What being a parent really means

As I begin to think about becoming a father, I take a look at my parents' lives and the sacrifices that they made and how I want to follow in their footsteps.

By Steve Whyley / 22 March 2017
4 min read

My wife and I have been talking lately about trying to start a family. When you begin to talk about this, it is inevitable that you begin to think about the type of father, and parent, that you want to be.

My mum & dad married back in 1974. There’s had been an office romance. They had their first child, my brother, Chris, in 1977. This was an incredibly tough time for them. They were now wholly responsible for another human being & this brought with it huge demands, what with all the new night feeds now necessary, the effects of little or no sleep, the detrimental impact of this on their health. And the need to continue with normal work commitments, as well as studying for exams, all this at a time when money was tight. There was a lot of new pressure they had to cope with.

My Mum and Dad on their wedding day

There's a quote that I love by Jim Butcher "When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching -- they are your family." My mum and dad had been married just two years but there was not a shred of doubt that either would walk away. They were going through their own hell at that time but instead of these circumstances driving them apart, it did the opposite - it brought them together.

My Dad passed his exams and they got through what was a really testing period.

They have now been married 42 years, have three children and four grand-children.

In that time there have been some serious low's but also some incredible high's. But looking back at my life the one constant is the love they have for their children.

My mum and Dad with their children and grand-children

My mum took on two jobs to help buy us new football boots, or get us the new games console. My Dad commuted over two hours a day for 30 years to help put us through university. My Dad used to get home at 7pm and the first thing he'd do was to come up to my room and help me with my Maths homework. He'd then move into the other room and help Mike (my other brother) with his German. Every weekend, without fail, would be the two of them ferrying us around to the latest football match or training - they never, ever missed a game.

I recently ran the London Underground for charity which involved 40 runs after work. My Dad came up for every single one, and would stand outside a tube station for almost an hour just so he could give me a Mars bar and a water.

Recently my uncle died and left a small amount of inheritance - enough for a holiday - my mum and dad gave it to my wife and I so we could become a step closer to owning a house.

We were never spoilt, and my parents never had much money, but somehow we never went without. They did, constantly. But we never did.

If someone asks me what my childhood was like then the answer is always simple 'incredible fun'. As a family, we had a blast and that was because of them. They created an environment in which we could all be ourselves. At no point did my mum and dad ever pretend to be anything that they are not.

My brother and I playing Twister 25 years ago!
And me playing Twister today with my brother's son

They were tough as well. I remember my Dad running down the street after my brother who had said he was quitting his education to go work full time in a call centre. They always knew the bigger picture, they knew the potential my brother had and how he'd waste that by taking this full time job. They were right - my brother went on to create a successful startup with my other brother.

When we failed, they built us back up. And when we succeeded, they bought us back down to earth. They taught us to be kind to people who have less, and not to be jealous of those who have more. They also gave us incredible belief that we could be anything that we wanted to be.

My brothers are now Dad's and I see the same selflessness in them. They give their children every possible chance to succeed - they've morphed into my parents - really decent people.

I went round my mum and dad's for dinner the other night and my mum had bought three steaks. She was disappointed as two of the steaks hadn't cooked very nicely. I started to tuck into my dinner and said "This steak is amazing? What are you talking about?" My mum replied "It's cos you've got the nice bit." 40 years on and they still put us first.

I guess the point of this post is that Getinspired365 features people who change the world - they feature people who climb mountains, find a medical breakthrough or raise millions for charity. And all these people are inspiring, unquestionably so. But as inspiring as those people are, without question the people who inspire me are my mum and dad. And as my wife and I begin to think about becoming parents I hope we can have the same positive impact on our children that my mum and dad had on me.