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Sam Wood: 'When Mum died, Dad had to step up. It completely changed how I am as a father.'

I grew up in your fairly typical ’80s family dynamic. I was the eldest of three kids with Mum at home and Dad working in a little pocket of Hobart. Not rich, not poor.

I loved school, I loved playing with friends and I was a happy kid going about my business. Dad would go off to work early. He’d give us a lift to school if we made it to the car within 30 seconds of the double beep, otherwise we would walk. And every night, he would arrive home just before dinner.

Dad would often work weekends and Mum would taxi us everywhere, from after school sport and music lessons to birthdays and activities all weekend long.

Side note – we learnt more about Sam Wood when we took him on a first date. Post continues after video.

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We loved our Dad to bits, but he definitely didn’t know us like Mum. In our house, Mum was the soft one that we absolutely adored and Dad was very tough. He’d adopted old school attitudes that he’d learnt from his father and was very much ruling the house with an iron fist.

Then, at the age of 13, my life was flipped upside down when my mum – my everything, our everything – was diagnosed with cancer. Of course, you believe everything is going to be OK. We told ourselves Mum would beat it and things would return to normal, the way we loved them and the way they were supposed to be. But they didn’t.

Two years later, Mum lost her battle with cancer and my siblings Hannah, 12, Alex, nine, and I, then 15, lost the person we loved most in the world. We loved our Dad, but he worked so much with his own business that we didn’t see him very often. Mum was our person.

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"Mum was my everything. Our everything. We loved our Dad too, but he worked so much that we didn’t see him very often or really know him." Image: Supplied.
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I'm sure Dad would be the first to admit he didn’t know his kids that well at the time, and honestly, we didn’t know him either. But from this tragedy, my dad was forced to sell his business almost immediately. He became a stay-at-home dad, and under the hardest of circumstances for him and us, it really did feel like starting over. He had to learn everything, from what we liked in our school lunches and where we needed to be, to what date our birthdays were and our favourite colours.

Dad was pretty much in the dark, but he left his business behind, came home and did his absolute best to fill an impossible void when we needed him most. Not for a week or two, but full-time. My beautiful dad became a full-time stay-at home parent, playing the role of both mum and dad for the next two years until we ran out of money and he had to return to work in some capacity.

Slowly after a few months, my brother, sister and I began to see a different side to Dad. We were all getting to know each other on a whole new level. We saw a softer side, a sense of humour, a love that clearly had always been there, but he'd refused to express through fear of making us weak or that we'd take things for granted.

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"Dad had to quit his job and become a full-time stay-at-home dad. Slowly after a few months, my brother, sister and I began to see a different side to Dad." Image: Supplied.

It makes me so happy that this bond has only grown from those high school days. To this day, Hannah, Alex and I have the most incredible relationship with Dad and each other.

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It was this tragic silver lining that now moulds me as a dad. It taught me to be present, be patient, to get to know your children on a deeper level, but most of all, live in balance.

Telling yourself you spend all of this time at work to support your family, when the downside is that you don’t actually see them, is not a sacrifice I will ever make.

 

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Of course, I understand this is not possible for everybody and I never forget how lucky I am to have such flexibility, but personally, I am determined to work on this balance and seize every opportunity I can to be present. And balance goes beyond this.

For me, it was an eye-opening experience when it comes to finding that fatherly balance of emotion and stability, of warmth and strength.

To me, that means being comfortable enough in myself to explore those different sides of me to be the kind of father my children need, even if it doesn't come naturally.

That is the true sign of the modern father that I want to be. Need to be.

Sam Wood is the founder of www.28bysamwood.com.

Have you had a similar experience to Sam's? Tell us your thoughts in the comments. 

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