He’s one-third of one the most popular households on the hit TV show Gogglebox, but Matty Fahd, like the rest of the world, is facing uncertain times when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic.
In November 2019, Fahd and his wife, Sarah Marie, welcomed a son, Malik (now four months old) and over the past few months, the young couple have been adjusting to life as parents of a newborn.
But in a world of a global pandemic, panic buying and a serious threat to the health of millions, Fahd’s priorities have changed even more and has come to realise that “family first” is all that matters.
TheLatch— sat down with the new dad to talk about how he and Sarah Marie are adjusting to life with baby Malik and what it’s like to be a first-time dad during this uneasy time.
Anita Lyons: Hi Matty. Congratulations to you and Sarah Marie on baby Malik! He’s just gorgeous. How is newborn dad life going?
Matty Fahd: It’s been amazing. Obviously the coronavirus has sent a spanner in the works but other than that it’s been awesome. Sarah’s in a really good groove now and I just love him. There’s so much love in the house. There’s so much love for him that if every day I had to just take care of him it would be such a great thing to do. I have massive FOMO [fear of missing out] when I have to go to work and I just see them cuddling in bed. It’s just awesome. He lights up our lives every day.
AL: My ovaries just exploded! How has being a Dad changed your perspective of parenthood?
MF: I have this understanding of what my mum goes through. I have six nieces and nephews and she’s so aggressive with her love, like “I just want to eat him” and I didn’t quite understand that until I had my own kid because that’s exactly how I feel. I always ask Sarah, “when does he get bigger so I can just squeeze him? He’s too small right now but I just need him big enough so I can just hug him really tight. He just drives me wild.
“It’s just awesome. He lights up our lives every day.”
AL: What have you learnt so far being a new parent?
MF: I’ve already learnt that every parent’s journey is really different. You can prepare for it — which I absolutely recommend doing whatever you can when it comes to preparing the right things to buy for the baby — but in terms of trying to prepare your life and your lifestyle, you can’t prepare for it because you don’t know what type of child you’re going to have and you don’t know what type of experience Mum is going to have with breastfeeding and I just think everyone’s journey is really different.
I also learned that when you say you’re having a baby, people often say all of those throw away negative comments like “prepare to lose all of your sleep” but no one actually says, the day he is born is probably one of the best days of your life or it is such a rewarding experience. All the good stuff. I was prepared from all of my nieces and nephews, I’ve seen probably everything with each of them — some being really easy and some being really difficult. So I kind of prepared myself, but when it came to it, my siblings said: “You guys are handling this too calmly. We’re waiting for the shit to hit the fan.”
But that’s another thing I’ve learned. If you’re calm, your demeanour is calm and you try not to argue too much or sweat the small stuff, then that reflects calmly on the baby. During pregnancy and after, if you can keep a level head, then the baby senses that as well.
AL: What’s been the biggest challenge of being a new dad?
There’s an overall a sense of vulnerability and you spend nine months making sure that you’re eating the right things as a family and I was super protective of Sarah — you know what she was doing and where she was going — making sure the pregnancy went as smoothly as possible.
We have several friends who lost babies via miscarriage and we were on high alert on that respect and you know, you worry, worry, worry and then waiting for the baby to come out and then you realise as soon as they’re out, you’ve got the worry that your parents have. You’ve got a lifetime of worry now and you’ll never stop worrying about them. It takes constant work to just chill out a bit and not worry about everything and take a deep breath and think, there are one hundred bad things that can happen but you have to not worry and just do your best because you can’t control everything in the world.
AL: With coronavirus a global pandemic, how are you feeling having a newborn in this current climate?
MF: It’s been like a bad dream, to be honest. It’s not ideal but I think the silver lining is the reports that it affecting young children has been quite low. That has taken some of the anxiety away from it.
The other positive is that I’m actually working from home now which means that I can spend every day with him which at this time in his life is awesome because usually, I get home, I might see him for a little bit and then we’re off to bed so I’m seeing a lot more of him now and get to hang out with him so I guess that’s the upside of it.
AL: Being a newborn, Malik needs supplies like nappies. How has the virus affected your usual shops?
MF: It’s hard. I went to the grocery store today to get nappies, disposable change mats, and Panadol for children and they’re all gone. I went to four different shops. We’re now looking on the internet and these are things you don’t normally, as a parent, have to plan that far ahead for but just trying to get the most basic stuff is really difficult.
On top of that, every time you leave the house to go on a shopping trip, you can’t help but feel this heightened sense of insecurity. Did I just touch something I shouldn’t have? That person just coughed near me because the last thing you want is to pass it on to your child. It’s been horrible. I think everyone’s feeling it.
AL: I’m just at a loss for words that you don’t have supplies for your child. Did you go to the shops because you’re running out or because you want to prepare?
MF: I think it’s a bit of both. I think we’ve got nappies for a little while longer, but we are out of change mats. We’re close to being out of Panadol which is a big one for a newborn because you don’t want him to get a fever and he’s just had his second round of vaccinations. That’s probably the most pressing one because change mats you can get past, you just have to be more diligent in cleaning the disposable ones.
Nappies and Panadol definitely, we need in the next few days.
AL: What precautions are you both taking particularly when you have a newborn at home?
MF: Essentially we’ve been really careful with any contact with the outside world and anyone coming to our house.
We’re also limiting who holds Malik. Predominantly, it’s just me, Sarah and him at home at the moment but given our schedule, we do have people coming to our house at times. And usually we’d be all for people having a cuddle and a carry and a kiss but at the moment we’re limiting that.
AL: You’re a big family man, how has the affected your extended family?
MF: My parents just got back from overseas, they just got back from visiting my brother who lives in Dubai. They got back in time for the self-quarantine restriction, but we’ve put them on quarantine until they can be sure that they don’t have anything. Malik hasn’t seen his grandparents in seven-weeks because they were away for six weeks and have been back one week. They’re losing their mind not seeing him. We’re FaceTiming my mum every day at the moment.
AL: As a parent who can’t get these supplies, what do you think about ‘panic buying’?
MF: There’s a knock-on effect because all of this crazy panic-buying leads to other people not being able to “normal” buy. It’s nuts. I went today to do our normal shop and I wasn’t even allowed to buy two packets of eggs.
It’s just annoying, to be honest. I’m in two minds though. I think we need to buy it because there won’t be anything left if people continue to buy it and if we do go into a lockdown, which by the looks of it, we won’t be doing that, we just want to make sure that we have enough food to feed the three of us and Bane.
There’s no hand-soap left in Woolies. No cleaning products full stop, so I went to three different stores. There is no disinfectant wipes, there’s no anti-bacterial gel, there are no paper towels, there’s no washing powder. There’s zero cleaning products at the moment and we’re out of a lot of them, so that’s become a challenge as well.
AL: You’ve just bought your first home, how is the coronavirus impacting you financially as a young couple?
MF: Having bought our first home, we need to be financially stable more than ever. Sarah’s a make-up artist and she makes her money from doing weddings and events. We’re in the process of refunding a lot of money that is in our bank account because it’s not really that fair that they have to lose their money because of the situation.
My day job is in sales, in advertising, and a lot of clients and brands are holding back on spends and if they’re not spending, I’m not making commission, so financially, we’re about to feel the pinch.
AL: What have you done to help combat this financial strain?
MF: Sarah and I went out for a walk with Malik and our dog Bane, but I’ve had to cancel my gym membership because all of these things have knock-on effects. I’m my happiest when I’m going to the gym, I’m eating well, I’m getting out of the house and interacting with people and that’s not really happening at the moment. It’s been really challenging.
“All of these things have knock-on effects because I’m my happiest when I’m going to the gym, I’m eating well, I’m getting out of the house and interacting with people and that’s not really happening at the moment. It’s been really challenging.”
AL: What message do you have for new parents out there going through the same thing?
MF: Stay positive and try not to think about it too much. Enjoy the positives of it all. If that is for you having more time at home to spend with your family then enjoy that time because it’s not going to be like this forever. This is temporary.
There’s no such thing as being over-cautious. Be as cautious as you possibly can be. If you can afford not to, don’t leave the house and unless you have to and just remain calm.
The current health crisis is evolving rapidly. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.