Two officers share fatherhood experiences with national audience
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Two Nottinghamshire Police officers are bravely sharing their experience of juggling fatherhood and serving in the force with a national audience.
Young dads Sergeant John Meanwell and Inspector Ollie Vale are working with Dadvengers, a community interest company that inspires and champions fathers, dads and parents throughout their journey of parenthood.
John and his wife have three children - with twin girls arriving just 19 months after the birth of their son.
The family met Dadvengers’ founder, Nigel Clarke, last summer at the Gloworm Festival and the CBeebies presenter invited John to share his story on their Dad Chats Live, regular live chats held on Instagram that cover topics about parenthood.
John, who has been a police officer for 13 years, said: “My conversation with Nigel started from there. Bumping into him at the children’s festival was great as I was a big fan of his work to make information more accessible to new dads.
“I have a son and two twin daughters, and both myself and my wife work shifts. So fatherhood for me has understandably been extremely challenging as well as massively rewarding. The force has been incredibly supportive but I know from speaking to other new dads that not all employers are providing the help dads need.
“There is a real lack of information and advice out there for dads but Nigel has done a fantastic job in addressing that with the Dadvengers project. He was really interested in my experience of being a new dad and a police officer and I jumped at the chance to work with him.”
John has written a blog for Dadvengers which describes the moment he and his wife went to hospital for a scan and discovered there were twins on the way.
“None of our family believed us when we first told them and I have to admit my head was all over the place,” John said.
“In a flash we had a house and a car that won’t be big enough and will never have a full night’s sleep again!
“The first few weeks after the girls were born was also a bit of a blur of short days and long nights. My wife and I coped by being adaptable and going with the flow.
“It is also about accepting help when it is offered. This wasn’t easy at first for me but again it is about adapting. A friend once told me it doesn’t get easier it gets different. We have zero nappies in our house now but on the flipside we now have three children queueing up outside the toilet hopping around every morning.
“My advice to others in that situation is you will get through it. You won’t just survive it, you will enjoy a lot of it.”
Fellow young dad Ollie was also keen to share his experience of being a young dad and struggling with PTSD.
In his Dad Chats Live episode, Ollie bravely spoke about how PTSD impacts the way he interacts with his wife and two young children.
“I wanted to get involved and share my story in the hope it will help others,” Ollie said. “If it helps one other dad find a coping mechanism it will have been worthwhile.”
In his interview and blog Ollie spoke about four traumatic incidents in his life. Three were related to his job – having blood to blood contact with someone suspected to have HIV, attending the death of a child and being called to reports of a child in cardiac arrest – and the fourth was when Ollie and his wife lost their baby.
“These were all traumatic, harrowing events in my life and each one changed me. PTSD was a slow-build for me and I gradually became more withdrawn, experienced difficulty sleeping and had frequent nightmares about losing a child.
“My wife was incredibly supportive but I realised I needed professional help so spoke to senior officers at work. I was supported with counselling and this proved to be the biggest step in my recovery journey.
“I have learnt that you can’t hide away or think nobody cares. There is support out there and people who want to help.”
Nottinghamshire Police has recently launched a Men’s forum and Health Network to promote health and wellbeing. The themes include mental health, perceptions of masculinity, work/life balance, male-specific cancers and maternity, paternity and adoption leave.
During National Men’s Health week, held earlier in June, the forum kicked off with a series of talks and events discussing subjects like gambling awareness, male suicide, prostate cancer awareness and more.
Ollie was interviewed by Nigel for the Dadvengers Dad Chats Live this month and John is expected to record his in the coming weeks.