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?

 

In the final few weeks of pregnancy women can either bask in the continuing glow and enjoyment of nourishing a new life or wish for any possible remedy to get their alien invader out of their bodies. Usually their feelings fluctuate between the two.

Dads have limited options but to sit and wait, being as supportive as possible, and listening for reports of any twinge, Braxton Hicks, or other signs that something is going to happen. It’s a long waiting game and doesn’t seem to be any clearer between the first, second or further pregnancies.

Discussions inevitably turn to how we can encourage the little one to make an appearance.

The internet and grannies seem to have all manner of suggestions about how to bring on labour when the time is right. I have no idea if any of them work. I’ve certainly tried some of these but I can’t point to any one thing that brought on the birth of our first daughter. And I don’t know if anything is working for the current baby we’re waiting for.

Walking

While it might seem counter to all feelings of pain and aching in the body, walking around may actually help to prepare the body for labour. If the baby if sitting in an awkward position, then walking may help to turn it the right way and get its head down in preparation for short journey down the birth canal.

Dad tip: Go for long walks with your partner but plan a route that has the possibility of frequent toilet stops. It’s not good to let your pregnant partner squat at the side of the road!

Curry

A hot and spicy food, typically a Vindaloo or Madras curry if feeling brave, may help to bring on labour. I’ve heard many different reasons why. Basically it seems that by throwing your intestines a curve ball with the extra spice, it may irritate them enough to spasm and cause the uterus to cramp. I used to wonder how cultures with lots of spicy food didn’t have babies early. I suppose if women’s bodies are used to hot food, it’s less likely to have an effect.

Dad tip: Don’t give spicy food to your partner if she never usually has it. And don’t give too much. The body usually evacuates its bowels as it prepares for labour, but this process is made less pleasant (especially in the birth room) if a lady has a upset tummy, i.e. the s**ts.

Sex

If you look at the medical induction of labour, most of the techniques mimic the act of sex. A pessary is given to mimic the effect of sperm, which contains prostaglandins which prepares and softens the cervix. Medical staff may also do a “sweep” of the cervix to try to loosen the “plug”. Again, this mimics the act of sex. And finally women may be given an oxytocin drip encourages hormones usually associated with making love.

Dad tip: This isn’t a sex blog and I’m not going to offer any tips here. If your partner’s pregnant I’m sure you know what to do. You can either do it yourself or let the hospital do it. It’s probably worth a try.

Other suggestions include acupuncture, acupressure, raspberry leaf tea, and hypnobirthing.

Ultimately it’s all about focusing on being calm.

All mammals instinctively want to give birth in a quiet and calm place. So the ultimate dad tip is to try and make the final few days as soothing and simple as possible as your partners prepares to do this amazing thing.