“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer and You…”

          Dr Seuss

I’ve been part of the parent blogging scene for a few months now. What I like about it is the sense of community and how helpful people are. What turns me off is when I see people who are obviously acting fake. Which leads me to the one realisation that I’ve had taking up the reins of blogging.

You can’t pretend to be anyone other than you.

It’s still taking time to find my blogging style. Do I share intimate details about my family life and pictures of my children? Do I focus on writing reviews of great products? Should I focus solely on contributing to other blogs rather than build up my own profile, as are already so many other fantastic bloggers out there?

The main reason of starting a blog was to help focus my mind on writing a book, but that book hasn’t yet come together! Instead I found so many fantastic resources amongst this parent blogging community. I started reading and writing my own material.

So what attracts me to blogs that I like? I really like to read from people who are honest about their struggles and tell us about how difficult it can be as a parent. I also like to be entertained and to read humorous reviews and updates on Twitter and YouTube. I like serious writers and I like cheeky chaps who just do it for a bit of fun.

As a consumer of a lot of parent blog posts I’ve noticed the one trait that attracts me most is authenticity.

If someone is authentic I feel a connection with them and want to read even more of their material. If someone is helpful and engages with me in a meaningful way, writing about things that matter in my day-to-day life, then I am interested. It surprises me how easily I am able to spot bullshit in blogs. I can tell who is writing purely to promote themselves as fast as possible. I can see the person who follows hundreds of people and then and then unfollows them just to boost their social media standing. I can even tell the obviously staged photographs of parents with their families, exploiting them just for promotional purposes.

To be genuine and authentic means to be yourself.

When it comes to my own writing I can try to put on a particular persona and I can try to cultivate brand-savvy images on Instagram. But at the end of the day it just doesn’t feel right and I’m sure it doesn’t work.

I’m not quite there yet with my writing style, but I know what I like to write about and I like connecting with people. I’m not entirely comfortable with sharing loads of pictures of myself or my daughter, and I can’t live up to the pressure of trying to be funny all the time. Some people do this tremendously well. I am not one of them. There are a few people out there who are versatile and can be funny, serious, entertaining and informative while also being genuine and authentic. I’m not one of them yet, so I’m going to focus on what I enjoy and see how things go.

Sometimes I can be funny and sometimes informative, but I know that everything I write is usually a true reflection of me as a person. I believe this is the main way that bloggers can connect with people. It is the one trait that all truly successful parent bloggers possess. My advice to you (and me) is to keep your head in the real world. Don’t try to be someone you are not. You will get found out.

The best way to be successful is to be you.

 

At the start of the year I set out my goals for the Millennial Dad movement. I pinned them to my Twitter profile as a public statement and to hold myself accountable for reaching them. They are:

  1. Define my vision.

  2. Publish my book.

  3. Establish my web presence.

Another month has passed and we’re now in March. I’m writing this post feeling a little ashamed that I haven’t done much to move things forward since the last post. I continue to maintain my web presence although I’ve fallen short in the past week.

Real life always seems to get in the way!

Our second baby is due at the end of March. The past two weeks have been a constant struggle to paint the house and buy everything we need to prepare for our impending arrival. And then there’s the growing realisation that I’ve forgotten how to care for a new-born baby! Work has been busy and one of my grandparents has been taken ill.

I really wanted to focus on defining my vision for the Millennial Dad movement but I haven’t managed to find the time.

I kind of know what I want to achieve with the Millennial Dad blog and that’s the celebrate and support modern fatherhood. I now need to focus that into a defined vision with a set of objectives and aims. The trouble is, to do any of this requires time and space. I’ve been waiting for the right time to sit and work out my vision, time to write down what I want to achieve, and really give it some proper thought and attention. And now February has passed – technically we’re still at the end of the month because February is such a short and silly month!

I may have failed to reach one of my goals but I’ve also learned a valuable lesson… there’s never a perfect moment!

We can sit and wait for the stars to align, for the perfect weather and opportunity to get things done, but at the end of the day it’s better to just start something and work hard on it. Why?

–         If you start something there’s a much higher chance you’ll keep it going.

–         If you do only a little bit to keep things moving, then you can take comfort in the knowledge you’ve moved things forward.

–         An imperfect moment can be more productive and inspirational than waiting for the perfect moment.

There are many fantastic parent bloggers on the web who juggle so many different commitments and keep going. Look behind their glossy websites and impressive productive output and you’ll find discipline and hard work.

We all struggle from time to time and it’s important to realise we’ll never be able to achieve everything. Sometimes we need to take a break and acknowledge that we’ve done a good job, even if it’s not everything we wanted to get done.

So, I may not have achieved all my goals in February. But I’m proud that I kept the blog running, connected and engaged with more brilliant parent bloggers, and also got a bit more prepared to welcome a new baby into the world. Sometimes it’s ok to give yourself a pat on the back.

My first memory of getting a hair cut was going to “Tony’s Barbers” around the corner from where we lived. I remember the red leather (plastic?) seats with booster cushion. The walls were full of black and white headshots, featuring men with crew cuts and even a mullet. I think today would be a bit of a parody but back then it was all real. I never did have the courage to ask for a flat top. When I’m near home I still go to the same place even though it’s changed hands in recent years. It is much more clean and clinical and has lost it rough around the edges feel.

Boys have their hair cut much earlier than girls.

Our daughter grew her hair for a while before we took off her first haircut. We tried trimming around the edges to keep out of her eyes but ultimately we wanted somewhere give her a good haircut. We also wanted a smooth introduction to the process.

And so we found this great middle salon called Mopp Heads.

It’s run by a guy called Mike, let’s call him “Mopp Head Mike”! He does an incredible job at putting children at ease and distracting them while they have their hair cut. He has a toy car they can sit in, Peppa Pig in the background, lots of books and toys to play with. It’s really just like going to nursery. She loved it.

Sure we could have got away with cutting her hair ourselves. But we didn’t want to. We wanted it to look decent, not that she cares, but we take time to buy a nice clothes so why not a haircut too?

Some relatives, perhaps frugal ones, don’t think this is necessary.

They don’t see the point in cutting a child’s hair at the salon. In fact, they think it can be done at home. Some people tell me I can’t tell if a child has had their haircut at home or by a professional but I think I might guess right eight times out of 10.

Professionals are trained in techniques that aren’t available to the lay person. I don’t know about cutting away a fringe, or feathering, or adding layers; perhaps women know more about this, but all I ask for 90% of the time is “a No. 4 back and sides and to cut it down on top”.
I don’t know how to cut hair but I do know when it doesn’t look great.

Cue granny who came along and try to cut the hair herself.

There’s nothing inherently wrong in this, and it would save us a bit of money, but we had to correct it. She turned it into a bowl cut without even trying. And worse than that, she thought it looked okay! I don’t mind writing about this publicly because she knows our thoughts. After a while we all saw the funny side of it.

This haircutting incident prompted an urgent trip to see Mopp Head Mike to salvage something out of a disaster. This required more than the usual trim. At four years old we finally went for a Bob. And she looked really grown-up.

I don’t think you can replace a professional with a home job.

We wouldn’t do dental work by ourselves and we shouldn’t get do haircuts by ourselves. Sometimes we can get away with a quick trim to save on time and money, but it’s never the same as seeing Mike. Just as important is the experience our daughter has of going to the salons, learning to sit and be patient. It’s great training for the years ahead.

There are loads of great children’s haircutters out there and I have only limited experience. Mike runs a salon called Mopp Heads based in Leamington Spa. He specialises in children’s haircuts. Find out more on his website. If you live in the area I would really recommend checking him out.

One of the headlines today was about pensioners being better off than many working families. It’s a topic that interests to me, particularly in relation to the millennial generation and parenting practices.

I believe the difference in prosperity between the baby boomers and the rest of us has had a major impact on the way we parent as families.

The basic issue with pensioners earning more than working families comes down to the quality of pensions. While the government has made great efforts to introduce workplace pensions for all, for many people this has come too late. Others have started to save the pensions as early as possible but there simply aren’t the quality of rates available to people today as in previous generations. Coming out of the post-war years, the baby boomers were subject to increased social investment, increased prosperity, increased housebuilding, all of which is distinctly absent from today’s society.

The good times rolled and the country reaped the benefits for many years.

Somewhere along the way people started to overspend and compensate with credit. The reliance on buying houses meant the mortgage market continued to be propped up with unsustainable deals… until the bubble burst in 2008, and we all know about that because we are still paying for it today.

Pensioners today have two distinct advantages over the current generation of working families. Firstly, pensions are better than ever for them, particularly private pensions that pay very good rates of return. These simply aren’t available to working families today. Secondly, mortgages and house prices were a lot more manageable for pensioners and many of them now own their own homes outright, including all the equity that comes with them. Anyone attempting to buy a house in today’s market will know of the huge deposit required in order to fund the house and get on the property ladder.

Amid all this, we have to look for the silver lining.

Families of today may not have gold-plated pensions or huge houses with no mortgage, but it has forced us to prioritise and evaluate what is important in our lives. I look around on social media I see hundreds of engaged parents, who are actively involved in their children’s education and upbringing. The newest generation of parents, the millennials born from the 1980s onwards, are leading the charge in involved parenting.

Families today are focusing on spending time with family, on quality rather than quantity.

Sure, it’s nice to have a big house and course there are ways to get one. But in a country where the average salary is £27,600 and houses are on average £269,000, it’s simply not possible to have it all.

Rather than working and paying into pensions that pay almost no return, or saving with no interest rates, families are choosing to focus on what is most important. Therefore, men, who traditionally would go out to work all day and throughout the week, are now thinking seriously about how it is worth it. Instead of making efforts to please companies and employers, many men and women are choosing to work for themselves, with all the freedom that comes with it. Those who work for companies are starting to request more flexibility in their working lives; there’s now flexible policies of leave, the beginnings of equal parental leave pay for men and women, and the notion of being away from work is a lot more fluid these days.

Of course we want to have it all!

Behind the headlines pensioners have worked for many years often missing out on time with their children, and now regretting it. While many working families today may be worse off than pensioners, if we look at it from a different angle we have more possibilities than ever. Technology has improved to such an extent that we can integrate it into our daily lives to make it better. There are so many possibilities that I think I prefer to live in today’s world. It’s a bit sad to think we are part of a generation that is going to end up poorer than our predecessors, perhaps for the first time in recent history. But it’s what we do with our lives that counts and parents of today have more options than ever.

It would be nice to think the prosperity of previous generations will return. After all, who’s going to live in all those big houses?! Even though life is a struggle for many of us we can still take joy in the little things.

 

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!