Dad’s story – the secret shopaholic

Mike Martin, dad to Will, two, admits that he discovered his inner shopaholic while his partner was pregnant

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Of all the unexpected developments that occurred during the course of our pregnancy, developing an interest in shopping was one of the most surprising. I have always held shopping in what I consider to be an admirable amount of disdain but, for those nine months, I actually enjoyed it. Not trawling around department stores or shopping for such frivolities as food, but whittling away weekends in baby shops.

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Perhaps it was a strange desire to rekindle my youth, but the opportunity to fiddle around with toys without getting either disapproving look from the women on the till or slung out of the store (well, those red and yellow toddler cars still looked fun at the age of 14) was simply too good to turn down. This time around, any quizzical glances were met by my self-confident smile – a smile that said, ‘I’m about to be a Dad; I’m allowed to do this – so there.’ Even when I succeeded in sending a baby car seat hurtling off the edge of the shelf, I still felt strong enough to return those looks – apart from the really evil ones from my missus in the breast pump section, that is.

Over the course of the pregnancy I managed to acquire a wide selection of weird and wonderful toys, undoubtedly saying more about me than they did my unborn son. I found them again the other day: a crinkly green caterpillar, a bizarre orange fruit with a vibrating worm inside it, and a Winnie-the-Pooh football, which alone has so far accounted for several broken glasses and a considerable amount of stress for the cat.

But it’s not just toys that occupy a modern dad-to-be’s Saturday. Oh no. Simply trying to work out what some of the more bizarre products actually are is a great game (I’m sure it’s technically illegal to hang a baby on a door) – and that’s before you get on to whether or not they are strictly necessary.

Do you really need a special bag to take to hospital? Or a funny-shaped machine that makes strange sounds to remind the baby of the womb? And should a 3D duck bath thermometer really be classed as essential? I told myself I was spreading the cost while we still enjoyed two full-time salaries but that, of course, was utter nonsense. During the first few days after your baby’s birth – when all you really want is a cup of tea and maybe the luxury of some warm food – countless people will queue up outside your house to throw such tat at you. Basically, the things you really need are a cot and a pram, and in our case we had two sets of grandparents fighting to buy those for us.

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But for me, those Saturday afternoons were all part of getting used to the idea of being a dad. And even though I spent a small fortune, at least I have a bag of incredibly noisy toys somewhere in the attic, just waiting for the next unfortunate friend who dares to have a little boy.

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