It’s two weeks to go until the birth, maybe sooner. Natalie decided we should take a brief break by ourselves in the calm before the storm of a new baby. I take absolutely no credit for organising our weekend, but I wanted to share with you a lovely experience in the Cotswolds.

When you are a parent it’s very difficult to find time together as partners.

I would never want to take my family for granted, but sometimes it’s important to be a couple to focus on being the best family you can be. And so every now and then, you should take time to relax and recharge. We didn’t do this in a huge way (think weekend in Rome) this past weekend, but we decided to take some time out to visit Cotswolds. It’s only around 45 minutes away from home but felt like a world apart.

We checked in for one night at the Redesdale Arms in Moreton in Marsh. It’s a charming and lively pub with a number of guest rooms and suites. We stayed in a suite and enjoy the complimentary sherry on arrival. My Lent pledge to give up alcohol and bread took a night off.

Our suite was comfortable and quite spacious. It was very quiet even though there were obviously other people around. We had everything we needed in a well-designed and spacious room. In particular, the extra-large bed was much appreciated, as it gets very difficult for a heavily pregnant woman to get comfortable at night time.

The food was the highlight of the stay.

I am easily pleased and will eat anything, but even I could tell the quality of the food was far above most pub fare. Natalie had a duck dish and I had steak and ale pie. Both were cooked perfectly and we were looked after by the waiting staff very well. As I hadn’t drunk for a while, and Natalie isn’t drinking at the moment due to obvious reasons, I felt the alcohol a little more than I usually would. Pulled pints of specially-commissioned Cheltenham Racing bitter went down very easily, as did the complimentary (two!) glasses of prosecco.

If there was one meal I could have every day it would be breakfast. I’m a huge fan of a full English breakfast. The sight of a breakfast buffet often gives me mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can eat as much as I like but on the other I would rather have a better quality breakfast to order. There were both options available at the Redesdale Arms; the buffet was full of staple foods such as grilled sausages and the increasingly elusive black pudding. Added to this was the option for bespoke grilled skippers or freshly-made porridge and cream, for example. I desperately tried to keep up my Lent abstinence from bread.

After breakfast we took a walk around Moreton in Marsh. Truth be told we didn’t stop too long because there’s not too much to do on a Sunday when most shops are closed. And so we hopped in the car I went to Bourton-on-the-Water.

If you want to visit a quintessentially English Cotswold town, Bourton-on-the-Water is the place. Unfortunately, everyone else knows about this and it was full of people even on a pre-season March spring day.

It’s a pleasant town and we stayed for a while walking around the beautiful Cotswold stone bridges and taking in the picture perfect sites. It seems to be very popular amongst the East Asian tourist community, and several of the signs in shops and cafes were in dual languages. We also drove through a couple of smaller villages called Upper and Lower Slaughter. These seem to be less busy just as perfect looking and perhaps would have been a better bet for a leisurely walk.

On our way back home we stopped off at Hidcote Gardens, as no trip is complete without a visit to the National Trust! This was completely the wrong time of year to go, with absolutely no flowers on show. Although I could see plenty of preparation and hard work had gone into the gardens. I think coming back in May would be the best time. Of course, we stopped off in the café for a scone.

I’ve never been much of an advocate of weekend breaks. But this was a fantastic break and I’m grateful to Natalie for booking. I couldn’t help thinking at many points on the trip that our daughter would enjoy looking at these things, or climbing over something. I suppose we can’t help thinking and seeing things through our children’s eyes when we are so well practised at being with them.

It’s really important and enjoyable to spend time just as a couple. If you’re thinking about doing the same, I would definitely recommend a trip to the Cotswolds. Take a car because you need to get around. And don’t eat for a while because as plenty of great food on offer.

So my compliments go to the staff at the Redesdale Arms. And of course to Natalie who, amidst the final weeks of pregnancy, still takes the time to book and think about organising fantastic weekends away.

 

Four years ago we welcomed a baby girl into this world. I’ve watched as she’s grown and is now at nursery. Gender doesn’t seem to matter to her, right now, and that’s great. She plays with everyone but I can also see some subtle differences in the way she interacts with girls and boys. Is this a natural part of being a girl or a boy, or is it society beginning to introduce stereotypes according to gender?

I’m committed to do everything I can to make sure my daughter can live a fulfilled life.

So far, there have been no obvious boundaries to her development based on her gender. However, I know there are probably some subtle messages coming from the older generation about what a girl should be. There is still the relentless push of anything pink and fluffy.

Sometimes it’s difficult to stop people pushing their own ideas of what it is to be a girl. I see it is my role to do as much as I can to ensure she can thrive and achieve whatever she wants . There should be no glass ceiling for her generation.

Am I being over-cautious? Perhaps, but then women have been suppressed for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

My wife is also a committed feminist. She has dedicated her career to expanding opportunities for women around the world. I’m proud of the things she has achieved, and she has also taught me to think differently. I went to all-boys school and had a particular view of the world. Now I see that equal representation between men and women is vital to the success of our society.

The Millennial Dad has a huge role to play in International Women’s Day.

The Millennial Dad is the first to grow up in a world with equal opportunities between men and women. A female of my generation is able to earn just as much and progress just as far as I am able to do. The issue comes when people have children and take time off. Work still needs to be done in this area to allow parental leave to benefit both men and women.

The Millennial Dad is part of the generation that doesn’t apply traditional gender roles. My wife and I share equal commitments at home and I like to think that we both have opportunities to pursue our careers. I would happily fulfil the role of stay-at-home parent and I’m often jealous when I read all the great SAHD blogs.

The Millennial Dad is helping to change society and benefiting feminism. Millennial parents are starting to raise children in unbiased societies where girls and boys can achieve whatever they want in life.

We are expecting another child in the next two weeks. We chose not to find out what it would be, a boy or girl. At first this annoyed me and I wanted to know as early as possible to prepare the things. But what am I really preparing for? A boy or a girl does not need any different treatment. A boy or a girl should have equal opportunities to progress in this world to the best of their abilities. A boy or girl should not be held back at all in what they want to do. It is our role as parents to ensure our children will take forward the baton. I think we have done an awful lot in the last few years to develop equal rights for both men and women. There is still much to do and many pockets of society where things are far more backward than we would like. But it’s important that we keep going, celebrating International Women’s Day and women’s achievements. I look forward to talking to my daughter tonight about all the things she wants to achieve in her life, hoping that there won’t be any barriers against reaching her goals.

And whether she has a brother or sister, I will aim to teach them the same.

“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.

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.