LEE Chadwick is no ordinary 24-year-old.
From changing nappies and night time baths to pacifying temper tantrums, there’s nothing this Southampton superdad doesn’t know.
That’s because Lee is one of an unsung army of full-time single dads who bring up their children alone.
“I was 19 when I had Shayne and I’m used to it all! Nothing fazes me in the slightest.
"In fact, I miss changing nappies!”
But it hasn’t been easy.
Lee admits without the help of a parenting class run by Action for Children, he doesn’t know where he would be today.
Lee was awarded full-time custody of his little boy when he was just six months old after his relationship broke down and he found himself going from playing the guitar and drums for a band to looking after a baby around the clock.
“I wish there was a booklet,” he laughs.
“All I could do was to take each day as it came.
“I thought I could either dwell on what had happened or I could just get on with it.
"I would never give up on my son.”
Lee, originally from Bolton who now lives in Hythe, explains he was just seven when he was put into care and he was determined the same would not happen to his son.
“I was bounced from pillar to post going from one home to the next. I was told by one family that it was just a job to look after me and I couldn’t handle it. I snapped and became a really horrible child.
“I had to fight hard for Shayne because I couldn’t handle the thought of that happening to him.
“Accepting that was my life, that I would from that moment be a full time single dad all on my own, was hard.”
Lee, who has always worked from a young age including jobs landscaping, roadworks and in a library for the council, says he became so low he didn’t know if he could go on, which was made worse by his son suffering behavioural problems.
“I hit rock bottom.
“Shayne was suffering separation anxiety when his mum left. Whenever I wasn’t there, he’d panic I’d leave him.
“He started to get really difficult whenever I tried to get him to do something.
“I was broken, I couldn’t cope, had no confidence and I was on the verge of giving up on everything.
“I knew I had to swallow my pride and ask for help.”
Lee signed up to a Positive Parenting Programme at Action for Children's Waterside Children's centre in Hythe.
“It was so daunting especially because it was all women and their children. It was terrifying and I was literally the only single dad so at first it felt like I shouldn't be there.
"But the staff were really lovely and I felt welcomed and from there my confidence grew."
In just a matter of weeks the course transformed Lee into a confident dad – and that improved the father and son's relationship.
“Action for Children were amazing. Without them, I don’t know what I’d have done.
“Now our relationship is so rewarding and I’m so pleased I swallowed my pride to give my boy the best start in life possible. It made me open my eyes and it’s changed me for the better.
“It has brought us closer. I’d recommend it to any dad, just taking a step back and thinking about how to be a good parent definitely helps.”
Lee says he can now look to a bright future.
Now a full time dad, he hopes to get part-time work in child care or as a landscape gardener when Shayne goes to primary school in September.
“I used to get a lot of comments like where is Shayne’s mum? And there’s no way I'd let my child's father get custody. But I'm not ashamed of our situation and I’m happy to answer any questions.
“I’m a really hands on dad and I have a really happy son. I may get a few looks at playschool when I give him lots of cuddles and kisses but mums do that and I’m proud I am his mummy and daddy rolled into one.”
Did you know?
A quarter of dads in the Hampshire area don’t ask for parenting advice according to a survey by Action for Children. One in eight mums say the same.
But nationally parents who use children’s centres are more likely to seek help with 86 per cent of them saying they have looked for information compared to 62 per cent of parents who have never visited a children’s centre.
For details on Action for Children services go to actionforchildren.org.uk