This post isn’t going to be the best one I’ve ever written. It’s not tagged with useful tips. It isn’t visually appealing. I don’t even want it to be read by many people. But it’s important that I do it. And keep putting words down.

Progress is putting one foot in front of the other and keeping moving.

I always love to read about the people at the back of the London marathon. The ones who have committed to completing the 26.2 miles at all costs. They’re usually doing it because there’s some higher purpose, like raising money for charity. They might be injured military heroes who are battling onwards in memory of their friends who never made it back home. They might be doing crazy charity challenges dressed in absurb costumes, highlighting their cause and raising lots of money. The guy who completed the marathon in a full diving suit sticks in my memory. He could barely move and it took him the best part of a week to do it.

But diving suit marathon man did complete the race. He set a goal and went for it in his own way, and completed the personal challenge doing some good in the process.

My blog has a kind of higher purpose; I want to examine and celebrate modern fatherhood. Sometimes I just enjoy writing and go through periods of prolific posting. But then modern fatherhood can also get in the way. I’ve realised my last blog post was nearly two months ago.

I might not have created any blogging content over the past two months but I’ve made some great memories.

I’ve been on a couple of holidays with my family, during which time I completely turned off email and social media. Sure, I’ve got plenty of Instagram-able images and lots of anecdotes for Twitter. But I haven’t managed to share them. It’s been tough juggling everything with a 5 month old baby and some things have to give.

I do regret that I’ve stopped completely over the past two months. I wish I kept my blog going, even minimally.

Like the diving suit man I’ve realised it’s important to keep taking the next step forward, however laborious and challenging. Because at least I’m making some progress. So this post is designed to give me a kick up the backside and try to stick to my 2017 annual plan. If I keep going between now and the end of the year I’ve got a good chance of finishing my book on the Millennial Dad.

I’m counting on other great parent bloggers to keep me accountable.

I’m not asking for a buddy blogger to keep an eye on me and make sure I’m posting regularly, although that might be helpful. Rather, I want to commit myself to regularly reading other bloggers’ posts. There’s some truly inspiring content out there being presented in exciting new ways. The standard of the bloggers I follow gives me something to aim for.

Keep up the good work everyone, and I’ll keep on taking steps forward!

 

 

 

 

The recent BBC Annual Report disclosed a big gender pay gap between men and women. This made me think why men might reasonably be paid more than women.

Here are five times when men should be paid more than women for doing the same job:

1. They are better at their jobs.

If a man and woman do the same job, but the man does that job better than the woman then he should be paid more. The measurable for the job should be clearly defined and if a man performs better in those areas then he should be remunerated more highly. At the end of the day, we all perform certain tasks for money, and it follows that the better those tasks we perform the more money we should receive.

2. They don’t take career breaks.

If a man and a woman do the same job, and then the woman takes a career break, it’s reasonable to assume the man will continue in his current career trajectory while the woman remains at her previous level. It just so happens that it’s more likely women take career breaks to have children on maternity leave, and therefore when they come back into the workforce they do so at a position further behind than their male counterparts.

3. They generate more money.

If a man and a woman do the same job, a man should earn more money if he generates significant revenue for the organisation where he’s working. That could be in funds generated, or advertising or sponsorship. One example is in the world of sports where male footballers are paid significantly more than female footballers. This is because male football attracts more viewers and therefore greater degrees of sponsorship and advertising. It’s simple market forces.

4. They ask for more money.

If a man and a woman do the same job, and they are appraised on that job, the man may earn more money if he asks for a raise. It is more likely that men ask for raises than women and therefore more likely their bosses will give them a pay rise. See this article on how female graduates dramatically underestimate their worth.

5. They network more.

If a man and a woman do the same job, the man may earn more money and greater opportunities as he networks more than his female counterpart. Men, by training or inclination, often choose to socialise with colleagues and network with potential clients. The more somebody is known in a particular circle, the more likely they’ll be trusted by others and the more opportunities they will gain.

All of the above points should be prefaced by “if” and can equally apply to women as well as men. It may seem vastly unfair that there is a gender pay gap, but the historic nature of men and women and the way they operate in the workplace is balanced in favour of males and away from females.

Does this mean that women should act more like men to be paid more?

I don’t think this is the case. None of the above points are particularly male traits, rather they are traits that males have adopted. It may be that work environments have been unfairly biased towards these activities and male workers have adopted those practices to earn more money. Also, having more men in positions of power makes it more likely that other men will progress at the expense of women.

Gender balance will not be achieved by simply encouraging women to act more like men.

Hundreds, if not thousands of years of biased thinking towards men means that we must take affirmative action to redress the balance. I applaud the recent news  that female celebrities in the BBC have collectively demanded a pay rise to be more equivalent to their male counterparts. By asking for what they want, rather than accepting what is given to them, they have a much better chance of achieving their aims.

The Swedish government hopes to address the gender pay gap in part by emphasising equal parental leave. There is even a portion of benefit which must be taken by men or it is lost. The benefit to Swedish society is that women are given more opportunity to get back into the world of work and come closer to equalising pay over time.

When I first read about the story of the BBC, it made me think how things could be improved. At first I thought we should become gender blind when it comes to pay. In an ideal world this would be the case. However, we don’t live in an ideal world and we must work harder to make gender equity possible within the next few years.

There’s a lot of talk about percentages these days. We’re often told people are “giving it 100%” whether it be at work, sport, or family life. Sometimes, it’s even higher: 110%, 200%, 1000%… there’s no limit to our level of commitment, regardless of whether it’s actually possible to give more than everything we’ve got.

The thing is, giving 100% is usually a fallacy, or worse, it’s the path to burnout and failure.

In our daily lives we have so many duties, and modern dads have more than any other men before us. We’re family men, successful colleagues and leaders, fit and competitive sportsmen, and social eagles. The motto is “work hard, play hard”, and men today have to do it all. If we’re always operating full-on, with nothing more to give, then we’re leaving ourselves very little space to recover.

There’s an expectation from society that men should have it all and do it all.

This constant pressure to always be “on” and “at the top of our game” has consequences. It’s believed that, at any one time, around 1 in 8 men are diagnosed with a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. This could be anxiety born out from all the stresses heaped upon men, or depression that men feel they have nowhere to turn. But if you think about it for a moment, very few of us ever talk about those deep-seated feelings, so how many more men in our society are suffering mental anguish in silence?

New fathers feel more pressure than most and male post-natal depression is a real thing.

In today’s society, modern millennial dads are expected, and expect to take a full role in raising their children. This is great for dads, families, and society in general as I’ve posted about in other areas. But with this new empowered family dynamic comes an additional pressure that men need to measure up as dads, as well as colleagues in the work place. A recent survey by the National Childbirth Trust found that over a third of new dads were concerned about their mental health.  So what can we do about it?

A first step towards easing stress for dads is to take away the pressure.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of everyday life, taking on more and more responsibility, and trying to do it all. Why? Because it’s expected from society. Look at this advert for a well-known razor blade (with amazing 80s soundtrack and video!) showing us that we can do it all, if only we buy their brand of hair removal.

You’re looking sharp, you’re looking good, you’ve come so far,
And we know how to make the most of who you are,
Father to son, it’s what we’ve always done,
Gillette, the best a man can get,
On so many faces it’s plain to see,
We give you all we have to give for all a man can be,
Where the race is run, you’re the champion,
Gillette, the best a man can get.

It’s time to stop believing that we have to be the champion all the time. Sometimes it’s ok to give less than 100%. For most runners, a marathon is about finishing and doing the best we can do for ourselves. It’s not about beating everyone else. Fatherhood should be like this, too. It’s not a constant sprint.

No man being honest with himself or with those around him can reasonably expect to operate at 100% all the time.

Bosses need to understand their employees will work hard, and will give it their all when necessary, but they can’t expect 100% all of the time. 80% is good enough. Partners and children should understand that dads are doing a good job but they can’t always be switched on and fully engaged with everything. Sometimes it’s ok to give 80% and watch something mindless on TV.

Men need to believe that whatever the pressures of society, they don’t have to conform to everything. They don’t have to say “yes” to every request. And if they give 80% to the world, then they can keep 20% for themselves.

There’s a quote from the first Bourne film when Matt Damon’s character is sat in a café and explains “at this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start to shake”. Elsewhere in the film, Jason Bourne switches in an instant from unassuming passer-by to deadly assassin. He knows when he needs to give it his all, when to dial it up to 100. Modern dads need to operate steadily most of the time, knowing when to step up and do what it takes when needed.

This is one of the best ways to look after ourselves and be the best dads we can be.

Today marks three months since my son was born. It sounds like a cliche, but the time really does fly. I had ideas of accomplishing so much with the Millennial Dad project, and having a new born baby was going to be the icing on the topical cake. Or so I thought.

Instead of being a dad blogger who capitalised on the arrival of a new baby, I did the complete opposite and withdrew from blogging almost entirely.

I’ve barely had any time to write a post, read other bloggers, or follow and contribute on Twitter. If you look at my profile, you would think I’ve gone off the grid.

I’ve failed at blogging… but that’s ok!

Despite becoming a dad for the second time, I’ve realised I definitely don’t know it all. This baby is different from the first one. And I’m different, too. It’s been a big adjustment going from 3 to 4 of us. And just as the oldest one was beginning to play by the rules: social graces, sleeping through the night, that kind of thing, along comes a new one with its own agenda that we have to fit around. Three hour sleep stints, anyone?

So, I may have failed to blog very much, if at all, but here’s three reasons why it’s ok not to do all those extra activities.

 

1. Family.

The arrival of a new baby takes every ounce of effort. From waking up every three hours to rocking to sleep, it’s not easy to get things done with a newborn. Accept help when it’s offered and try to get things done around the house. It’s never going to be perfectly tidy or clean for a while, but that doesn’t matter. Don’t forget to spend time with the other one so she doesn’t feel left out. And try to make time for each other as a couple. Yes, a newborn truly throws family life upside down and inside out.

In the idle moments when you’re not trying to catch up on sleep, you could try to be creative, if you have any capacity left. So, yes, blogging may have to take a back seat for a while.

 

2. Work.

The term “do you live to work, or work to live” may be a conundrum for some people, but those with families should know which side of the fence to sit on. Work should exist to support your family. Yes, do something that fulfils and excites you if you can. Actually this is a must. But don’t confuse work as a substitute for spending time with your family. Especially as man, it’s easy to get sucked back into the world of work after the standard two week paternity leave.

Work is important. It pays the bills. Work hard, go home, be with your family. For however long you’re working, blogging can’t really take precedence. Unless, of course, your job is blogging and social media. And you earn enough to make a significant difference in supporting your family.

 

3. Self-preservation.

Dads and mums can spend a lot of time together in the first few weeks of a new baby’s life. However, it’s not always time spent together in the normal sense of being a couple. You’re both employees, no, you’re unpaid labour solely to care for and grow a baby. Time for yourselves is pretty much non-existent. The time that you do get for yourselves quickly becomes sleep. Not deep, regenerative sleep, but only the light kind that you might snatch on an 8 hour coach journey in a stuffy old coach with sweaty leather seats.

Your body treats any free time that you do have as some form of self-preservation. Given half a minute it will shut down and convince you to rest. This doesn’t lend itself well to the creative arts of blogging. Sometimes you’re just too damned tired to blog. And that’s ok.

I enjoy reading and writing parent blogs. It’s a fun community and I’ve gained a lot of useful tips. I like to contribute when I can and I’ve still got some bigger plans for my blog. Right now is not necessarily the time to execute them. I know when to fight my battles and there’s no point trying to enforce something that’s not absolutely essential.

The key word in all of this is BALANCE.

Each new parent should try to find the right balance of what they want to do in their lives. Those crucial early weeks and months of a baby’s life are so special, you deserve to be at your best to enjoy them.

Four years ago we welcomed a baby girl into this world. I’ve watched as she’s grown and is now at nursery. Gender doesn’t seem to matter to her, right now, and that’s great. She plays with everyone but I can also see some subtle differences in the way she interacts with girls and boys. Is this a natural part of being a girl or a boy, or is it society beginning to introduce stereotypes according to gender?

I’m committed to do everything I can to make sure my daughter can live a fulfilled life.

So far, there have been no obvious boundaries to her development based on her gender. However, I know there are probably some subtle messages coming from the older generation about what a girl should be. There is still the relentless push of anything pink and fluffy.

Sometimes it’s difficult to stop people pushing their own ideas of what it is to be a girl. I see it is my role to do as much as I can to ensure she can thrive and achieve whatever she wants . There should be no glass ceiling for her generation.

Am I being over-cautious? Perhaps, but then women have been suppressed for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

My wife is also a committed feminist. She has dedicated her career to expanding opportunities for women around the world. I’m proud of the things she has achieved, and she has also taught me to think differently. I went to all-boys school and had a particular view of the world. Now I see that equal representation between men and women is vital to the success of our society.

The Millennial Dad has a huge role to play in International Women’s Day.

The Millennial Dad is the first to grow up in a world with equal opportunities between men and women. A female of my generation is able to earn just as much and progress just as far as I am able to do. The issue comes when people have children and take time off. Work still needs to be done in this area to allow parental leave to benefit both men and women.

The Millennial Dad is part of the generation that doesn’t apply traditional gender roles. My wife and I share equal commitments at home and I like to think that we both have opportunities to pursue our careers. I would happily fulfil the role of stay-at-home parent and I’m often jealous when I read all the great SAHD blogs.

The Millennial Dad is helping to change society and benefiting feminism. Millennial parents are starting to raise children in unbiased societies where girls and boys can achieve whatever they want in life.

We are expecting another child in the next two weeks. We chose not to find out what it would be, a boy or girl. At first this annoyed me and I wanted to know as early as possible to prepare the things. But what am I really preparing for? A boy or a girl does not need any different treatment. A boy or a girl should have equal opportunities to progress in this world to the best of their abilities. A boy or girl should not be held back at all in what they want to do. It is our role as parents to ensure our children will take forward the baton. I think we have done an awful lot in the last few years to develop equal rights for both men and women. There is still much to do and many pockets of society where things are far more backward than we would like. But it’s important that we keep going, celebrating International Women’s Day and women’s achievements. I look forward to talking to my daughter tonight about all the things she wants to achieve in her life, hoping that there won’t be any barriers against reaching her goals.

And whether she has a brother or sister, I will aim to teach them the same.