Good Causes

Daddy cool: how Nathan helps young men become fathers

Nathan Noble gets emotional when asked how his 4-year-old son Riley Don has changed his life.

“He saved my life – that’s not an overstatement,” says the 27-year-old from Gateshead in Tyne and Wear. “He brought me out of my shell and made me want to be the best version of myself so I could be a better dad for him.”

Not that it was all plain sailing. Nathan admits it was a shock when he discovered he was going to be a father in his early 20s. He adds, “We weren’t really planning on having a child and there was a bit of a panic at the start because I wasn’t really prepared for it.

“It’s all a bit surreal at first. Seeing the first scan at about 12 weeks is when it really sunk in for me. I thought ‘this is real, I have to prepare’.”

One thing Nathan hadn’t anticipated was finding himself increasingly isolated because he was on a different path to many of his male friends. He says, “I couldn’t talk to them about what I was feeling – all the emotions and stresses. I lost quite a lot of friends because my interests were totally different to theirs. I was preparing to have a child and be the best father I could, but my friends were still young and partying.… it was two very different lifestyles.”

Luckily, he found some much needed support from a National Lottery-funded project called North East Young Dads and Lads (NEDL). Started in 2017, it seeks to help young men play an active and meaningful role in the lives of their children.

Nathan started out attending some of NEDL’s activity sessions for young fathers and fathers-to-be. “I went paddleboarding with them and it was great to get out of the house. It just blossomed from there.”

NEDL regional programmes manager Doug Laidlaw, 56, explains that group activities are the key to getting young men to open up about their fears and anxieties. He says, “We don’t sit in a circle and say ‘let’s talk about our feelings’. We go for a bike ride or have a game of football. But we’ll be talking about things at the same time. For a lot of our young dads it will be the first time they’ve been able to talk about these things in a safe space.”

Doug, who has teenage children of his own, says one of the issues for young fathers is that it’s a role that isn’t celebrated enough in society, the media and popular culture. “There isn’t a lot of positive media out there in terms of young dads. When a young man tells his friends he’s going to become a father the responses can be quite negative. A lot of the time it’s a sharp intake of breath and ‘what have you done, your life’s over’.

“The first thing we do at NEDL when we meet a new dad, regardless of his age, is we congratulate him on becoming a dad.”

Nathan has become a full-time employee at NEDL (he’s a peer enabler) and uses his experiences of fatherhood to help other young men who are embarking on a similar journey.

Says Doug, “He’s shown a brilliant aptitude and natural way of offering support to other young dads. Seeing him with Riley Don just warms my heart.”

5th June 2024

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