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Sexual Health (young people)

Experiences of young fathers

Many young mums and young dads we spoke to said that their first child was unplanned and that the baby was conceived because of contraception problems or not using contraception. A man who doesn't like wearing condoms described how difficulties finding suitable contraception had resulted in three unplanned babies so far.   

 

Did not know where to go to get emergency contraception in time.

Did not know where to go to get emergency contraception in time.

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
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And well my contraception did fail on me but I don't mind, I love my child, I love my children, so I don't really mind.

Okay it split or...

Yes it split.

And your partner didn't use emergency contraception then?

At the time she didn't know because we were trying to go to a clinic and they were trying to book her in for an appointment and you know I mean, some of these clinics are weird.  And we're trying to find a walk in and then you had to register with some walk-in clinics but they said you had to be registered to that area so it was kind of, time went kind of quick because you've only got about three days.

You didn't go to your GP at that time, you and your girlfriend didn't go to a GP to get emergency contraception?

No she wasn't going to go to the clinic because she moved address at the time, she had to change her GP. You know the GP was away away so that's why we thought about the clinic. We looked at one of the posters, you know where we usually go and play some basketball, it's in there so we thought right we'll go and check this place and we went to this place and that's what they were saying, you have to register.

 

Explains that his two children and the one his partner is expecting have all been unplanned babies.

Explains that his two children and the one his partner is expecting have all been unplanned babies.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
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Yeah we went to, she went to the doctor's after we had the first one she went to the doctor's for the Pill but they wouldn't let her have it, so she fell pregnant again.

Just before her 17th birthday she had him.

OK, and you were 19?

Yeah.

After that how long before you had the second one?

It was a year after when she give birth. I dunno quite a few months, about three months after, she fell pregnant!

Unplanned.

Unplanned?

Yeah.

And how do you feel about it?

All right.  I thought we'd stop at one but they just keep coming!

You wanted to stop at one?

Yeah.  Hard work, It's hard looking after...

So what do you think you could do to stop at three?

Use contraception. No, we went there before so she could have them needle things.

In her arm?

Needles that, needles like the Pill 'ent they but you have needles every three months.

Yeah.

We went to find out about them but they said come back because they said 'you ain't got a normal period' because she'd just given birth so we went back the next month and they said 'no, wait for another one' but she didn't have no more, so fell pregnant again!

Most men were pleased to hear they would be a father, although recognised it would be difficult and that their lives would change

 

Explains how their lives had to change before and after the baby was born.

Explains how their lives had to change before and after the baby was born.

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
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Oh right, first of all I was, how old was I, nineteen, I was nineteen when I first had my first child.

Okay.

And it was kind of difficult. At the beginning it's difficult but I mean if you set your mind straight and you do what you want to do like secondly, if you know what I mean, if you put your responsibility first and you do what you want to do secondly there'd be no problem.

Yeah we, we sorted out some housing and I had to leave out of the college accommodation and we had to get housed together we had to go to the council and get some housing. Because I mean she couldn't stay in her sister's place because it would be over crowded and I couldn't live in my college place so we had to live somewhere.

Okay and after the baby was born did you carry on studying or...?

I had to drop out for a while because I didn't want her to finish studying because I mean obviously I wanted her to complete her studying because I'm older than her by a few years you know. So I made her continue studying and I was working and doing some of my own independent work and making sure that I kept money coming in you know and I made sure that everything was working right, making sure that she was studying.  

So now I'm finishing the last of it, because I mean I got back into it eventually, you know and I mean the, it's easier, it's a lot easier now because I mean obviously for young women there's a lot more opportunities for them and if you want to study they can get you a cr'che or help you with child care, than what it was in my parents' days when there was none of that. So I mean that also helps in a lot of ways.  

When there's a new born baby you have to drop out for a while but when the baby is older like six months onwards you can go to a cr'che and take up from there.

After having an unplanned child, some of the men we interviewed discussed family planning (contraception) with their partners. As one said, 'I don't want a basketful of children'. 

 

Says that his second child was planned and that he does not want any more children.

Says that his second child was planned and that he does not want any more children.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
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How many children?

I've got two at the moment.

Two?

Yeah, the second one was planned.

So like we planned it, we planned it, worked it all out, see if we can afford it. And well it worked out all right and its nothing with the first scan, but they didn't really pick it up on the first child, my first child [son], until he was about, till the second or third scan, then we had to start going to [town] to have like special scans and make sure everything was ok. But everything went brilliant with like my daughter, my second child.

But no, we still use like, she's on the pill at the moment, I use, when we do do it, I still use contraception and 'cos, I wear, I've got two, one of them I ain't having no more. I've got one of each which I'm very proud of, and I've got two kids and I'm done with kids.

Do you know why?

No, I don't want no more kids, I've got two kids, I've got one of each, what I've always wanted, and I'm very happy, yeah.

Many young dads have supportive friends and families. Family members can explain about child care and some offer financial support, even if they don't initially seem pleased a baby is on the way.

Men we talked to said that being a parent meant they had less money and less of a social life. They were aware of their responsibilities and that their children's needs have to come before their personal wishes

 

Explains the financial and social limitations of being a young father.

Explains the financial and social limitations of being a young father.

Age at interview: 22
Sex: Male
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So there, there is positive side in all that, you can do more with 'em. But also there's not so much like good thing 'cos you, when we first had children, we wasn't financially ready and we did, we did like struggle a lot for the first year, eighteen months.  

So I mean thank God for like my family and my other half's family to be able to help us to get through. But there, that's like the good reasons and bad reasons of having kids, children young and waiting, do you know what I mean, waiting till you're a bit older, so you get financially ready.

But it ain't too bad at the moment 'cos like I get through, where I'm signed on at the moment, get the money through, we struggle each week with that, but as long as all bills are paid, I've got food in the cupboard, I've got stuff for them to eat, drink, I'm happy with it, as long as there ain't nothing, I don't care if I've got no money left in my pocket, as long as there's stuff in the cupboards for my kids and my other half and myself obviously.

But no, when there's crisis you've just got to take your time and don't like, don't shout, don't scream, don't panic, just go over and that, try and talk them out of it, 'cos if you don't talk them out of it they can go on for ages, I found that with my first one. It does take a while to get them out of it.

How long have you been out of work?

I just recently fell out of work, I've been out of work for what two, three weeks, sort of thing, so it ain't... I ain't been out of work that long.

I used to a hell of a lot go out at weekends, I used to be out like Friday, Saturday night, out clubbing and that, and I used to be like down the pub three or four nights a week. 

I did, up to about, even about a year ago I did miss that a hell of a lot, but what with me and the other half, we, we try and like save up enough money at least once a month, one of us go out, so that way she gets a night out to relax, enjoy herself, then month after I get a chance to go out, but it don't always work like that, 'cos nine times out of ten a bill comes up, so you can't always go out and do what you want to do.

Another said that it is important for him and his partner to go out with friends because bringing up a young family is hard. He said, 'The key is to have time for yourself because if you don't you're going to be a nervous wreck and you're going to be deeply stressed and you know things won't really run right'. 

Many men do their share of the housework and childcare. One man said that he regularly takes his children to a project run for young parents in his neighbourhood and to play in the park. Another said that he and his partner do not have a clear rota for housework but that he does whatever needs to be done.

 

Talks about the activities he does with his children.

Talks about the activities he does with his children.

Age at interview: 21
Sex: Male
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What activities do you do with them?

Come to Sure Start a lot, they play in the garden a lot. Play in the garden with 'em, play indoors with 'em, and like go over the park, whatever they wanna do themselves most of the time. If they want you to play they'll ask, well the 2 year old will ask.
 

Explains the ways in which he helps with household chores.

Explains the ways in which he helps with household chores.

Age at interview: 23
Sex: Male
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I can't really tell you it's just natural to me, like I says the way I grew up. So I always cook the food anyway.

Yeah, you cook?

Yeah I cook the food, I'm a West Indian man and I cook food, we have to cook food. West Indian men love cooking food.

Okay.

You know we all, everybody knows when a black man is hungry he cooks his food, his belly has to be full so remember that! So yeah I cook my food. 

But helping around the house I can't tell you how much times I help around the house because I mean I don't do it to like you know to count, I just do it. So after I cook food I clean up the surface and I wash the plates you know

Okay.

I mean if she's out and the floor and the floor needs to be vacuumed, I vacuum the floor, vice versa, I can't really tell you how much. But the place is always clean because we just clean it, we don't say "Oh well you wash up," or whatever, it's just whoever does it first does it, it just gets done, it's just no problem.

Young fathers' advice to others is 'to wear condoms' if they don't want to be a dad and to make sure that they have enough money if they do. One said 'wait till you're definitely ready before having your first child'.

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated August 2012.

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