Fulltime father

Last updated 05:00 23/02/2014
Sarnim Dean

Anson Dean, helps stay-at-home dad Sarnim Dean, of Blenheim, make basil pesto for when mum Katia gets home from work.

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Instead of getting the comparatively deep, dark strains of heavy metal band Led Zeppelin stuck in his head, Blenheim dad Sarnim Dean finds it is more often replaced by tunes such as Fluffy the Frog.

Sarnim has been a stay-at-home dad for about six months, after he moved on from work as a programmer and business analyst in IT in Auckland and most recently, for the Marlborough District Council, to look after his and wife Katia's 18-month-old son Anson.

The Deans moved down from Auckland about a year ago.

Sarnim had been in IT for a decade. Katia worked in the banking sector, and is now a commercial analyst for Westpac in Blenheim.

They made the decision to swap roles to both further Katia's career and ensure that Anson spent quality time with those who loved him most.

"My wife worked to advance her career; she's highly qualified and she's been off work for a couple of years," says Sarnim. "I guess it was just swapping roles."

"We don't feel that confident about our son going to daycare 40 hours a week.

"I feel that, at this age, it's important for them to be with people who love them. He goes to daycare four hours a week on a Thursday - and that's enough."

A typical day with Anson involved a couple of fun outings, a nap for Anson, and cooking and cleaning for Sarnim.

On different weekday mornings, Sarnim takes Anson to groups such as Dillons Point Community Play Group, Kindy Gym, and pre-school music programme Music 4 Minors.

"Music 4 Minors is on a Tuesday and a Friday. We'll go along and sing these crazy songs, like Mrs Bunny's So Funny - I'll be singing away and Anson will be singing away. Now, instead of Led Zeppelin songs in my head, [it's] Mrs Bunny's So Funny, or the Fluffy Frog Song."

Afternoons are often taken up with visits to Pollard Park or Whites Bay, the Wairau River or other playgrounds and parks in the area. Sometimes, Anson will even help dad with some cooking.

"He gets a lot of love," says Sarnim. "We go fun places, he gets read to a lot, we sing, we do all sorts."

Going to different play groups, Sarnim often found he was the only dad present, or one of two. "It doesn't seem like there are many other dads here who do what I do."

Getting accustomed to life as a stay-at-home dad took a bit of time, says Sarnim.

"It's sort of harder than being at work," he says. "You're dealing with adults all the time [at work], and you can always go back to your own space at your computer and think things through.

"It's really just you. But now, with Anson, he's so demanding. But it's just about learning the demands of a little person, thinking of someone else instead of just what you're doing."

Sarnim is also a keen mountain biker, having won the 2014 BikeFit Marlborough Mountain Bike Club Championships at Endeavour Park in Picton earlier this month, and placed fifth in the Coppermine Epic mountain bike race in Nelson last Saturday.

Sarnim fits in some training for these types of events during the mornings before Katia leaves for work.

For Sarnim, mountain biking is a good outlet.

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"The training balances out looking after Anson, because it's ‘me time'; I'm looking after myself, I'm accountable to myself and it's a good challenge.

"Sometimes you want to have a couple of minutes to yourself, whether it's vacuuming, cooking, cleaning, or biking."

But Sarnim also shares a good amount of time mountain biking with Anson, who gets fitted out with a helmet and placed in a child seat when they cycle around the mountain bike track at Wither Hills Farm Park.

The proximity of Katia's work also means Anson can have a quick catch-up with mum during the day. "We'll see mum for lunch almost everyday which is good because it gives me a 10-15 minute breather."

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