Reluctant dad: ‘How I learned to love fatherhood’

'Was I overwhelmed in a tsunami of love when baby Loulou was born? Not really,' admits author Phillip Toledano. 'I felt no emotional connection'

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“I was never particularly interested in having kids,” says Phillip Toledano with disarming honesty.

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And in his new book The Reluctant Father, he gives an searingly frank account of the alienation some new dads feel.

When his daughter Loulou was born, Phillip say he felt strange. “I just felt weird,” he says. “How could I be a father? Wasn’t that something that happened to other people? To adults? Was I overwhelmed in a tsunami of love? Not really.

He took lots of photos of his new baby daughter but he just didn’t feel like he thought a dad should.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t feel responsible for Loulou,” he says. “I was there. To change diapers. To get up in the middle of the night. To do whatever needed to be done. But I felt no emotional connection.

“It was like trying to have a relationship with a sea-sponge, or a single-cell protozoa.

“She didn’t DO anything. Or at least, nothing I could understand.”

Phillip also admits that, that when his daughter was born, he felt his wife Carla had ‘vanished’.

“I missed her and me, together,” he says.

He even begun to feel pushed out of his relationship with his wife by their baby, writing alongside one photo: “I had been downsized. Meet my replacement: the alien.”

But, as Loulou grows and changes and begins to interact with her dad, Phillip’s feelings change, too. And, by the end of the book, Phillip has very definitely fallen in love with his daughter.

“I love you very much, Loulou,” he writes. 

“And while I’m at it, I’d like to say something to the future Loulou. Please don’t wear sweatpants with the letters ‘JUICY’ stitched on the bum. Please don’t become a goth, or an emo (or whatever they’ll be doing in 15 years), and peer at me gloomily through six layers of black eyeshadow.

“Remember. Before your father was a parent, he was a person. Young, and confused, just like you.”

See more pictures from Phillip’s book below.

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