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.

Sometimes it feels like there is so much going on in the world and we cannot do anything to keep up. Sometimes things seem to overwhelm us and there is no opportunity to do those things we most enjoy, most of all being with our children. We’ve all been there. The dreaded week from hell.

The reality is that it’s unlikely we face severe stresses all of the time, but we do at least experience these things some of the time.

It’s not healthy if you’re in a constant state of stress; you will get completely run down and eventually won’t be able to function. But every now and then the majority of us feel like we’re having a week from hell, or everything’s coming at once. It’s particularly difficult as a parent, especially millennials, as we can’t just take time out like in our pre-children days.

When times are tough but you’ve just got to keep going on, perhaps these six small tips will help.

Draw a line and say no to everything else

The first thing to do is draw a line in the sand. Just stop. However important new tasks or requests may seem, say no to them. If you’ve recognised that things are tough there’s no point for you (or others) to take on even more at this stage. Once you stop you can take stock.

Write absolutely everything down.

The best budgeting advice tells us to have a clear idea of our outgoing expenses. This should be the same in our personal lives. When it comes to commitments, we should write down everything we have done over the past two weeks. Find out how you got to this position. What exactly has been sapping your emotional and physical energy? It is only then that we build a true picture of what we need to do.

Capture every to-do.

There may seem like a tonne of things to do and it’s all overwhelming. Having lots of stuff to get done is one thing, and there may not be much we can do about it, but we can try to help our brains to cope by making it as easy as possible to sort information. Therefore, write everything that needs to be done on a piece of paper, or your computer, or your phone. You will only get a true sense of the tasks ahead of you if you can see them plainly. Trying to hold all this information in our minds just sets us up for failure. The stress of trying to hold on to all that information can overwhelm us more than the tasks themselves. Every task, no matter how big or small, should be scheduled to allow an opportunity for its completion.

Schedule everything on a calendar.

When it comes to actioning all your tasks there’s no better place than to schedule them on your calendar. We’re used to scheduling events, so why not actions? They’re events in themselves anyway. If an action is on the calendar then it will get done. For example, if you need to pick up dry cleaning, why just have that on a to-do list when it can go on the calendar for a specific time. You then have the powerful influence of a deadline to motivate you to complete that action. The human mind will always respond to a deadline!

Delegate willingly.

Don’t think you can do it all by yourself. It may seem like you’re the only person who can do something, but there are family and friends who may be better suited to the task. Think like a CEO and try to appoint people to specific roles. E.g. can your dad/father-in-law take on a DIY job to help relieve the pressure on you? Once you’ve successfully delegated some of your time-hungry tasks to the right people, then get out of their way and let them own the task. Doing this will take the pressure off you and help you realise there are people in your life who are able and willing to help.

Switch off/carve out moments of quiet.

Sometimes the shit hits the fan and everything comes at once. We may feel overwhelmed by what’s in front of us and things may seem like they will never get done. A constant state of heightened stress isn’t good for us and eventually our bodies will stop functioning, the fight or flight instinct will kick in and our minds will focus on protecting us. A little bit of stress every now and then is a good motivator. But it’s important to listen to our bodies. Amid all of the mayhem, make sure you schedule some quiet time for yourself. Be that reading a book, watching a movie, going for a run, or just a walk. Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out. And when you do it, know that there are others around who are keeping things going. A President or Prime Minister cannot be always on the go; they take regular holidays to recharge and so should you!

Stress and anxiety is part of life. We all experience it and it’s completely natural. Little techniques like the above can help us to manage these things.

They are increasingly important in a world where we are always “on” and the demands of modern millennial parenting keep getting bigger.

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.

People are always telling us to get a proper night’s sleep. The benchmark to aim for is around eight hours. My Jawbone Up is set at achieving 10,000 steps per day and eight hours sleep. I can usually reach my steps for the day but I probably hit my sleep count less than 10 times over the past year.

I’m not particularly good at going to bed early, although I always end up regretting it the next day. I’m also not particularly great (probably because of what I just said) at getting up early. But some of the times I have gotten up early have been my most productive. On the other side, the reason I’ve gone to bed late isn’t just because I’ve been watching a cheap horror flick on Netflix, but often because I’ve been up creating, writing, producing things.

We only have 24 hours in a day. All of us.

Nobody can gain any more or less hours but it is what we do with them that helps us to become more productive. My daytimes, as I’m sure for many other parents, are filled up almost to the max. Weekday mornings consist of getting to school and then to work, doing my work, collecting from school going home and doing a bedtime routine. By the evening I find it hard to create anything meaningful. Parents everywhere will understand the stresses and strains involved, but millennials in particular are finding a big contrast between their carefree 20s and their newfound parent lives.

I read something by Tim Ferris not too long ago where he said he produces some of his best work at night time. This got me thinking. When do I do my best work? When do I feel my most productive? How can I fit that into my daily life?

I believe we do our best work between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM.

This sounds counter-productive, counterintuitive, counter everything we’ve been told so far. But working between these hours could be our best opportunity at getting things done.

Here are five reasons why I believe the night-time could be your most productive.

  • There are fewer distractions.

I don’t think many people would consider calling or texting between the hours of 11 PM and 7 AM, unless they were out at a party (and those don’t count, right?) Emails get sent at all times across the world but mostly in your time zone someone is not going to email you between these hours.

  • You can be productive as a night owl or an early bird.

I’m not suggesting you work through all of these hours, but working late or getting up early will give you a real edge. If you work late you can work as long as it takes to get the job done, then go to sleep and (hopefully) have a lie-in. If you can get up early you get a jump on the day ahead. Whatever you do, don’t burn the candle at both ends!

  • It’s guilt-free time.

Nobody wants work to take them away from their families. We should always try to prioritise spending time with our children. But we shouldn’t feel bad if we need to work, and 11PM to 7AM may be the best time to do this. Assuming your child is settled into a rhythm of sleep you can get on with working in the night-time without feeling guilty.

  • Your brain is energised.

If you can master night time productivity then science may be behind you. Working late and sleeping in late can keep you sharper throughout the day Getting up early in the morning primes your brain for the day ahead.

  • Join a legion of other successful people.

Don’t just rely on my hazy advice, look at the examples of so many successful people who extol the virtues of night-time working. Some of them are early risers, some work late into the night, but all managed to get things done in a way the rest of us sometimes struggle.

Try experimenting with this kind of working. You already know whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, so make a plan that works for you.

In a world that demands so much of our attention, and with increasing family responsibilities, the millennial dad needs to focus on prioritising the most important work that he can do.

Sleep is absolutely vital. What I’m proposing isn’t radical. When you sleep each night your brain is perhaps at its most productive ever; it’s sorting your experiences from the day you just had, preparing your body and mind for the following day, and gaining vital rest. So whether you take advantage of working late, working early, or trying to get those elusive eight hours sleep, you’re doing yourself a favour and can’t go too far wrong!

 

 

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.