Let me take you on a brief tour of the technology in my life. When I was growing up in the 1980s personal computers were starting to become affordable and to arrive in classrooms. One of my memories at primary school is helping the teacher plug in the cables to the class’ new Acorn computer. They said they needed my help; maybe they were just being kind but part of me likes to think our teachers were overwhelmed by this sudden intrusion of technology. Acorn and BBC computers were fairly compact, certainly nothing like the clunking great computer rooms of the past. The World Wide Web had already been created by the mid-1980s although none of us knew its potential.

I grew up learning to use a computer on a weekly basis for basic word processing and learning.

At home we had an Amstrad computer, which ran on cassettes, bought with the help of my uncle, who was an early adopter – I still remember seeing his first mobile phone with a huge battery in the boot of his car. Then we got an Amiga 1200; it wasn’t entirely mainstream, as my most of my friends had Spectrums. I used these computers for a mix of educational and gaming purposes.

It never occurred to me back then that they would have the potential to transform productivity.

When I went to secondary school we bought a custom-made PC with the brand new Windows 95 operating system. It also came with a modem and for the first time we could connect with people and websites around the world. It was exciting and there were so many possibilities.

With hindsight I should have cracked on with some serious computer programming and I would have become a tech billionaire by now!

Over time I was became increasingly reliant on the use of computers for regular tasks. They were used for word processing, for looking up information, for storing photos. I began to connect with people around the world. I had an email address for the first time.

The hardware was quite large and of course immovable. I started to see people with laptops and was envious about their portability. Little did I know the batteries were terrible and the laptops were heavy as breeze blocks. It wasn’t until I got to Sixth Form that I got my hands on a second-hand laptop.

The possibilities with a laptop seemed endless; I could take this thing anywhere.

At university technology became part of our everyday student lives. Things began to be communicated by email. And the professors were lamenting a new rule that essays had to be typed and printed, rather than handwritten. I managed to transport my laptop between the library and my college room, but only in a big laptop bag.

At the end of university, I succumbed to the beautiful new designs of the MacBook and ended up buying one with what little money I had. It looked great but took a while to get used to a whole new operating system. It can’t have been that bad because since then I purchased a MacBook Pro 2006, which I still have nearly 11 years later. Ok, I say still have but I no longer use it; although it still connects to the internet and has a lot of my old photos on it.

At each of my workplaces there’s been a desktop PC. My current job uses a laptop with a docking station. Things are more portable and convenient than ever.

All this leads me to the main point of this post is that technology is increasingly part of our lives in such a convenient way.

So what do I use today?

I still use a laptop PC for most of my daily work. And I had a couple of iPads in the past. However, things really changed when I got my hands on the latest iPad Pro 7 inch. I almost cannot fault it and I can take it anywhere to replace most of my PC work.

The most amazing thing is not how great it looks or how smoothly it runs apps, but how portable it is. It’s currently transforming my life; my ability to have a full time job, take care of my daughter and start up the Millennial Dad blog is largely due to using the iPad Pro. I’ve been able to get things done in incredible ways that just integrate with my daily life. Right now I am writing this post while waiting outside for my daughter to finish her ballet class. And the best thing is I just tucked it under my arm as we walked here. No large laptop bags or clunky chargers. I’ve also got a Logitech keyboard to go with it. The keyboard helps me to bash out documents and emails with surprising speed and comfort. It’s not as large as a normal sized keyboard but I can go for a long time without my hands getting tired. (Less of the small hands jokes, please!) I even once went for a four hour walk with the iPad in my backpack and got it out to do some typing at a café at the end. I didn’t even notice it was there. That wouldn’t happen with a laptop.

If the point of technology is to help us get things done, then I think we’re living in pretty amazing times.

The Millennial Dad movement is all about getting things done while being the best possible father and there are plenty of resources out there to help us be more productive. I’m going to road test a few different things and share what work technology works best for me. For now, I hoped you enjoyed my nostalgic trip through the past!

I found an old article online from 2014 stating that fathers do on average 4.4 more hours of housework and 4.6 hours more childcare than fathers in 1995. This shows an upward trend of fathers becoming more involved with their families. Three years down the line perhaps this has increased even more?

There’s no doubt that fathers are taking a more active role in their families.

What I am talking about is not the traditional role of men to work all week and sleep at the weekends, and do a bit of DIY. No, dads today are far more interested to spend quality time with their families. They don’t want to do things on the periphery anymore, they want to be at the heart of things.

In my few short months of reading and blogging about parenting I’ve noticed there are so many dads out there who play active roles in their families like never before. There are loads of people using the hashtag #SAHD in their Twitter profiles. This always makes me envious as it would be great to be a stay-at-home dad.

The more dads blog about parenting, the more we all learn.

This community of dad bloggers is a huge source of support, one I had never before considered. There are so many great tips out there that range from funny and informative to sometimes sad and reflective. Behind the fantastic dad blogs there are also thousands of dad blog readers, who comment and support one another. I joined a few dad Facebook groups, notably the Dad Network group, and it’s fascinating to see how many people are out there all around the world looking for advice, helping each other, and keeping each other going.

Whichever way you look at it, being a dad is different from being a mum.

There’s amazing support for mums and it’s beginning to grow for dads, too. For too long fatherhood has been an individual activity that has not been talked about. Men would go to work and go to the pub and play sports and talk about anything else apart from families (of course I am generalising). I just don’t get the feeling that dads of previous generations really talked about what it was like to be a father.

Dads are beginning to support each other when it comes to advice about parenting.

Dads recognise we are all in it together. The millennial dad knows he needs to juggle work, life, and family commitments. Dads need each other to share things from their unique perspective. Dads also need to celebrate each other’s achievements as fathers. We’re beginning to get good at patting ourselves on the back and realising we are doing a good job.

But this increasing commitment from dads isn’t being acknowledged… yet.

Wider society is still full of general comments about dads being lazy, uninvolved with their children, working/sleeping/drinking all the time, etc. They think dads can’t change nappies or brush hair or choose clothes; ok, sometimes our fashion sense isn’t that great but we can do it. Sometimes it can wear you down. Amidst all the stereotypes about dads I’m starting to see a few positive stories emerge in the media. Articles about dads doing more than ever before, or choosing to spend time with their children above having higher paid jobs. All of these show an upward trend in the involvement of fathers.

The more I read the more I want to help celebrate modern fatherhood.

If we celebrate the role of fathers then we encourage others to start being more involved with their own families. But I am not preaching about the way men act as fathers. Just as important is the role of society in recognising the good work of dads. First of all, this has to happen through acknowledgement amongst our families and friends, and then the media needs to start celebrating fathers. Finally, fathers need to start having equality in parenting alongside women. This means governments need to make things fair for men in terms of parental leave, flexibility in contracts, child benefits, and perhaps even equal access when things go wrong.

Women have rightly fought for equality over the past 100 years and I hope it continues, particularly speaking as a father of a daughter. At the same time of focusing on equality between men and women, we must also encourage a quality of parenting.

Without equal roles between the mother and father, how are our children supposed to believe they are equal when they are older?

The modern father is more involved than ever and it will only continue. This is a remarkable turnaround from the last thousand years of the way parenting has been done. I don’t think our society has yet fully appreciated just how much of an impact the modern millennial dad movement will be.

As we approach the weekend I look forward to spending more time with my family. The eagle-eyed may have noticed that I have failed to comment on the 4.4 extra hours of housework men now do, mentioned earlier. I can assure you I will be making up for that over the weekend!

This week I am at work, my wife is at work, our daughter is at pre-school. And her Grandad is at our house painting. We started the process of painting our house a year ago. All the colours had been chosen and paints bought. We’ve made some progress, too; the living room is done, A’s room has been changed from green to pink, and I managed to re-do the hall, stairs and landing (although not very well). At some point over the past year things stalled.

It’s hard to paint in a “living house”, where children and cats are running around.

It’s hard to find the time to set up things, to focus on the job, and to keep a steady hand. I’ve been fooling myself that I can get it done alone, that all I need is a bit of time at the weekends to do it little-by-little. Of course, with the best of intentions this has proven to be impossible.

Paint pots have become door stops and paint brushes that were dipped in water ready for the next painting session have become rusted and ruined.

I would have happily continued on this path to a 10-year decorating strategy but for the impending arrival of a new baby. The nesting instinct has kicked in and now we are cracking open the paint tins with renewed vigour. But nothing has really changed and it’s not going to get done in time. It’s just too overwhelming.

That’s where Grandad comes in.

Grandad lives over 100 miles away. He recently retired and has more time on his hands. He wants to stay busy and he wants to do something meaningful. And so this week he is staying with us and is kindly getting on with some painting. Not only is this very much appreciated but he is also meticulous and a perfectionist. He wants to do a good job because he believes things have been built to last. This is why he wants to put an undercoat on wood that I would happily just gloss over. This is why he takes off cupboard doors from their hinges to paint behind them rather than just tying them back with string. This is why he is perfect for the job.

It’s difficult for the millennial dad to decorate as well as work and look after the family.

And because we’re trying to do so much our attention to detail suffers. Our generation doesn’t see the long-term value in things; if something is broken we just replace it. So why bother giving extra coats of paint to a door that we may not need in a few years? But this is the beauty of the baby boomer generation that they were brought up in a world where things were only just picking up after the Second World War. They were taught to look after things and repair them, not just throw them out when finished with them. And I can see their point as I look at the errant paint marks and uneven lines from my rush job on the hall.

The pride that Grandad has in doing things, especially practical jobs, is a really valuable commodity for families. Those of us who are lucky enough to have parents and grandparents who are willing to help out should make sure we appreciate them. I know we do.

This got me thinking about the power of the grandparent economy.

I don’t think our society really makes an effort to quantify the level of support that we get from the older generation. What about the value of childcare to a family who would otherwise have to employ an expensive childminder? Or the value of decorating or plumbing in a modern world where hiring a professional can be out of reach for many.

The support of grandparents allows us to thrive as families and I believe it should be recognised. I’ve written elsewhere that the previous generations took all the best mortgages and pensions, and that the millennials will be the first generation in a long time who will end up worse off than our predecessors. That may be true to some extent, but it’s not their fault individually. And individually they give us an awful lot of help. I’m sure there are facts and figures that can be drawn from this.

Perhaps we should make more of an effort to recognise the unpaid contribution of many of our parents and grandparents in supporting us and making our lives better.

On the other side, I hope that grandparents feel appreciated and that they get to spend quality time with people they care about. After all, isn’t quality over quantity is what life’s all about?

For the past few weekends we’ve settled into a cleaning routine. Natalie takes A to the gym for swimming and I get on with the cleaning. I’m usually pretty good at this and time exactly what needs to be done to finish by the time they return. The aim is to mop and let the floor dry before they walk through the door. We had an unfortunate incident a few months ago with A skating across a wet floor and I don’t want to repeat that again.

Occasionally the house needs a deeper clean.

By deep clean, I mean that I have to lift the microwave to get at the crumbs underneath, and move the sofa to vacuum around the back. The thing that usually precipitates this is an impending visit from a relative or, more recently, a burst of nesting instinct (not on my part) as we prepare for a new baby. A deep clean inevitably takes longer and the gym can only contain them for so long.

And so every now and then the unenviable task arises of cleaning the house with a child in it.

This is not easy, as many parents can testify. Children need attention and when you’re not giving it to them they go looking for distractions. Cleaning a kitchen is difficult when your child’s up to something in the other room; it’s hard to go check on them every couple of minutes. Vacuuming seems to be impossible. Either they get cross because they can’t hear the television that you put on to occupy them or they clamber all over you.

I’m seriously considering getting the cleaner back.

About three years ago we found a professional cleaner who came every two weeks to go around the house. All we had to do was tidy and the cleaners would do the rest. We would come home to a blissfully clean house smelling… well, very clean. They would accomplish all this in a morning when everyone was out of the house and probably did it much more efficiently than we could ever hope to. The reason we got a cleaner was because things were getting hard to manage. I was working a lot and Natalie had just gone back to a new job and things were getting on top of us. It all worked out perfectly.

For some reason whenever I spoke to friends I always hid the fact we had cleaners.

Did I want people to think I had been doing all the cleaning? No. Was I worried people would think I was too “posh”? Perhaps. Was I quietly smug that I’d found this simple solution and didn’t want to give away my secret? Definitely.

We had the cleaners for a while but in the end decided to go back to doing it ourselves when things began to get easier. Getting rid of them was one of the worst household decisions we’ve made. They made our lives so much easier and allowed us to focus on the things that truly mattered.

My weekends are precious. Do I really want to spend them cleaning the house?

The most important aim of any parent should be to spend time with their children. Of course, there are other things that get in the way. But if we find a solution where we can do less of the dull stuff and more of the important stuff we should pursue it. The cleaners allowed me to focus on family time and be guilt free about keeping on top of the household chores. Now I found myself spending every Saturday morning doing housework while my family are away having fun without me.

The reason I stopped the cleaning was partly because of cost. I thought I could put those extra few pounds towards something more meaningful. But what is meaningful if not spending time with family? Not spending money on cleaners has become a false economy. But not delegating the cleaning to someone else, I’m robbing our family of one of our most important commodities, time.

It’s time to dig out that phone number of the cleaners we used. The Millennial Dad movement, i.e. modern fatherhood, dictates that fathers today need to work smarter and not harder. If we can outsource this basic task we can free up so much more. Of course, it’s still fun every now and then to vacuum the carpet while being ridden as a pony by a toddler dressed as a cowgirl.

 

Natalie and I are expecting our second baby. It’s coming in less than two months. We are preparing the best we can based on what we can remember from last time. There’s a healthy nesting instinct starting to kick in which is encouraging me to deep clean every part of the house with a toothbrush. But there’s one thing we haven’t prepared for.

We decided not to find out the sex of the baby.

When they asked us at the scan “do you want to know if baby’s a boy or a girl?” We simply said “no thank you, we’d like a surprise”. It was the same when we had a our daughter four years ago. We thought that part of the fun of the pregnancy for us would be the wonder of not knowing. And it was great. On the (very early morning) day of the birth she popped out and it was a true surprise.

Part of me wants to find out this time.

I thought we’d done the surprise thing the first time around. The one thing I thought we didn’t need this time was any more uncertainty. It’s tough trying to balance preparing for the birth with looking after our daughter and all the other adulty stuff. But Natalie led the way with the whole surprise thing for a second time around and I support that. After all, she’s the one who has to push it out, so I think whatever incentive she needs to get the job done is fine by me.

I’ve noticed a lot more people seem to be finding out the sex of their baby these days.

Maybe I’m noticing it more because we’ve decided against it although I secretly want to know. But it feels like it’s more accepted to just find out. And why shouldn’t people find out? The technology is there these days and it’s easier than ever to get a 4d scan and get to know your baby before it’s out of the womb.

So, given that it’s up to each person what they do, I’m trying to think of reasons why I wanted to find out this time. Our house is full of clothes and toys waiting for the imminent arrival. They’re mostly second hand from our first daughter. So, in a way, it would be useful if the baby was a girl. We’ve got a lot of pink.

But hang on, why does it matter what colour clothes the baby wears?

After all, a baby doesn’t know or care what sex it is. It just wants to be warm and be fed. Why can’t a boy wear pink and a girl wear blue? And what about other colours? My favourite colour is purple; is that ok? So maybe by not preparing for the sex of the baby we’re inadvertently doing our bit to promote gender neutral parenting. The baby can grow up wearing whatever it likes.

Before A was born I painted the nursery a nice green colour. Last year I found myself repainting it a bright shade of pink. Note: covering pink with green is actually quite difficult and takes several coats! So however much we’d tried to shield our daughter from the stereotypes of gender she ended up liking pink things anyway.

I guess it doesn’t really matter what colour her room is, the great thing is she made the choice herself.

I’m enjoying playing the guessing game at the moment although people don’t always believe me when I say we’re not finding out. Two things are for sure: time will tell, and it will be either a boy or a girl!