- Name: Hud Saunders
- Children: 1
- Where: Camden, London
- When: 5th November 2015
A father, a modern man and now a published author, Hud Saunders has written the most wonderful depiction of the difficult parental dynamic caused by a disappointed house-husband. As a parenting website which appeals to mothers and fathers alike we were keen to speak with Hud, about his role as a young father, a working father and what inspired to him to write about fatherhood.
Saved interview for later
What's your family set up?
I have one daughter, aged 31, believe it or not. (But trust me, the parenting doesn't stop!) I am not and never have been, married.
You became a father at 22. What were you like at 22? Where were you in your life?
When I found out I was going to be a father, I was sharing a house in Richmond with a man who claimed to be a Wizard. I thought I was bound for a career as a rock star, but the Wizard had other ideas. I was idealistic, hungry for approval, and utterly naive. My daughter was not planned, she was the result of a 4 week affair. I didn't find out my short-term lover was pregnant until 2 months before my daughter was born. Had my friend not told me, I might never had known that I had a daughter!
How did you feel?
When I heard the news from a mutual friend, I felt a mixture of shock and elation but honestly, pure joy. I realised that I had never thought about it before, but I wanted to have kids.
I didn't feel any anger towards her mother either. In fact, I felt the opposite. I was more like, "amazing, you are having my child!". I understand from a woman's perspective, why they may not always tell the father. Many men run a mile.
Did she explain why she left it so late to tell you she was pregnant?
She was scared that I would force her to have an abortion and she didn't want to do that. I don't know where she got that idea from! The whole experience for her was very daunting and ultimately, she didn't know me that well and the person that I was. We didn't really know each other.
So, what happened after you told her, that you knew?
Just before Christmas, the Wizard kicked me out of the house (he was older and much larger than me) and I ended up staying in a friend's recording studio near Cambridge, having no money to rent anywhere. Two of the Stranglers (Dave Greenfield and JJ Burnel) were recording an album there at the time.
Not long after Christmas, my daughter's mother wrote to me, to say my beautiful daughter had been born, so I headed back to London to meet her. The moment I set eyes on her, I knew I had to be involved in her life and we decided to try and live together as a family. We lasted a year, and I certainly did my share of nappy changing and all that raising a baby, involves. When we split, we decided to co-parent our daughter and I think we did a pretty good job of it.
How did people around you feel? Were your friends supportive?
None of my friends had kids. Everyone kind of disappeared. Finding out that there are consquences to sex... it was too scary for most people! They were too young and didn't want to know.
You have to grow up fast. I grew up very fast.
Family is clearly, very important to you?
Family, extended family and friends. Very much.
As humans I feel that we operate much better tribally. I think that kids really miss out these days. In the past we had bigger extended families. Not only would they help take care of the children but the children would recieve this much broader education about life. So, the idea that just the father and the mother are the ones that teach that child about everything, I feel, is insane. And the expectation that they have to do that is crazy becuase you have your expertise and you are good at certain things but there is no way that you can cover the spectrum that a child needs. And that spectrum exists in all of us, in the tribe.
I think that there is way too much pressure on parents to deliver, to perform and be these amazing super parents, that do everything. I think that this pressure can affect parents in negative ways and lead to them feeling that they are not fulling their duties. And ultimately then, can affect the children.
Something I strongly believe, is that children feel everything from the minute they are born and what happens in their early years affects them for the rest of their lives.
Do you think that this could contribute to the breakup of a lot of relationships?
A lot of people say, "we are staying together for the kids". In my experience, when that is an unhappy or angry relationship, the collateral damage on the child, is far worse than if they had been honest and actually separated. So often, people saying that they are staying together for the kids, isn't the right thing.
You will always find that things don't go the way you want them to go because there are will be a whole set of expectations that people have, or your partner has, that aren't going to be met because you aren't being honest. And the reason that people aren't honest is because they are afraid.
One of our writers is a young father of two, Matt Gannon who lives in Canada. He writes for us about the realities of being a young father and openly states that it is hard. What would advice would give a young man about to embark on fatherhood?
I would say take the leap of faith with joy and trust your natural, nurturing instincts. Be honest when you feel out of your depth, ask for help, take advice. Be gentle with your child, their mother and with yourself. It can be hard, but it's incredibly rewarding.
You only really understand the meaning of life when you become a parent.
The Beasts of Belmont Park. Love the title. Very enticing. Where did it come from?
Glad you like the title! I'm a big fan of alliteration, I use it whenever possible, and I always loved the title of the J.P. Donleavy novel 'The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B'. It was a happy coincidence that my novel is set in the fictional Northwest London suburb of, Belmont Park.
So, tell us, what was the inspiration for the book?
I used to see this very handsome guy pushing two young children around Queens Park. He never looked happy. I wondered what his story was. Why was he unhappy, he never looked present, like there was some sort of mental drama going on in his head. I guess it struck me, as I was never unhappy when I was with my daughter. I was just to happy to have the time with her.
So, I was intrigued. He looked like a cool guy and I thought, what's going on?
About 6 months later I happened to be at the Queens Park Literary Festival and was hobnobbing in the VIP marquee, as you do.
I got talking to a vivacious and very attractive female novelist. Then all of a sudden, this guy, the guy with the kids popped his head into the marquee, and it turned out he was her husband. And I thought... aha! There's a tale to be told there!
Love that! Do they know that you have written a book about them?
No, they don't. I have never seen them again and I kind of feel like I don't want them to know that I have written this about them! It's total fiction but they were the kernel of the idea.
Tell us a little bit about the story if you would...
The characters in the book are Paul and Laura. Paul is an out-of-work actor struggling with the hardest role of his life, a stay-at-home dad. But while Paul is changing nappies, his wife (and best-selling author) Laura Holland, is immersed in a glamorous world of boutique book festivals and champagne receptions.
This flips the lid on the middle-class dream and grinds its boot into the new Daddy dynamic.
What are your biggest hopes for the book? That people, parents especially, will identify with Paul?
I think my biggest hopes are, that women get an idea of what it's like in a man's head. And that people understand that for any relationship to work, it has to have honesty at its core. I'm sure parents will identify with most of the situations in the book, they may well identify with Paul or Laura, but hopefully they won't get themselves in quite such a mess as Paul does!
How do you find a balance between work-life and home-life when you are a stay at home dad?
When I was co-raising my daughter it was always a bit of a juggling act, as, to begin with, I'd pick her up from school on a Wednesday, take her to school Thursday morning, then pick her up again on Fridays and take her back to her Mum's on Saturday night or Sunday. To be honest, I loved having my daughter so much, everything else took a back seat, and I made my social and work life, fit around her.
Do you have a creative space to work from?
I have a very creative (i.e. extremely cluttered) desk in my front room.
How did this fantastic working relationship come about with The Pigeonhole? What attracted you to this form of publishing rather than going down the traditional agent/publisher route?
My friend Kate Monro the writer and journalist introduced me to Anna Jean Hughes via email. Anna liked the idea of the novel, I sent her the first 100 pages, she loved it, we took it from there! I really like how innovative The Pigeonhole is, and I really like the idea of interacting with my readers.
The Modern Man
The novel is fictional, but clearly based on the reality, tackling 'manhood' and 'fatherhood' and how the two come together. So, what to you, is the modern day man?
The concept of masculinity is in transition. All the old paradigms like man being the hunter/provider/protector are dissolving... it's a very challenging time for men, because without those structures in place, who are we? And of course this is compounded by the fact that women are not only economically independent, but also clearly as strong and capable as men.
Yet whilst we are learning to embrace our true, wide-spectrum natures, the media still persists in stereotyping us. And where, for millennia, men have been programmed to be emotionally shut down, in order to fight wars or labour for someone else's profit - where we've been told our sacrifices are heroic - we now are expected to be sensitive and passive when it suits, and 'real men' when it doesn't. Whilst we are often focused on the needs of young women, the fact that the number one cause of death in young men is suicide seems largely ignored. It's an incredible time to be a man, yet clearly for many men, also a very difficult one.
Do you think that many fathers feel that being a 'hands on', 'stay-at-home' father depreciates their manhood in the eyes of society? Or are opinions changing?
For some men (and for some women), this is the case. But I know some tough, apparently macho guys, who are wonderful stay-at-home or single dads. As I said before, society is in transition. We've been conditioned for so long to believe that women are the carers and men are the providers that people, both men and women, seem to find it hard to accept that men are just as capable of nurturing and caring as women. I think stay-at-home dads are in the vanguard of change and what is fantastic and needs to become fully understood, is that we're all different...
The Up All Hours round...
Up All Hours Watching... TV drama - Breaking Bad, Ray Donovan, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Vikings; at the moment I'm re-watching Poldark (I'm a total romantic). I can't get enough of TV drama series!
Up All Hours Reading...Just about anything - from Thomas Hardy to Ursula Le Guin and all points in between.
Up All Hours Listening to... Dreadzone. Bowie. Stones. Punk. Brahms. Air. Anything. I'm a big fan of 5 Rhythms, I love dancing.
Up All Hours wearing...Slippers. Kidding!
Up All Hours with...The concept of cosmic consciousness
Thank you Hud, it was a pleasure!
If you want to read The Beasts of Belmount Park and find out what really is going on in the lives of Paul and Laura, head to The Pigeonholeto get started.