haze of baby bunting storerooms, pram test-drives, cot examinations and countless fact-finding missions to friends with children, the long-term motivating force for me is the dream to one-day see our girl embrace her world in her fashion. My hope is that through the sleeplessness and stress to come from April onwards, that I do not lose sight of this bigger picture, of my reasons for wanting (now very desperately) to meet my daughter. In wanting to build her up to be confident, intelligent and fearless, she already inspires me to be a better, braver person myself in my daily life.
Watch: Ben Fordham talks about becoming a dad with Mia Freedman. Post continues below.
The world she inherits is not all I wish it could be for her. There remain the stubborn and serious challenges of under-representation of women in leadership positions as well as the national trauma of domestic violence inflicted daily on women. A great education with good marks offers zero guarantee of a related job. She will live in Sydney, a city where she will be unable to afford a home in many suburbs unless she is spectacularly successful or ready for a mountain of debt. She’ll enter a culture that encourages gambling on a sporting match at the same time as watching it. She’ll also one day learn that we systematically ignored decades-long warnings about the declining state of our climate to our own detriment.
But as I hope to raise her to be an agent of change in her own life and in her society, I couldn’t ask for a better inspiration. With undoubtedly many, many more parents out there thinking similar things, what better reason to believe that bright days lie ahead for us all.
Rob Sturrock and his wife Julia live in Sydney. Rob works for the Centre for Policy Development. Julia works for the Financial Rights Legal Centre. They are expecting their daughter in April. Rob can be reached on twitter, @RobSturrock_CPD