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.

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!

We were walking to ballet class this morning and passed the old house of one of A’s friends, who moved away from the area last year. 

“Do you remember going to Santino’s house?” I asked. 

“Who’s Santino?” She replied.

I’ve started to notice that she is forgetting some things in the past that meant something to her. 

A. was good friends with this little boy and used to play with him a lot. But now he’s moved away and we haven’t seen him, she’s gradually forgotten about him. The same is true for my great aunt, who died last year. We chose not to mention it and she has gradually forgotten my aunt’s name. I get a tinge of sadness when I think that she’s forgetting these experiences and people. But then her whole life only spans four years and she’s learning so much every day she can’t be expected to remember it all. My first memory isn’t until around aged five. I think I can remember being stuck in my cot when I was a baby but then perhaps I made up that memory. Some people claim they can remember being born!

As children grow up they forget things but that doesn’t mean those things are any less important.

They might not remember a holiday as a toddler but the experience will contribute to their development. It’s important to capture as many memories as possible. 

Take photos, record video, keep mementoes from holidays and drawings from nursery. In the digital age the millennial dad can do this really easily storing things digitally without filling up our homes with bits of old paper. It’s good to hold onto things and bring them up in later years. 

I enjoy looking through all the old stuff my mum has kept about me over the years. Occasionally it sparks memories of the past, and often it makes me think about the happy childhood I had. 

Being a parent means all your energy and time is invested in your family. There’s often not much time for anything else. Thankfully, these days it’s far easier to be connected wider family; your own parents, siblings, cousins, etc. Facebook takes care of family news and Skype is good for real-time conversations around the world. 

The internet generation is so well-developed that there’s now a website to help with every possible task. There’s so much out there that it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. So when I find something that works particularly well I want to let people know about it. 

Sign-o-matic is a website dedicated to making signs of all shapes and sizes. Think about all the possibilities – door signs, house sign, name badges, anything. 

When my mum asked me to print off and laminate a piece of paper I knew I could better. I searched for “laminated plastic sign” on Google and got a few results. I checked out a couple of sites but the one that got my attention straight away was Sign-o-matic. I don’t know much about sign making. And I didn’t really know what I was looking for. But I would know if I saw it. 

It was good to see numerous examples on the site. Designing the sign was a simple step-by-step process. I wasn’t overloaded with options and I could see at each stage how the finished sign would look. I don’t know much about costs for making signs but the prices seemed reasonable. I was able to get the finished sign delivered direct to my mum, meaning I don’t have to drive all the way over to her. 

There are loads of tools and websites that exist to make our lives easier. This is never more important than when a parent, as our time gets sapped by so many other things. Ultimately, it’s all about spending quality time with those we care about. Anything that helps me to do that gets my vote of approval. 

This morning I woke up with a cat crawling on my head. The house was empty. I was tired. I’d stayed up far too late watching episodes of The Man in the High Castle. I showered, dressed, fed the cat, had some cereal, then came to work. The first person I spoke to was a colleague I passed in the corridor.

Nothing about this is remarkable except it is the first time in a long time my wife and daughter haven’t been there. They are away for a couple of days and I have the place to myself.

It used to always be like this. I only ever had to think about myself.

Every morning I would only have myself to get up and get ready, as I would march to work. Then at the end of the day I might go out with friends on a whim, go the gym (hardly) or whatever else at home.

Parenthood changes changes your sense of time.

I never realised how much I could get done in the time available when it is focused by having a family. The necessity of feeding a child in the morning or making sure everyone is ready for going to school helps to focus my mind on the things that are important.

The busier I am with family life the more focused I am in work life.

I think many millennials are in the same boat. Making the transition from carefree lives to responsibilities takes some adjustment, but it is something want to do and don’t run from. And if we’re going to do it, we want to be 100% committed and do it well.

Now I’m a dad, I’m more productive than ever.