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You change your lifestyle, not your children


Same old me: Graham Clifford with his three children Molly (7), Aoife (5) and Aodhan (2)

Same old me: Graham Clifford with his three children Molly (7), Aoife (5) and Aodhan (2)

Same old me: Graham Clifford with his three children Molly (7), Aoife (5) and Aodhan (2)

A friend has just contacted me to ask for advice. She'd discovered that she was pregnant and while she, and her long-term partner, are overjoyed by the prospect of becoming parents for the first time, they are scared.

"Everything will change; we will change" she uttered with a combination of angst and excitement spread across her face.

As a father to three young children, all under eight years old, I reassured her that the one-liner 'life will never be the same again' is, in my opinion, overly dramatic.

Indeed, last week in these pages Heidi Scrimgeour warned mothers to "hang up your heels" in a piece about "how parenthood can truly change you".

I, sometimes, despair when I hear mothers and fathers talking of how 'they' have utterly changed as people since having children.

In the first few years of a child's life, the workload for parents is immense, the sleeping hours limited and priorities undoubtedly change.

This is especially true for parents of children who have special needs and requirements.

Where we once had the time and energy to travel, party and try out new experiences, the pressures of raising our little darlings 'changes' our lifestyles.

But I disagree strongly that it 'changes' us as people.

I am still the same person I was in June 2006 when my eldest daughter Molly was born. If my world views have changed, that's down to the passing of years rather than the fact that I have children.

My wife Catherine and I still go out on the town on occasion – granted, less regularly than before we had kids – and we have maintained our interests and passions.

During the GAA Championship season, I can be found roaring on Kerry at grounds across the country and Catherine enjoys competitive netball with a local club. There's a lot of juggling involved to free up such time but we're adamant those windows should exist.

We share childcare and, as neither of us has family living close by, we use childminders now and again.

Our dedication to our children is absolute but we both value the importance of maintaining our individuality – I feel our children would lose out if we as individuals became one-dimensional.

And sometimes, when possible, it helps to stay busy even when the little ones are in their early days. The day after our youngest was born my wife and I brought him to see one of his sister's outdoor school plays.

I chose to go back to work four days after he arrived and a week later he was at the launch concert for an album of Irish ballads I released!

All too often I hear modern-day parents talk about their wild days of youth as if there is no hope of them returning.

Some seem to use the fact that they are parents as, dare I say it, an excuse for not exercising regularly, letting their hair down or taking up a new hobby.

Irish Independent