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Recalculating is a newsletter by Greece-based journalist Ignacio Pereyra, which aims to navigate manhood, masculinity, fatherhood and identity crisis. It is available both in English and in Spanish under the name Recalculando.
image showing the shadow of a man and boy reflected on ocean
Ignacio Pereyra

The Extreme Highs And Lows Of The Parenting Rollercoaster

From sick kids to kindergarten and travel. The everyday realities of paternity operate in the extremes. In the latest iteration of his "Recalculating" newsletter on parenthood, Argentine writer Ignacio Pereyra examines what it means to be a father.

Sometimes it seems like paternity has thrown me back in time. There are moments where I feel I have been plunged head-first into infancy, or taken back to my adolescence. When it happens, it feels never-ending. Rather than the intensity of said blow-ups, its their frequency that concerns me.

This is something quite similar to my son, Lorenzo, who, at age four, is experiencing a similar stage of development. My eldest son experiences even the most mundane events with an absolute seriousness. He operates almost exclusively in the extreme: “We never play, ever!” is one such call to the heavens, after at least ten hours of activities with his friends.

Lorenzo builds sentences about other themes — food, waiting, story time, going back to Argentina — with the same extremist architecture: always, never, all, nothing. I’m wondering if it’s contagious. Luckily, he does not seem to share my fears.

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Do We Need Our Parents When We Grow Up? Doubts Of A Young Father
Ignacio Pereyra

Do We Need Our Parents When We Grow Up? Doubts Of A Young Father

As his son grows older, Argentine journalist Ignacio Pereyra wonders when a father is no longer necessary.

It’s 2am, on a Wednesday. I am trying to write about anything but Lorenzo (my eldest son), who at four years old is one of the exclusive protagonists of this newsletter.

You see, I have a whole folder full of drafts — all written and ready to go, but not yet published. There’s 30 of them, alternatively titled: “Women who take on tasks because they think they can do them better than men”; “As a father, you’ll always be doing something wrong”; “Friendship between men”; “Impressing everyone”; “Wanderlust, or the crisis of monogamy”, “We do it like this because daddy say so”.

I read some of these texts but something tells me now is not the time to work on them. It’s as if they need some air, and of course, some more time in the oven, baking away. Out of nowhere, the question comes to me, and once it’s formulated in my mind, it seems obvious.

Why wouldn’t I be writing about what happens with Lorenzo and me if he’s the person with whom I have spent the most time with in the last four years? I’ve even spent more time with him than with my partner, Irene. They might be experiences which are very close to me, but what’s sure is that it’s the material I can count on every day.

Small issues vs big issues

I read an interview with Andrés Neuman on EldiarioAR, where the Spanish-Argentine writer writes about telling his son all of these things that we know he won’t remember. He explains why he wrote Umbilical, his most recent book, dedicated to his first child. He was surprised by the gap there was in literature of fathers talking about being fathers.

A birth is just as obvious and mysterious as a death.

“Having children is the most natural thing in the world, but it is also the strangest thing in the world — like sex or love, or death. So yes, a birth is just as obvious and mysterious as a death. So it’s very important and worth writing about, just as everything we take for granted is the most urgent thing we have to rethink."

Another gem from Neuman: “Why as a writer would I talk about nappies or poo when I could be thinking about Kant's categorical imperative? What interest is it of mine that my child’s nails need cutting, when I could be thinking about the nation-state and whether it has become an outdated model in global capitalism? It transforms itself into the big issue versus the small issue. And this fallacy of the small and the big has a lot to do with our education, not only as men, but as writers who pick some topics and steer a wide berth from others.”

"Having children is the most natural thing in the world, but it is also the strangest thing in the world."


What being a father feels like

So, I’ll give in: I’ll write about Lorenzo once more.

(Hi son, will you be reading this one day? Where will these digital archives end up in 10 or 15 years, when you might maybe be interested in checking these newsletters out? How are you and León, all grown? Is it boring reading this? I like reading my parents; sometimes, I’ll re-read the only two letters I have from them, yes, from them, because they're signed, “your parents”.)

In reality, now that I have considered this more, it’s not that I talk about Lorenzo or his little brother León, but of what their lives mean in mine.

In the end, what I write about is what I feel about being a father (like this irrational fear I had a few days ago, when Lorenzo had an almost 40 degree fever). I write about my interpretations with respect to what they say and/or do. Or also, where my mind ends up drifting when I digest some of the things Lorenzo comes out with.

Take our return to Greece after four weeks in Argentina, where emotions overcame him: Lorenzo had discovered a world of love and belonging which he had never experienced before. Cousins, uncles, aunties, friends and the children of these friends: everyone playing together and hugging each other every single day. And the icing on the cake: for four weeks, Lorenzo was by my side — for two of those weeks there was also his mother, Irene, who had been travelling for work with our youngest. And, it had been four weeks without going to the kindergarten (our holiday crossed over with the break afforded by Greek Easter).

Eating watermelon together

The morning we returned to Athens, Lorenzo came with me to get the car, which had been left by a friend parked at the airport. Irene waited back with León and the luggage. As we walked to the car, at 4am, Lorenzo broke the silence of the dead of night

— Nacho?

— Yes?

— Is it true that when I am older I won’t need a papá?

I asked him to repeat himself, not because I hadn’t understood him the first time around, but because I needed a moment to think about what I needed to answer. Lorenzo obliged, and repeated the question. He emphasised: is it true, or not? 🥺🥺

I switched to as neutral a tone as I could manage, and told him it depended on what… to drive, for example, he was not going to need his papá. For other things, while he might not necessarily need his papá, he might want him there anyway.

I stopped there. He did too. I don’t know what he was thinking about. He followed up, eventually, by saying he would like to eat watermelon, seeing as it was already summer in Greece. Or not? He asked. It’s not quite summer yet, I replied, but we can still go looking for some watermelon.

It’s left me thinking about how relationships are interwoven so that tomorrow, or the day after, Lorenzo and León will actually be choosing to have me near them, not because they really need me, but because they will still want me to be there, to share their worlds with me.

Or, at the very least, to eat a good watermelon together.

Image of six colorful candies, on which a mini statue of death is standing, looking at a man running away.
Ignacio Pereyra

Talking To My Four-Year-Old About Death

As he is faced by questions about death from his 4-year-old son during a family visit to Argentina, Recalculating author Ignacio Pereyra replies honestly. "I can only tell him the truth, at least the little truth that I know..."

BUENOS AIRES — An exchange with my four year old.

— Nacho…

— Yes?

— Am I going to die in Argentina or in Greece ?

— I don’t know… why?

— I want to die in Argentina. Can I?

— Well, I don’t know, it could happen in any country. I just hope it won’t happen for a very long time!

— I want to die in Argentina.

— Why?

— Because I like Argentina.

The talk I had with Lorenzo last week was in gentle tones. It’s something I am not used to with my oldest son, who at four, is usually loud, effusive and extremely expressive when we talk.

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Photo of a father and son on the beach. ​
Ignacio Pereyra

Fragmented Lives: Prodigal Sons Return To Buenos Aires

Visiting family in Argentina for the first time since the pandemic, Greece-based Argentine journalist Ignacio Pereyra sends some thoughts, from across the ocean, on raising children far from a family and community support network.

BUENOS AIRES — I am in Buenos Aires with my oldest son, Lorenzo, who recently turned four. Many people here are surprised that he almost always calls me by my name, “Nacho,” instead of “papá” — which he also calls me, but far less frequently.

He also mostly calls his mother “Irene,” instead of “mamá.” Is this anyone else’s experience, for their children to call them by their names? Any theories about why? I'm all ears.

I’m writing this newsletter in fragments, like much of the conversations and thoughts I had when I had one main role: parenting. My wife and our youngest are not joining us for the first part of our trip, so I am alone with Lorenzo in Buenos Aires. This means no time for any work other than being a father. Don’t get me wrong; I am not complaining. It’s just a description of my situation, which is also my wish, and my duty.

It's raining outside as I write, so I have had to resort to the digital babysitter for the first time in 10 days: Lorenzo is watching "The Lion King." I couldn't find any other way to find some time, and get something down on paper.

It has me thinking about life, fragmented.

Writing a message in a bottle

As I explained when I first started this newsletter, I stopped working for Lorenzo’s first two years, to look after him. My wife had started a full-time role, without taking maternity leave — she needed to be away for hours, writing — and we decided this was the best way around it.

It kicked off a series of discoveries and internal thoughts about me, which I still wrestle with today. Like, what kind of a man am I, if I am not working? I had been working since I was 17, and I didn’t stop for over two decades. And, can you end up being bored with a child?

My experience as a full-time dad pushed me to write a long piece which I never ended up publishing, but which some friends — mostly journalists and editors — read. There were lots of interesting suggestions, and positive notes from them on how I could improve my writing on the topic. But one stands out: it was from a writer and a friend, who I respect a lot professionally — who told me that my text was very fragmented.

Maybe my friend was right. I hadn’t intended to write in a fragmented way, but I realized that effectively, that’s what I had done. I then asked another friend, a novelist with many books under her belt, what she thought.

Her hunch was right — my friend didn’t have kids.

She said: “Nacho, your story has some issues, but actually, it being fragmented is not one of them at all. The writing is about a father who is with his son. It’s written exactly as women have had to write, historically: as and when we can, and many times it will come out in fragments. Does your friend have kids? It doesn’t look like it, judging by his comments.”

Her hunch was right — my friend didn’t have kids, nor was planning on them at the time, so that could have made a difference. I found it curious that even I hadn’t realized I’d been writing in patches. Looking back, I’d been typing up and recording notes on my phone whenever Lorenzo was taking a siesta, or when I was awake at night to change his nappy or trying to get him back to sleep again. The main source of my story was coming from snatches of audio and text I’d been saving.

My writing time was fragmented (as it still is today), but so was my attention and capacity to think and elaborate on ideas. These spaces for reflection did not exist for me. My head works a bit like Twitter — a couple of lines and the hope that an idea will work, like a message in a bottle, and might mean something more to whoever ends up reading it, wherever it floats in the sea.

Photo of a man sitting in front of a computer.

Working late.


Upsetting a fragile equilibrium 

There are so many positive, beautiful anecdotes I can share with you about having come home to Argentina. What is more lovely than seeing Lorenzo laughing loudly, over and over again, and having fun with his uncles and aunts, cousins and friends? We’re from a big family, and life without family and friends is a sacrifice when you choose to live in another country. It can feel like a gaping hole, at least at the beginning.

“I want to stay in Argentina forever,” says Lorenzo. “Can we live here forever, and just go back to Greece for the holidays?” is another one of his variants on the topic. My replies are vague and short; that is all that I can offer, for now. It’s something that makes me happy and proud in some way, but also poses more questions for our future.

One reason Lorenzo wants to stay in his father’s native country is obvious: we’re surrounded by love and affection, but he also doesn't have to go to his kindergarten in Greece, and instead is mainly spending time with me. Here in Buenos Aires, life goes on as normal for our family and friends; people work while we are on holiday, and children go to school.

What’s clear is that this familiar pattern we have — of traveling, leaving routine behind — reminds me of something crucial: the lack of a support network beyond a kindergarten, a daycare or an au pair.

Why is family equilibrium so fragile? Does it help us navigate the systems in which we live, in which being compensated in the labor market is one of our major priorities? And through which we gain legitimacy, in some form or another?

We all need work, or to look for work, although we only more or less need it. In part, it makes us visible, it validates us socially: “I am a journalist/plumber/accountant/pilot/architect, and I work here or there."

The nuclear family, the prevailing model in our Western world, is a very new invention, which has much to do with capitalism and the development of industrialized societies.

Historically, a large part of our lives as human beings were spent in community. When people started working and moving to urban centers, nuclear families started to become the norm — at least in the cities. Doesn’t it go without saying that it has made it more difficult to have a family life and children?

Photo of \u200bBarrio de la Boca, autonomous city de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Barrio de la Boca, autonomous city de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

morganeo via Pxhere

The end of the neighborhood

Jorge Barudy, a neuropsychiatrist and child psychiatrist from Chile, explains In an interview in Spanish with Pikara Magazine, that urbanization is centered in private interests and social isolation.

"It is built from a financial perspective, so that children grow up in a mononuclear family unit and cannot enjoy other forms of social support," he says. “When the neighborhood existed, children were on the streets, helping each other, socializing with each other. Families could compensate for any incompetence they had, and each other’s deficits. The organized model of the market has made the neighborhood disappear, and the same thing goes for the extended family. Luckily, there are still some countries in the south of Europe where these kinds of communities exist, such as in Spain, for example.”

What space do mothers and fathers occupy?

A few days ago, I was at a mixed group sports activity north of Buenos Aires, where the average person was around 40. We had to go around and introduce ourselves. We spoke about how we came to this sport, and the large majority shared their professions. But not one of the 13 adults mentioned that they had kids. Why? They certainly had them.

Lorenzo is finishing "The Lion King 2." It’s been too much screen time for today. And it’s stopped raining — we have the entire afternoon ahead of us — and I think I have hit the limit for concentration. I hope some of these lines, this message in a bottle, have meant something to you.

photo of two men dancing outside at a concert
Ignacio Pereyra

Let's Dance, Dudes! On The Insidious Gaze Of Gender Police

Why do we get so embarrassed about dancing? A fleeting thing that happened to me when I was younger haunts me more than I thought it would.

Before starting Recalculating, when I was mulling over what I would write to you all about — I had a very long list — I thought it would be interesting to reflect on certain insecurities and fears that we men hide.

More than anything else, it was about what makes us question and pay attention to what it is to be a man (and not a woman). This idea functions kind of like a tireless whisper in us.

I won’t generalize; instead, I'll share some of the situations I’ve personally encountered, connected to something I've been reading — let’s see where we get.

When I was starting Recalculating, I wasn’t sure about sharing it with Ale, a great friend of mine from Latin America who has a lot of experience working in the media there and in Europe.

It was an important project for me, and he could probably even contribute professionally. So why wasn’t I sure whether to tell him about it or not? As I write that now, I feel a little ashamed: my own prejudices and fears meant that I thought he might laugh at me.

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Photo of a man sitting donw with his luggage at Athens' airport
Ignacio Pereyra

Why Every New Parent Should Travel Alone — Without Their Children

Argentine journalist Ignacio Pereyra travels to Italy alone to do some paperwork as his family stays behind. While he walks alone around Rome, he experiences mixed feelings: freedom, homesickness and nostalgia, and wonders what leads people to desire larger families.

I realize it in the morning before leaving: I feel a certain level of excitement about traveling. It feels like enthusiasm, although it is confusing. I will go from Athens to Naples to see if I can finish the process for my Italian citizenship, which I started five years ago.

I started the process shortly after we left Buenos Aires, when my partner Irene and I had been married for two years and the idea of having children was on the vague but near horizon.

Now there are four of us and we have been living in Greece for more than two years. We arrived here in the middle of the pandemic, which left a mark on our lives, as in the lives of most of the people I know.

But now it is Sunday morning. I tell Lorenzo, my four-year-old son, that I am leaving for a few days: “No, no, Dad. You can’t go. Otherwise I’ll throw you into the sea.”

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Photo of a boy wearing blue and a girl wearing pink running toward a body of water
Ignacio Pereyra

Toy Guns And Dolls, And My Pink-Loving Son

The father of a four-year-old boy thought the idea of colors and toys for boys and girls was a thing of the past. Turns out he was wrong.

“Papá, is pink for girls?” asked Lorenzo, my four-year-old son.

Lorenzo usually listens attentively to the stories we read at home. Sometimes, I think it seems like a paradox, because the rest of the time he can't sit still (literally, I'm not exaggerating). I wonder if it's that, as he listens to the stories, his body is relaxed but his head is doing somersaults.

He often interrupts his night-time stories — I suspect in the hopes of stretching the ritual out as long as possible so as not to fall asleep. “I don't want to sleep anymore, I just want to play,” he told me last Sunday, as we were walking home at night after having spent the whole day playing with his friends.

But back to pink. This time, his interruption of the reading had an edge of concern — his frown and serious tone showing a mix of sadness and distress.

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Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders
Ignacio Pereyra*

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.


When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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