I want to talk about three C words: content; consume; create. 

Only 60 years ago the UK had just one BBC TV station. Channel 4 wasn’t launched until the early 1982 when the first of the millennials were being born. Some of us may remember the launch of Channel 5 in 1997 led by the Spice Girls, and for years afterwards the analogue signal was so bad most of the shows were covered in a snowy landscape. 

The rise of internet connectivity and its increasing speed means that access to online video and other content is quicker than ever before. Apparently 300 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Eric Schmidt said in 2010 that the world created as much information every two days as we did up to 2003. I’ve no idea what that figure would be now in 2017.

There’s an overwhelming amount of content in our day-to-day lives, more than any generation before us. This comes with opportunities and challenges. In one way, the world is open to explore in ways our predecessors never even dreamed possible. In another, it’s a dangerous world where a young child can access the most adult of content. None of this should be regulated in my opinion, but it should be used responsibly.

 

We are unprepared to deal with the level of content in our lives.

We are often prone to procrastination, and it can be easy to wile away the hours on social media simply scrolling through other people’s posts for news that really doesn’t matter to us. 

We consume a lot of stuff. Our world is all about information and millennials consume more than anyone else. The next generation after millennials are even more exposed to this content. Yet no one is teaching our children how to deal with the level of information available.

 

Millennial parents have a tough time, trying to weigh up all the responsibilities of parenting with achieving more in our professional and social lives.

The first thing to remember is that we should stop comparing ourselves to all the content in our lives. Content is simply someone’s point of view, whether it’s a blog post, a news item, Fake news, or Instagram posts. Content is merely a way for people to convey how they want to be. The more people consume their content the more popular those people become. 

It’s fun to consume, to sit for hours binge-watching a Netflix series or even reading a book. But if we want to achieve more in life we simply have to be aware of how much we consume. We need to follow a simple mantra:

 

Create more than you consume. 

If we’re to leave our own mark on the world we should create our own content, not just consume others. That means putting down the TV remote, or switching off the computer. When we want to do more we need to focus on the task at hand, and cut out all the content surrounding us. 

Sure it’s fine to consume. In fact, people who don’t consume are unenlightened and uninformed. I’m not just talking about the internet. We need and want to consume art, plays, concerts, books, there is so much out there from the oldest classical texts to the latest business thinking.

 

All prolific authors, painters, and bloggers, know when to stop consuming and start creating. 

Sometimes you will need to focus entirely on the task at hand and stop consuming altogether. Other times, when you’re trying to unwind on holiday all you want to do is read a good book. The choice is up to each individual how they spend their time. But the millennial parent knows that time is limited. If they want to be productive they need to create more than they consume. This is the way they can produce more, and be more in their day to day lives. 

 

Another upshot of creating more than you consume is that you start to “budget” your content.

You start to choose only the content that will make the greatest difference to your life. Therefore, you will only watch TV shows that you want to rather than idling flicking through channels. When you consume consciously you consume the best and enhance your life, better positioning you to create and achieve even more in the future. 

 

It’s a simple mantra: create more than you consume. It’s never been more important than in today’s world. 

I first started this post a month ago and then put it to one side. I didn’t consider a terrorist attack would be imminent. Of course, the threat has always been there but the longer that nothing happens the less likely it seems it will happen in our country, our city, on our street.

There’s much sadness about the senseless loss of life in Manchester. The month of May 2017 will be etched in our memories just as July 2005. We should remember those who lost their lives, support those whose lives have been shattered, and commend the bravery of so many people who tried to help.  

 

As the terror threat is raised to ‘Critical’ the question of how we protect our children is at the forefront of every parent’s mind. 

 

But how do we protect them against something as barbaric as a terrorist attack, designed to create the most hurt and carnage possible? 

The first thing to remember is that, while these things happen, they are fortunately quite rare. In fact, society is safer than at any time in our history. Read Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of our Nature for further background. And try to take some comfort that we live in a progressively peaceful world.

 

There are a few small precautions that may help protect our families and others around us if we are ever caught up in an incident.  

 

Be aware of your surroundings.

Our field of reference shrinks when we focus on things immediately in front of us, particularly phones. When we take pictures of friends or selfies, our view is limited to only the things closest to us. If you’re in a busy place or at an event, take a moment to be aware of what’s going on around you. Especially where our children are concerned. Where are they? Who are they talking to? Who else is around? Quite simply, is there anything out of the ordinary? We’re surprisingly well-attuned to the unusual, our brains subconsciously pick up on it. Of course, it may not be possible to spot danger, but at least being vaguely aware of what’s going on may help. If something doesn’t feel right, report it.

 

Learn about the place you are visiting. 

Try to take in some basic information about the place you are in. If it’s a big event, take a moment to read through the safety information. If it’s simply walking around a shop or eating at a restaurant, identify where the key officials are. Are you travelling on a train? Read those safety signs just in case. This is why the safety drill is repeated every time we take a plane journey. If we know what to do in a crisis we are better able to respond. 

 

Know your exits. 

If you are with your family and something terrible happens, your job is simply to get away where it’s safe to do so. Moving away from the affected area is the best option, and often you don’t have to go far to be in relative safety. Wherever you happen to be, it’s important to be mindful of your exits and how you can get out if you need to. For example, when walking through a shopping centre pay attention to the green fire exit signs that lead directly out of the main building. The same applies in a shop. Most fire exits are towards the back of a department store. If you know the exits you can help to direct other people, too. 

 

Check official advice. 

The emergency services often issue advice about how to respond in an emergency situation. You can read about it here. A lot of the advice pertains to getting to safety and staying out of the way to let the emergency services do their jobs. They are trained to respond to these situations and, if a crisis occurs, it’s important to follow their lead. 

 

Learn first aid. 

This may seem a simple one, but if we all had basic first aid training we would all be a lot safer in our day-to-day lives. Most first aid training isn’t designed around a terrorist attack, but the recent course I attended did include some additional points that were helpful. Can you get on a work first aid course for free? Or sign up to the Red Cross or St John’s Ambulance. Read more in my other post on this topic. If you are able to assist in delivering first aid to someone it may be the difference between life and death. 

 

None of these points may have made a difference in Manchester against the relentless determination of one person to hurt indiscriminately. There’s nothing anyone could have done to change things but there were so many examples of human courage and bravery in the moments afterwards.

These are just my observations and don’t represent official advice. In all cases refer to the official guidance and follow the lead of the authorities; and try to stay vigilant without letting fear rule our lives. 

 

 

 

Have you ever seen the movie Due Date with Robert Downey Jr and Zack Galifianakis? I did once. And to be honest I didn’t really like it and I even had to look up the name before writing about it here. It’s about an uptight businessman who needs to get across the country to be with his wife as she gives birth. He meets a no-hoper actor, who gets them kicked off the plane home, and they have to take a road trip across the country to get home as quickly as possible.

The scene that sticks in my mind is where their car overturns and crashes. The Robert Downey Jr character ends up breaking his bones but the Zach Galifianakis character is fine; he was relaxed and his body just went through the motions and didn’t get hurt.

I’m not sure of the science of that movie, but I think it teaches us all a lesson about how to survive on no sleep.

I’ve just had a second child. It’s great, wonderful, fantastic, all the superlatives you can think of. But of course, I haven’t slept properly since he was born. For one thing he wakes to feed every couple of hours and, even though my wife is breastfeeding him, I still keep involved as much as possible.

Too many of us suffer through those early months and years, struggling to maintain our day-to-day lives all the while getting no sleep. The best time for me was paternity leave when I could sleep during the day when the baby did. And then I had to go back to work.

I think the key to surviving on zero sleep is flexibility.

We try to get back to our normal lives but our sleep won’t return to normal, so we suffer. Just like the Robert Downey Jr character in that movie, we end up hurting ourselves through our tension and inflexibility. What we need to do is go with the flow, be more flexible, sleep when we need to sleep, rest when we can. It’s not forever, and eventually the baby will settle into a proper pattern.

It’s probably hard for most of us to be so flexible, given that we have jobs with shifts or standard working hours.

We can start by looking at our free time – do we need to make rigid commitments to friends, exercise, and fun stuff? What if we just exercised in the moments of free time that emerge rather than schedule things in? I’m a big advocate of productivity and scheduling but I’ve realised it’s not so easy with a child. Most of my scheduled activities end up being moved anyway.

Once we’ve gained some flexibility in our personal lives we can tackle our work lives.

Every employer in the UK is obligated to consider flexible working requests and I’m sure similar rights exist in other countries. If more of us start to request flexible working then we begin to break the mould of the 9-5 working day, which is based in the early industrial past and has no real relevance in today’s society.

If we accept that our sleep may be good one night, terrible the next, then we should also accept that we’re going to have good days and bad days, days when we can function and days when we barely get by. It’s ok and we shouldn’t give ourselves a hard time. And then all of a sudden it will become easier to get things done.

The secret to surviving on zero sleep is to relax, be flexible and go with it. It won’t be forever!

Preparing for the birth of a baby requires advanced strategic planning and meticulous preparation. It’s made harder because, for many of us, our experience of the Labour Ward and delivery rooms is entirely alien. Sensible parents-to-be are able to book a tour of the Labour Ward before the big day. Note, I was not one of the sensible ones!

There’s a long list of items you and your partner will need for your stay in hospital. My wife packed everything for the birth of our son and I honestly couldn’t tell you what was in the bags, except it felt like we were going on a week’s holiday.

I believe there were a few essential tech items that made our birth experience go more smoothly.

Here’s a quick run-down:

Smart phone.

Let’s start with the obvious one. Everyone has a smart phone these days. This essential bit of kit can transform the birth experience. But first thing’s first, you don’t want to be using it to call anyone. In fact, turn the phone function off. The birth process is something that both of you need to focus on completely. Shut out the outside world and don’t think of anyone outside the walls of the delivery room. So what do you use it for? Photos mostly. And entertainment.

Tablet.

It’s good to have a tablet to hand. I didn’t use ours much, but when labour slowed down or got painful it was useful to put on BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Amazon, etc. We also compiled a playlist of songs for the birth using Spotify. Streaming music is a great invention and you can download playlists to your device. Not got an account with Spotify, Amazon, or Deezer? You can sign up for a month free trial and, if you time it around the due date, you can easily get your month’s worth of music and then cancel your plan.

Bluetooth speaker.

These are fantastic inventions that have become much more affordable. For the birth of our first baby in 2012 all I brought along with me was an old digital radio tuned to Smooth Radio. And then the batteries ran out half way through the birth! A Bluetooth speaker, like a UE Boom or the JBL Flip 3 (which I bought) can play up to 15 hours of music. I had mine linked up to Spotify on the iPad. The sound is pretty impressive with good bass. There were moments during our son’s birth that we brought out the hard house music to get us through. Invest in one of these speakers if you can!

Noise-cancelling headphones.

Alternatively, your partner might like to shut everything out. The delivery room can be a pretty overwhelming space, with midwives coming in and out, and monitors beeping. You can shut all this out with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. Basic models give you a good seal around your ears. More expensive options actively block out outside stimuli using some sort of advanced technology or magic spell. Find out more on Trusted Reviews.

LED candles and diffuser.

The delivery room can be a cold and unfamiliar place. A dad-to-be’s job is to make it as relaxing as possible. You can cover up the medical equipment, cover up the clock (because who wants to count the minutes?) and light some candles, right? No hospital would be happy with a room full of real candles and naked flames, but there are better alternatives. Why not take along some LED candles. Some even have an accompanying scent. Or take along a portable electronic diffuser for those soothing scents of lavender.

VR goggles.

Ok, so we didn’t use these and I’m not sure if anyone ever has! But VR goggles fit over your eyes and hold a phone that displays virtual environments on apps such as Google Cardboard. Let’s say your partner doubled these up with the noise cancelling headphones, she could be transported to a faraway island or the top of a mountain. Whatever helps to calm her. Because ultimately a calm state of mind releases the hormone oxytocin which helps with the birth process. Stress creates adrenaline which slows things down. So, as silly as this idea might be, perhaps someone should try it sometime!

 

If you’re taking tech along to the delivery room you better be sure it works. You’ve only got one shot at this and you won’t be able to pop home to get something you’ve forgotten. Two final considerations:

Power.

Most hospitals are officially against charging your own equipment in their power sockets. There may not even be any suitable sockets around. So it’s important to charge all your devices fully. Take along a portable charger if you can. You never know how long you’re going to be there.

Internet access.

Most hospitals will have a good wifi network. Look into this before you go, especially if you’re planning on streaming music. If the wifi access is poor make sure you’ve downloaded any music onto your devices. Or if you have 4G you’re winning.

Let me know your thoughts, what are you planning on taking? What did you take? What worked and what didn’t?

 

My wife and I had a boy on 31 March. I’ve been living with a newborn baby for two weeks now and thought it’s time I should post a quick review in the style of some of those tech websites.

So, here’s my honest review posted for your information. I can confirm the baby has been grown and delivered by us; no one is paying me to provide this review.

Top line verdict.

While the second baby doesn’t represent a significant upgrade on the first, there are noticeable differences. Its feature of omnidirectional urination is a key departure from the first model and seems to come with unique challenges. At present the software remains limited, with only modes for sleeping, feeding, and defecation, none of which can be programmed. The manufacturer has promised further patches will be released in the coming months.

Unboxing.

The birth was as smooth a process as can be expected. Labour lasted for longer than the previous baby and consequently both mother and father were very tired throughout. All of the credit must go to the mother for pushing out the baby, which required some encouragement from me with soothing words and music. At certain points we did break out the hard house music which must have been an experience for the other patients on the ward.

All credit must go to the hospital and especially the midwives for getting the baby out safely and as calmly as possible. They do a tremendous job and I can’t even imagine the kind of things they see on a daily basis. Midwives witness women and men at their most most primal and vulnerable, and they still manage to handle everything with professionalism and humanity.

 

Specifications.

This baby arrived slightly larger than the first model, at 7 lbs 11 oz. All of its fingers and toes were there and, on initial inspection, everything appeared very healthy. After a short time we observed that the baby had a tongue tie, which impeded feeding. This required a slight modification/snip after visiting a breastfeeding counsellor trained in tongue tie division. Two weeks on and there have been no further issues.

I’m very grateful that the baby arrived safely and had no health problems. Many people are in worse situations. It’s important to be grateful for our health.

I’ll elaborate on the tongue tie issue in future posts. It’s an essential part of ensuring proper breastfeeding between mother and baby and yet it seems to be something that is widely unrecognised and misdiagnosed. A number of hospitals and health trusts are beginning to acknowledge this, but more must be done.

 

Power consumption.

The baby has its own sleep patterns and needs, and consequently we’ve had to adjust our own idea of rest. Charging/feeding is required every 2 to 3 hours, in between which the baby usually sleeps for any period between half an hour and up to 4 hours. There’s no predicting when it will wake up. There’s no effective method to induce sleep mode at this stage. It can safely be assumed that if the baby is crying it needs something. Consequently our lives have come to revolve around it.

Thankfully the baby has established an effective breastfeeding relationship with mother. This is good news as it’s a very healthy and natural option, it is also very inexpensive, and it allows more rest time for me, the father, who cannot feed without a bottle.

 

Day-to-day usage.

At present there is very limited functionality. The baby cannot move and can barely twist its head. Within the first two weeks it is now beginning to open his eyes and look at the world, but I am certain from research online that a baby can only see blurred shapes in black and white at this stage. It cannot recognise its hands or feet and frequently startles itself when it moves its arms.

Interaction is minimal although I am assured that any comfort and connection we try to make at this stage will have a subconscious effect on its development. Therefore I do find myself cooing regardless of its effectiveness.

While relatives have been interested to meet the new baby, we’ve limited visitors to ensure the baby is not overwhelmed and we can settle into a pattern. Its lack of functionality and interest is often forgotten by other members of the family, and consequently they feel a little useless (dare I say bored as well) after meeting it for the first time.

 

Compatibility with other models.

The baby does not understand the difference between its mother, father, or sister. At this stage it means very little to it is to have a sister. On the other hand, our daughter is extremely excited to be involved and is trying to act like a responsible big sister. With a four and a half year age gap she is able to help with small tasks, such as fetching a nappy. Anything further makes me nervous. She’s enthusiastic to help and is obviously trying to act mature about caring for the baby but it’s not wise to leave them both together at present.

Having a boy means we may have to rethink clothing arrangements for the next few years. Of course, there’s no reason why a boy can’t wear a dress these days but we are naturally gravitating to the boys section of the clothes shops. There are numerous accessories stored in bedroom cupboards and our and attic that won’t be compatible with this model.

Additionally, this one has arrived in the springtime whereas the first one arrived in the autumn, meaning the types of clothes required at different stages of growth are different. On the plus side this means we may be able to get rid of a lot of “junk” and clear some space.

 

Conclusion.

Having had some experience with a baby in the past, I was under the misinformation that I might find it easier with a second baby. It is clear that, while the overall design is similar, no two specifications are the same. Even at this early stage I’ve recognised differences in personalities between the two children. I also recognise differences between our first-time parent selves from nearly 5 years ago to our settled and more self assured second time parents. The initial two week period is still a novelty and be it would be interesting to revisit this review in several months.

Overall, I very much enjoying this new product/baby and am looking forward to getting to know it over the coming months and years.

Rating: 5/5 stars.