In celebration of this Father's Day, we are excited to introduce our partnership with Elliott Rae, a multi-talented author, presenter and speaker. He has dedicated his career to supporting dads’ mental health and redefining our typical preconceptions of gendered parenting roles.
Alongside presenting documentaries and running get-togethers for fathers, he is also the Lola&Lykke fatherhood expert. So, if you have any questions about being or becoming a dad, feel free to ask here and Elliott will provide you with his expert guidance. Keep reading to get to know more about this amazing father! Also don't forget to listen to our conversation with Elliott on Spotify, where we discussed how a hobby turned into a full-time job, gendered parenting, societal expectations, and more!
Elliott's story behind the journey to support dads
Hi Elliott, could you introduce a bit about yourself and how you decided to dedicate yourself to advocating fatherhood and redefining parenting roles?
Hi, I'm Elliott Rae and I'm a dad of one from London. Fatherhood has been transformative for me in so many ways. First of all, the personal transformation which all parents experience- the vulnerability, the joy, the anxiousness, the humidity, the unexplainable and unflinching love for your child - all of that and more! Along with the personal side, fatherhood has also changed me professionally and seen me take on a new mission and purpose.
Sounds like being a dad was a life-changing point to you. As a mum myself, I can understand the experience you've had - such a roller coaster of emotions. Could you tell me more about your fatherhood journey?
My journey into fatherhood was quite a difficult one. After a long and difficult labour, which included some heart rate scares, my daughter was born with the help of a ventouse. She was grey and not breathing properly. On one side of the room there were doctors removing fluid from my daughter's throat and on the other side, another set of doctors were working on my wife as she had lost a lot of blood. It was one of those moments in life which don't belong to you, I felt just like a passenger, helpless to influence the course. An out of body experience, observing events and hoping these people that you met a few hours ago can save your families lives.
We rushed to ICU as my daughter was connected to wires and the intravenous antibiotics began. Leaving my daughter in the incubator and going home to a cold house on my own that night was, well I won't even try and put that into words.
We spent two weeks in hospital, in ICU with my daughter. We were lucky that the hospital gave us a room, so I got to stay with the family and together we went through the ups and downs as the treatment was hit and miss. Just as we were about to be given the-all clear to go home, my daughter developed a bump on her head, and we were told to go for an emergency MRI scan. This was the most difficult night of my life. We prayed and cried for hours. We were joined by Nagmeh, one of the nurses that we got to know really well.
I thank God that it all worked out OK and we were allowed to go home after a couple of weeks. In the UK we get 2 weeks paternity leave. I took some annual leave but even so, that meant that most of my time on parental leave was spent in the hospital. So, it meant going back to work with no time to process or understand what had happened. Back then, in 2015, dads weren't considered at all in regard to mental health so there was no professional support forthcoming through the NHS. I was experiencing flashbacks, insomnia, and I would get overly emotional at any little thing. It made functioning at work very difficult and at times my brain was in such a fuzz I couldn't talk in meetings or even say hello to colleagues in the morning.
Elliot Rae and his daughter
So sorry to hear the hard time you had! I'm glad that it eventually worked out and everyone was safe and sound. How did things happen to you afterwards?
I was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. It's this experience that made me start MusicFootballFatherhood, a parenting platform for men which has been called the Mumsnet for Dads by the BBC. It started as a very personal project to share my thoughts and perspectives and has grown to be a platform supporting and creating space for thousands of dads. We have a blog with 100s of articles written by dads about every stage of the parenting journey. We have a podcast called DaddyDebates where we have weekly conversations, and we host monthly online meetups for dads called The Lodge. I also use my personal background in Diversity and Inclusion (I was the Head of D&I delivery at HM Treasury) to run workshops and webinars for corporate organisations about supporting working dads, masculinity and gender equality, dad's mental health and creating a family friendly organisation.
This work has culminated in the publication of our new book, DAD, which is now available to purchase through Lola&Lykke!
Fatherhood stories told by DAD
Could you tell us more about your new book, DAD?
DAD is a deeply moving and inspiring collection of stories that represent the diversity of modern fatherhood and seeks to start a conversation that challenges the traditions associated with masculinity. DAD includes 20 powerful and defiant stories about postnatal depression, becoming a new dad during the pandemic, miscarriage, widowhood, stillbirth, co-parenting, childbirth trauma, work-life balance, new dads at work, shared parental leave, being a stay-at-home dad, gay fatherhood and surrogacy, being a stepdad, black fatherhood, raising a child of dual heritage, being a single dad, faith and fatherhood, raising a child with autism, gender stereotypes and more.
Another thing I'm so proud of is our work with the NHS on how they can better support dads through the maternity process. It's so important that we engage dads as early as possible, this is proven to help them be more involved in the pregnancy journey and to help them identify as a dad before their baby is born, which in turn has positive impacts on the level of support they are able to provide to their partner and the bond and attachment they will have with their baby.
That's inspiring! One last question, what made you decide to work with Lola&Lykke?
When Laura and Kati reached out to me to help bring dads into the maternity conversation, it made perfect sense. Dads are more involved in their children's lives than ever before in history and so naturally there will be more curiosity from dads when it comes to their role during pregnancy. The NHS did a study and found that the biggest support to mothers' mental health in the post-natal period is from their partners, so the more we can do to involve men in the early years the better for the wellbeing of dads, women, and children.