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.

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.

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!

The purpose of the Millennial Dad blog is to chronicle the changing nature of fatherhood for the modern dad. One of the best examples of the differences in generations happened to me last weekend.

img_0926

I was happily driving back from Manchester when a warning light appeared on my car dashboard. Later on, and luckily closer to home, the engine started to stutter. When I got home I pulled out my iPad and googled the warning light (great example of use of technology #1) and discovered it was an emissions fault. After some more research I concluded the engine was misfiring and it might be a problem with the spark plugs.

I love the “How To” videos on YouTube.

Every task imaginable is covered by some expert who is happy to talk through it all step-by-step. The quality of these videos can be shaky but they get full marks for enthusiam. I found a great video showing how to change the spark plugs on my particular car.

So I set about off to my local Halfords, car stuttering along, to purchase some new spark plugs. My goal was to try to fix the problem myself without paying to go to a garage. NOTE: this goes against my advice that Millennial Dads should outsource everything to experts, but I wanted to weigh up the financial benefits of saving money.

The Millennial generation has grown up in an increasingly sterile world.

This was the first time I had bought spark plugs. Where most new cars are concerned, it’s not even possible to get “under the hood” of engines these days.

And so I called my dad. He’s part of the baby boomer generation who was born shortly after the Second World War, in 1953 to be precise. I would check that he’s ok with me telling you his age, but then he hasn’t got access to the internet so is never going to know about this post. My dad is a practical man and knows a thing or two about engines. This is typical of his generation, who had to fix things up and be the DIY expert in the family.

My dad came over and took a look at the car engine. But it was a slightly different design to what he was used to. He wasn’t sure exactly how to get to the spark plugs. He probably could have worked it out with a bit of time, but I had places to be. NOTE: Time scarcity is another symptom of the Millennial generation. So I showed him my trusty YouTube video which got right to the point. We even rested my iPad right on the engine so we could change the spark plugs in real time (great example of use of technology #2). Except we didn’t have the right tools. My toolbox doesn’t extend to a socket set.

We jumped in my car and headed across town to my grandad’s house. He was born before the war. His garage is full of every possible tool you could imagine from huge wrenches to tiny washers of all sizes. It really is a treasure trove but growing up I couldn’t understand his fascination with collecting screws and nails in glass jars. His is a thrifty generation and he has meticulously branded all his tools with his initials. And they’re mostly Made in Britain and built to last. One spanner even said “Made in West Germany”, surely a valuable antique by now?

With my Grandad’s tools and my dad’s expertise we quickly fixed the car and it (almost) solved the problem. It actually needed a tiny bit more work and I’m now confident I can rely on it for my daughter’s nursery school runs, ballet classes and birthday parties.

Three generations of men, all fathers, all different, but working together.

The pre-war generation may be stuck in the past, the baby boomers may look scornfully down on the Millennials for not being practical in the traditional sense, and the Millennials may roll our eyes at the technologically illiterate older generations. But we all have our strengths and can work together.

Ultimately, all generations of dads do appear to share one job… as chauffeur to our children. Now my car is fixed I can get back to my dad duties.

img_0883Hi, my name’s Phil and I’m the Millennial Dad. I’m married to a lovely lady and we have a daughter who turns 4 in a couple of weeks. I just turned 34 yesterday. I finally began to feel my age when my mum forgot how old I was this week. I don’t usually bother telling people my age any more, but it’s relevant for this blog and I’ll tell you why.

During my first few years of parenthood I’ve noticed little things that I do differently from own my parents in bringing up my daughter.

It’s nothing drastic and we don’t have widely different views of raising a child. It’s just that bringing a child up in the modern world is vastly different to how it was in years gone by.

I’m also part of what sociologists call the millennial generation.

This loosely refers to anyone who was born in the late 1970s/early-mid 1980s and “came of age” around the year 2000, i.e. The millennium. Our generation has been the first to grow up with computers, to embrace new technologies, developments and opportunities. We’re also the first generation to be financially worse off than our predecessors.

Previous generations, such as the baby boomers, who were born in the years just after the Second World War, were some of the most prosperous and benefitted from high investment in services, pensions, free education and home ownership. They had a high standard of living which everyone since has expected to continue to rise. But in 2008 we all experienced a huge financial crash and realised none of it was sustainable. And the millennials were left with shrinking public services, an expensive education if we wanted to go to university, rising living costs and unaffordable housing. Things are pretty tough for this generation.

But it’s not all bad. The millennials are some of the most educated and have access to a wide range of opportunities and resources that simply didn’t exist for previous generations. Think about it. At the touch of a button we can access petabytes of data on everything from cooking to degree courses to instruction manuals. We can communicate quickly and effectively with people all over the world. We can start political movements that rock governments, respond to social injustices in an instant, and we’re experts at making silly cat videos go viral.

We’re also beginning to become parents.

There are ridiculous amounts of information and opinions on parenting on the internet. Maybe I feel more exposed to it as a new parent, but I’ve been overwhelmed by all the things a parent should and shouldn’t do in order to bring up the perfect child. I’ve also noticed there are plenty of guides and blogs for mothers but not as many for fathers.

And so I came up with the concept of the Millennial Dad. I started to write down my thoughts about what it’s like being a dad in the 21st century, and the differences to previous generations of parents. I think there are unique challenges and opportunities to being a dad in today’s world and I wanted to share what I’ve learned and to learn from others.

I’m currently working on a book and in the meantime I’ve started this blog to share my ideas and hopefully gain some input from other dads and mums from around the world. And if it helps me to think about how I can be a better dad to my little girl then all the better!

Let me know what you think and feel free to get in touch at phil@millennialdad.co

See you soon.