One evening, while his three-month-old son Charlie slept, Matt Coyne opened Facebook and typed a post listing his observations as a new father - how he's basically like a Formula One pit crew when changing diapers, how buttons on baby clothing are just evil (he'd much prefer tear-away velcro "based on strippers' trousers"), and how the only literature he's been able to read lately is half a pamphlet on breast pumps ("I keep falling asleep during the paragraph on 'nipple confusion'").
The hilariously honest post went viral, which pushed Coyne to start a blog, Man vs Baby, which led him to write a book based on the blog. Coyne, who now writes full time, talked to us about how he parents.
Name: Matt Coyne Location: Sheffield, UK Job: Author Family: I live with my partner Lyndsay, our two-year-old son Charlie and a Jack Russell with issues called Eddie.
Take us through your morning routine.
Is there such a thing as a routine when there is a toddler in the house? I wake up. I argue with a tiny human about what he's going to have for breakfast, what he's going to wear, why dinosaurs are dead, that sort of thing. I then try and squeeze in a cold cup of tea before attempting to leave the house. Which, at the moment, means spending at least an hour standing in our doorway as Charlie insists that he can put on his own shoes and zip up his own coat. He can't.
How do you divide household/childcare responsibilities with your partner?
We decided quite early that Lyns would be the one to go back to work full time. As a writer, I can work flexibly and at night. And Lyndsay has a job that makes a real difference, giving people a second chance through education after addiction and homelessness. I know it's a bit unusual for a man to stay at home and a woman to be the one who works full time, but, in my opinion who should go back to work shouldn't be a decision based on who has the larger breasts. It's not the fifties.
How much outside help do you get as a parent?
We get a lot of help from grandparents and from my sister. If I had any advice for brand new parents, it would be to thank everyone who sends you congratulations on the birth, but weed out those who are willing to babysit. Everyone else is dead to you.
What are the gadgets, apps, charts or tools you rely on?
I use an iPad Pro for writing. I prefer it to a laptop because there's no boot up time and I can write anywhere with it. I use my iPhone to take billions of photos of Charlie. (I take so many that if you printed them out you would basically have a complete flip book of Charlie's life). I also rely on things like the YouTube app. As a last resort in restaurants, Paw Patrol on YouTube is a saviour. (I know ... I'm a lousy parent). Also, I don't get to read as much as I used to so I listen to a lot of audiobooks on my phone and am utterly addicted to podcasts. This American Life is everything.
How do you decompress?
At the moment, I do a lot of book events, signings and that sort of thing, and that doesn't sound all that relaxing but I really enjoy it. I like being around people and I find them a really good night out and a lot of fun. So, weirdly, they are quite a good way to decompress. But, in general, I decompress the same way all British people do — I go to the pub.
Matt Coyne with his partner Lyndsay and son Charlie
What's been your proudest moment as a parent?
It was June 24th, the same week as Father's Day, and Charlie said his first word: :Daddy." OK, it wasn't exactly his first word — for months, he'd being saying words like "weeeelk," "bumder," "oddjob," "barry" and something that sounded a bit like "muung-beeaans." But he said "daddy" before he said the word "mummy," which was a big deal in our house. Me and Lyns had been fighting for weeks to brainwash him into saying mummy or daddy first. And I won. Not only that, but I managed to convince him to call his mum "Bob" for months. Sweet victory.
What moment are you least proud of?
When Charlie was about four months old, I remember one night trying to dress him for bed. After ten minutes of struggling I shouted to Lyns for help. And as she peered around the nursery door, I complained that the new sleep-suit things she'd bought were faulty and would probably need to be returned. It took Lyns about a second to work out that the item of clothing wasn't faulty at all, and a further second to realise that I'd spent the previous ten minutes trying to dress Charlie in a pillowcase. "You're a moron" was her considered opinion. Charlie raised one eyebrow in agreement.
What do you want your kids to learn from your example?
I post sometimes about issues like sexism and homophobia, that sort of thing. And one of the reasons I do is because I know one day Charlie may read this stuff and I hope, through that, I can show him the importance of being tolerant, how not to be an arsehole to people just because they are different to you. I also hope he learns from me to not take life too seriously. Life throws enough crap your way not to stop as often as possible to laugh until you can't breathe.
Do you have any funny/weird/special family rituals?
So many. We have a monster who lives under our sofa that we leave offerings to. He's called Brian. Also, if Charlie is misbehaving, his mum will pretend to be a giant robot sent from the future to make him behave. We also dance a lot to songs like "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead or "Hotel Yorba" by The White Stripes and we have proper dance routines. Our neighbours think we're certifiable, but I think every family has their own games and rituals that make them uniquely weird.
What's your best parenting hack?
I wish someone had told me about "envelope neck." This is the overlapping neck design on onesies that allows you to take the onesie off by pulling it down over the legs rather than over the head. When you've had a poonami or a shitmaggeddon, this is invaluable as it means you don't flannel the baby's face in their doings, but no one tells you that this is why they are designed in this way.
Has anyone ever given you a piece of parenting advice that has really stuck with you?
A friend of ours sent us a note when Charlie was born. It said that our lives were about to change forever and to prepare for a "gear change." And becoming a parent for the first time is a gear change — a seriously grinding, metal-on-metal, shrieking gear change. In the beginning, it feels less like changing gears and more like the car you are in has plunged off a cliff, rolled several times and then burst into flames before coming to a stop halfway up a tree. But my friend went on to say that we shouldn't worry about feeling out of our depth. He said it would be the greatest thing we will ever do — and he was right.
What's the hardest part about being a parent?
I'm fundamentally quite a lazy person and that's not allowed when you're a parent. So I'd say the hardest thing is not being able to just do nothing. Doing nothing is the most underrated pastime ever. I miss that so much.
What's your favourite part of the day?
Opening a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day. I know that I'm supposed to say that it's the time spent with my son, but that beer or glass of wine represents something. If you look at social media at 8pm every night, pictures of booze appear in your feed, posted by other parents, and they appear one after the other like a liquor store catalogue. And it's not because we're all drunks, it's because that drink is a trophy. It's a reward you made it through another day from 7 'til 7 and nobody got hurt or died. And if you can't drink to that ...
The one thing I would tell other parents:
Embrace the chaos, embrace the madness, stay sane. Oh, and if you're cleaning the house, for God's sake, make sure the brown thing that you're picking up is actually a raisin before you pop it in your mouth.