SURVIVOR STORIES: FROM DAD TO 10 DOWNING STREET

The third in a series of stories by mums and dads who have achieved success since having babies! Becoming parents inspired them to accomplish great things!

2Father-of-three, Ben Wakeling was not only inspired to write four books as a result of having children, but he also managed to bag himself an invite to 10 Downing Street…

Ben’s story:

When you walk through the famous black door of 10 Downing Street there’s a large entrance lobby with a little piece of furniture just off to the right. It looks like the racks you get in bowling alleys where they keep your shoes, but the holes in this particular creation are really tiny. Turns out, it’s where you put your phone. Apparently live-tweeting from inside the Prime Minister’s house is frowned upon, as is Instagramming the ceilings, which are really quite nice.

My hands feeling unnaturally empty, I ascend a staircase past rows and rows of previous Prime Minister portraits and am shown into another room which has more gold in it than you can shake a stick at. (Not that you’d really shake a stick at gold.)

It’s really quite surreal: I’m just a boy from Nuneaton, which was recently ranked as number 72 in a book called ‘Crap Towns’. Now I’m in a room with Samantha Cameron and a bunch of actors I watched in TV programmes as a child (remember David Haig in ‘The Thin Blue Line’, anyone?).

I’m there on behalf of a charity, SANDS, for whom I’d just written a book, which I wrote as a spin-off from my blog about parenting. And I can’t be a parent without having children. Therefore, without kids, I wouldn’t be standing in 10 Downing Street right now dressed up to the nines and trying not to implode with all the awesomeness.

Let’s go back to the beginning. When my wife was pregnant with our second child in 2009, I decided to start writing a book about pregnancy through a father’s eyes. Back then, it was something which hadn’t really been covered much, and I’d always loved to write, so the two seemed a nice fit.

After a few weeks I decided to post excerpts from the book online as a blog, and thus ‘Goodbye, Pert Breasts‘ was born. (As you can imagine, the title has resulted in a bit of abuse over the years, but my wife came up with it, and I really don’t mind having haters.) People began to read it, and enjoy it, and bought the book once it had been self-published.

Anyone who has children will tell you that there’s not a lot of time to do what you love. Fortunately for me, I love to write, and so decided to continue blogging about the ups and downs of parenting, trying to put a humorous spin on the challenges any parent faces as their children grow up and turn gradually more disgusting.

And, as time went on, more and more people started to read my blog. In 2010, just a few months after penning my first post, ‘Goodbye, Pert Breasts’ had been nominated for a national award, which I didn’t win, so we won’t talk about it. But still, nominated, and that’s pretty cool. I’m the kind of person who wants everyone to love them and likes nothing more than making people laugh, so the fact that the tripe I was writing was actually making readers chuckle was a huge ego boost for me – which is probably the last thing I need, but whatever.

In 2012, I won my first trophy, in the ‘Outstanding’ category at the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards. (Unfortunately I wasn’t at the ceremony to make my Halle Berry-style Oscars speech, which is a shame for everyone really, as it would have been a corker.) The following year I won a MAD Blog Award for ‘Most Entertaining’ blog, and both awards now have pride of place on a shelf in the lounge.

To actually please people so much that they took the time to vote for me in a national competition is overwhelming, fantastic and a little bit scary; but I’ve tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I blog as and when I feel like it; sometimes there are days between blog posts, sometimes weeks. For me, it’s a hobby, and the fact that other people like it is just a big added bonus.

In 2011 I decided to try my hand at more serious writing, and that’s how I settled on a book for the charity SANDS, who support families who have suffered the tragedy of a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. I interviewed seventeen bereaved families to try and shed some light on the unique emotions and challenges they faced, and give just a little insight into the mind of a grieving parent. It was a challenging project, but one which I relished, and I was blown away by the bravery of everyone I interviewed and all those whom I’ve met since and shared a room with in Number 10 on that cold November evening. Every copy sold raises money for SANDS, and so far over 700 copies have been purchased, generating over £1,000 in funds. It’s up for an award next week, so please cross your fingers.

In short, being a parent gave me a reason to do what I already loved, and through that I have found some measure of success. I’ve written four books, had a few articles in national publications, and made people laugh along the way.

For me, unless I write the next 50 Shades, writing will always be just a passion and never an occupation; but I’m okay with that. I’m a father first and foremost, and without my kids I couldn’t do what I love. For that reason, I should probably encourage them to like me: they give me fodder for my next blog post, after all.

Visit Goodbye, Pert Breasts for a humorous look at fatherhood and copies of his charity SANDS book How I Came To Hold You are now available.

More Survivors tell their stories here…

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