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Guest Posts

Guest Post: Making the Most of Family Time

This week’s guest post is written by the amazing Emma from @CoverMyBubble. Emma was one of our earliest followers on Instagram and has been supporting what we do since the very beginning!

With us all spending more time with our families recently, maybe you have realised that sometimes the simple things can make the best memories. For the ones of us who normally spend more time than we would like away from home, or do shift work, this last year may well have been the best opportunity to have valuable family time with your bubble.

What have families being doing during lockdown?

Apart from getting stressed with home schooling and getting under each other’s feet, 2020 and the start of 2021 have taught us that we can entertain our children, and ourselves, without having to spend lots of money. Doing home activities, experiencing the outdoors and connecting with each other more has hopefully made us value ‘bubble time’ more.

Below are a number of fun things to do if you’ve run out of ideas.

  1. Build dens with furniture, sheets, pillows and fairy lights – or make a forest den outdoors with branches, near to your home
  2. Make wallpaper people – use leftovers to make a full-size version of yourself, or a monster. Why not use it to educate kids on the human body?
  3. Shadow drawings using sunlight, toys and paper to cast shadows for the kids to draw round and make amazing pictures.
  4. Make a family tree – not only can you make it colourful, but you will need to chat to your whole family to find out your history and the kids will love it.
  5. Crafting & baking – the ideas are endless; cutlery characters like Forky, cress-heads, pottery, sock puppets, cardboard robots/kitchens/animals/shops etc, cakepops, biscuits…
  6. Make outdoors more fun – scavenger/nature hunts, find rocks to paint, make flowerbed or vegetable patch, explore what’s on your doorstep.

Why is family time important?

Everyone experiences big changes in their lives, but no one knows when it is going to happen to them. As parents we’re going through stress, anxiety, frustration, and other negative impacts. For the sake of ourselves and our children, we need to make sure our minds, health and attitude are in the best possible place. If we keep positive and pass that onto others by stimulating the senses, we’ll re ready for whatever dreams and goals we have set ourselves for the future.

Make sure you are there for others and keep in contact with friends and family. Share your feelings with your loved ones, so they know what you are going through, good or bad. Its ok to be not ok but share it so we can watch out for one another.  

How to make the most of family time

Time with your family bubble can be very different depending on your circumstances. That’s why we need to make memories for our future, so we can look back and remember the good times. We may go through the loss of a loved one or experience poor health, which will sometimes make us look back with sadness. That’s why memories are so important and the variety of them, will keep us remembering them for many years to come.

Record your times together by taking plenty of photos and videos and sharing them with your extended family and friends. You may not think it’s worth it at the time, but when things don’t go to plan later in life, you’ll value these memories.

Protecting for your family’s future

Your bubble is very important to you, but if a sudden event like serious illness or death was to affect you, are you protected? Are your children covered? A long-time off work ill or injured or the loss of your partner, will have a direct impact on your finances. Cover My Bubble are a family business who have experienced not being insured when they lost their daughter, Lillie. They don’t want other families to go through financial hardship like they did and want to raise awareness about the affordable family insurances suitable for you. If you want to make sure you are protected properly or have some questions, please contact Emma at @CoverMyBubble

Cover My Bubble Ltd. don’t charge any fees and can compare policies with all the top UK insurance companies. Imagine them as a friendly, flexible, real-life comparison site, but an actual insurance broker with your family their priority.

You can reach us direct by calling 01254 460880 too!


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Parenting Hacks & Tips

10 Common Parenting Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. There’s so much more to parenthood than I could have ever imagined; something I talked about in ‘5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for’. 

Sometimes it feels like whatever we do, we’re competing against the Jones’, their perfect social media feed kids and their faultless way of doing things.  

Try as we might, we’re bound to get it wrong from time to time – it’s part of the journey. Relying on our ‘Parenting instincts’ just isn’t enough and, more often than not, we’re too proud to ask for help or advice when we need it because it feels like we’ve failed. 

If you can learn to overcome these 10 common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to becoming the best parent you can be. 

1. Fighting your children’s battles for them

It goes without saying that your children mean everything to you, right?

Of course they do.

But, sometimes you just need to take a step back and your kid learn that their actions have consequences

For example, if your child does something that has a negative impact on others, it can be tempting to jump in and protect them if somebody points it out.

The thing is, fighting your child’s battles will teach them that three is no consequence to their actions and that they don’t need to be accountable for their decisions.  

Take time to be constructive and remind them using positive language what the correct behaviour is and why we should do it, rather than ignoring it or always coming to the rescue.

2. Letting technology rule the roost

In the last decade, the way we consume and use technology has evolved massively. Smartphones, tablets, connected technology…You name it, we all have it. 

Technology is an important part of most of our lives and it gives us access to entertainment, communication and connection – particularly during a pandemic! 

It can be tempting to let your children sit on YouTube Kids or watching Netflix because of a few reasons:

  • Your child enjoys it
  • It gives you a moment of peace to get household chores done
  • You can do it together

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of streaming here and there, but try to create quality memories by doing other activities too.

Go for a walk, think up an activity to do together (Looking for inspo? Read this!) or read a book. 

Limiting the time kids sit in front of a screen will not only help you form an unbreakable parent child relationship, but it’ll teach your child some invaluable social skills at the same time. 

3. Not leading by example

So many parents know all the best parenting techniques and can talk big about the right parenting style for every situation, but their behaviours don’t mirror what they say. 

For example, I walked out of a supermarket last week and saw a mum with her child. Not only did she tell her daughter to get off of her phone, whilst simultaneously glancing at her own device, but when the girl raised her voice at her mother in frustration, the mother yelled about how she shouldn’t shout. 

I mean, seriously…

The phase, “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply to parenting, trust me. 

Remember, you’re the ultimate role model for your child – the hero of their little story.

To be an effective parent, you need to model the behaviour you want to see in them. They’ll be more likely to mirror you than to listen to you.

4. Not dedicating enough quality time

Life is hectic, right? I often talk on our Instagram page about how trying to keep on top of parenthood, finances, household jobs, relationships, friendships and more can feel like spinning plates.

Sooner or later, one of them drops. 

With all that on your mind, it’s not uncommon to feel distracted when you’re with your kids whilst you’re busy thinking about everything you need to do.

Parents feel an immense amount of pressure, particularly with young children; it’s so difficult to keep on top of their own mental health and keep everything else afloat. 

It’s easy to get lost, though.

Remember, your children crave your attention, whether they’re being little angels or playing up. Try to spend as much quality time with your children every day because, outside of telling them you love them, being present and in that moment shows them that you love them. 

Try to make the time you spend together as ‘high quality’ as possible. Put that phone in a drawer, turn off the TV and give them 100% of your attention for as much time as you can. 

5. Not spending enough time on your relationship

Becoming a parent is a wonderful experience and that little person will instantly become your entire universe. Be careful though, your child shouldn’t replace your relationship with your partner, only add to it.

Whether you’re a nuclear family or a separated, blended family, always take the time to focus on your relationship as much as you can. That strong foundation will help you work through some of the natural struggles that come with raising a child. 

I know from experience that if you’re unhappy in a long term relationship, it’ll project into the way you bring up your children. Remember to nurture your relationship with your partner and your child will be so much happier for it in the long run. 

6. Not spending enough time looking after yourself 

With all of those important things to focus on on top of this beautiful little munchkin to raise to raise, we often forget to take the time for ourselves; I’m certainly guilty of this. 

We burn the candle at both ends, which means we become overwhelmed or frustrated at the relentless nature of parenthood and well, life in general. 

Make sure you factor in some ‘me time’ to gather your thoughts where possible. Allocate a little block of time into your routine, perhaps when the kids are in bed, to meditate, write in a journal, exercise or have a bath. 

I struggle with switching off and always feel like I should be doing something. My girlfriend will often remind me that it’s OK to just relax sometimes and she’s right – recharging your batteries will save you from burnout, making you a better parent in the long-run. 

7. Being controlled by your emotions

As our children grow, they’re still learning to rationalise their thoughts and deal with their feelings. They may act up, misbehave or whinge for seemingly no reason at all.

Children have evolved to elicit a response out of their parents because, unlike many other species on this planet, us humans and our big brains take a long time to develop. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of frustration or anger if your child keeps pestering you, misbehaving, crying…or anything else for that matter.

The important thing is to try not to let your emotions take hold. 

Remembering that children are impressionable little things and will mirror your behaviours is important. If you react emotionally or get visibly angry, your child will think this is the appropriate way to behave in future. 

If you’re feeling stressed, try to take a quick time out. So long as your child is safe, leave the room for a minute and take a few deep breaths, count to ten and get ready to go again. 

8. Doing everything for your kids

We all adore our children and we want them to be happy. If you’d have told me 5 years ago that I’d be bringing my daughter breakfast in bed every time she stayed with me, I’d have laughed you out of the room. 

It’s perfectly normal to feel a sense of responsibility to our children, but it’s important that you don’t do everything for your kids. 

Children need to learn to appreciate the value of what you do for them rather than expect it. You don’t want to set expectations for your child because they’ll grow up without any sense of ownership of their own lives. 

9. Not listening to your children

As I mentioned earlier, children can be irrational little devils sometimes. They’re still developing and their perception of the world has been shaped by a very limited experience of it. 

When a child is talking to you, parents can often shoot them down without even knowing they’re doing it. 

In the brilliant book, “How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber, she explores the concept of really listening to your children.

She uses this example:

CHILD:Mommy, I’m tired
ME:You couldn’t be tired. You just napped. 
CHILD:(louder) But I’m tired. 
ME:You’re not tired. You’re just a little sleepy. Let’s get dressed.
CHILD:(wailing) No, I’m tired!
Excerpt from ‘How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk’ by Adele Faber

Adele explains, “I was…telling my children over and over again not to trust their own perceptions but to rely on mine instead”.

Instead, encourage them to talk to you and hear what they have to say. 

Rather than denying your child’s feelings, try acknowledging them instead, even if you know the outcome will still be the same.

I’ll share an example of what I mean.

Last week we were getting ready to take my daughter, Evie, back to her mum’s house. 

EVIE:Daddy, I don’t want to get dressed
ME:Oh I don’t want to get dressed either! I wish we could stay in our pyjamas all day and play. 
EVIE:Me too! We could bounce on the bed ALL day! 
ME:That would be SO MUCH fun! I’d love that! We do need to get you back to Mummy’s house though, so maybe next time we can do that?
CHILD:(big compliant sigh) Okayyy then. 

This example is what Faber describes as ‘giving a child their wish in fantasy’. By acknowledging that Evie didn’t want to get dressed and understanding what she wanted, we imagined what that would be like to give Evie the outcome she wanted in that moment before coming back to the original task at hand: Getting dressed. 

Evie proceeded to get dressed beautifully and didn’t mention it again. 

10. Being inconsistent 

Part of being a child is testing boundaries (Man, part of being an adult for me is testing boundaries!).

Children have an amazing sense of what they can get away with and they’ll try their best to push their luck at every given opportunity. 

One of my absolute musts as a parent (and in the workplace for that matter!) is consistency. If your child knows exactly how you’ll react and that you’ll always do what you say you’ll do, parenting becomes infinitely easier. 

For example, if you tell your child they can’t watch the TV one day whilst they have their dinner, but the next day you give in and let them because you’re stressed and can’t face the argument, guess what they’ll do the next day when you say no…

They’ll keep pushing until you give in or they’ll get upset when you don’t.

Children feel safe and secure when they know what the rules are and how to stick to them.

Some days you won’t want to stick to your rules, but trust me…those small ‘in-the-moment’ battles will be far easier than the on-going arguments when they challenge you on everything!  

Summary 

It’s important to remember that no parent is perfect. We all have good days and bad days and nobody expects you to get it right all the time.

Guess what? The fact you’re even thinking about it shows you’re an amazing parent already. 

If you have an off day, don’t beat yourself up over it. Just take a moment, reflect and see if you can improve the next day! 

You’ve got this! 

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Co-Parenting

Featured in the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella Magazine!

On Sunday 21st February, we were asked to contribute in a feature for the Sunday Telegraph’s Stella Magazine called, ‘Being brought up by a single dad was nothing like people expect

It’s a fantastic piece in which Zeena Moolla explores what it was like to be raised by just her father, along with some of the stereotypes she faced as a consequence.

We’re all so used to the idea that women just are the nurturing parents and the carers of the house, despite the fact that this stereotype is archaic and outdated.

Zeena found people couldn’t quite get their head around the fact that she was being raised as a man and the limitations they thought this would present to her life…

“…We lost count of the number of people who inferred that as a man, he couldn’t be as caring as a woman. ‘Do they not miss having a mother around?’ was the impertinent question often posed to him. It drove me inwardly mad. It felt as if my dad was being undermined.”

Although family dynamics are definitely changing, I was asked to comment on how I feel men are perceived when they take a nurturing approach to parenting…

“Blogger Dan Betts, founder of thebreakingdad.co.uk, says that after he and his partner separated in 2019, and started sharing custody of their daughter Evie, now four, he was struck by the reactions of strangers. ‘People are often very surprised by how dedicated I am to Evie,’ he says. ‘It tells me there’s a very clear perception that men can’t be “maternal”. [But] as men, we’re just as capable of being nurturing parents.’

His time as a single father has, he says, taught him that there is no such thing as ‘mum jobs’ and ‘dad jobs’. ‘Being responsible for everything to do with Evie’s care, 100 per cent of the time she’s with me, has helped me to appreciate the difficult balancing act many mums face every day. And it’s not about being perceived as “good for a dad”; it’s about stepping up and being there for your child, because that’s what a parent should do.’”

I was so proud to be able to contribute to such a progressive article; it’s so important to challenge the way we view fathers in the UK.

Society is changing and the stereotypical, ‘Dad who sits on the sofa with a beer and watches sports, whilst the mum does everything else’ just doesn’t fly anymore.

At least, not in my book.

Just as in the workplace, we’re challenging long-standing and historic unfairness when it comes to the gender gap, we need to be confident to do the same at home too.

We were so grateful to be involved in this article and, perhaps one day, Evie will read it and know that I did everything I could to be the best father I could be.

Blended family photo together
Blended Families

Featured on Family Action this week!

We love what the good people over at Family Action do and we were featured in a guest post just before Christmas last year (You can see the article here).

As lockdown CONTINUES with seemingly no end in sight, they kindly reached out and asked us to share our perspective on what life is like as we try to establish the beginnings of our new ‘blended family between two households.

I loved writing this one because it gave us a platform to share some of things we’ve learned.

You can read it here!

couple after separation
Separation

Effects of parental separation on a child

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There’s a stigma that surrounds separation; it feels like we’ve failed. With around 2.4 million separated families in Great Britain, what are the effects of parental separation on a child? 

If you haven’t been there yourself, I’m sure you’ve known somebody who has. Separation is a tough emotional experience for grown-ups, let alone children.

My parents divorced when my twin brother and I were young children, so we have first-hand experience of the psychological effect of separation and divorce from a kid’s perspective. 

Honestly? For me, there wasn’t a great deal of lasting impact (at least, conscious ones!), but the long term effects are almost entirely dependant on your circumstances, the arrangements that are made between the parents and how they’re carried out. 

This is a topic I researched a lot when Evie’s mum and I first separated, so let’s break it down. 

How are children affected by parental separation?


Even between adults, parental separation can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. As grown-ups, we’ve got the luxury of fully developed brains and a contextual understanding of the situation and why it’s happening. 

For a child, particularly at the beginning, it can often feel like trying to put together a puzzle and only having half of the pieces. 

The immediate aftermath of separation is when a child is typically most unhappy.

It’s very normal for a child to want their parents to remain together and that unhappiness can transfer into behavioural problems.

It’s understandable when all-of-a-sudden the life your child has always known has been ripped from underneath them – not just their physical home, but their entire way of life.

It’s likely that your child will be feeling:

  • Guilt at the thought that it might be their fault
  • Anger at the parents for letting the relationship fail
  • Fear about what the future holds
  • Upset at the loss of the life and family they knew
  • Torn between both parents 
  • Confused about all of the changes

This whirlwind of emotions is often compounded even more by the changes that are going on around them. Parental separation often means the division of assets and, at least in the short term, money is usually tight, stress levels are high and everybody is just a little out of kilter.

Our experience

This wasn’t a particularly pleasant phase of my life and I remember my debt spiralling rapidly out of control after Evie’s mum walked out. I had to find the money to cover the house, child maintenance, rising credit card bills, solicitor and mediation fees and everything else that life throws at you.

On the plus side, Evie was only two-and-a-half years old when we separated and Evie’s mum had worked every other Saturday since her maternity leave had finished. This meant Evie was used to being alone with me regularly, so her transition was fairly straightforward in that respect. 

Emotional and Behavioural Problems 

If you’ve lived through separation yourself, you’ll know there’s usually a phase of re-adjustment. Somebody that has played such a fundamental part of your life is suddenly not part of it anymore and you need to ‘unlearn’ the life you’d become so accustomed to. 

The same goes for your children too.

It’s not uncommon for children to become very insecure, which can often trigger a whole range of behaviours that you’d associate with them being much younger. 

If your child is struggling with insecurity, research has shown they can regress. You might find they start wetting the bed all-of-a-sudden or that they become incredibly clingy when they’re around you – they may even channel that energy into anger and stroppiness. 

Here’s what you need to remember: It’s totally normal

Our experience

Evie dealt with the separation fantastically but I definitely noticed that she became more clingy in the first few months. She’d always want to be carried and became very reliant on her dummy as a comforter.

Given all of the changes going on, Evie had her dummy and blanket later than she would have done if her mum and I hadn’t separated. Wee felt it was important for her to have some consistency and to minimise the number of changes going on until she’d adjusted to her life with both newly single parents.

What can you do to help

Like I said earlier, it’s almost a given that there will be some difficult feelings between you both as parents and probably the extended families. 

The most important thing to remember is that your child will pick up on this

You need to do everything in your power for the sake of their mental health, to make sure that you don’t project any of those feelings of anger, sadness or bitterness onto your child. 

Instead, you need to do all you can do to help your child emotionally through the separation, whilst quashing any feelings of guilt, confusion or unhappiness they might be feeling after the split. 

You can support your child by: 

  • Speaking as positively as possible about the other parent as possible in front of your child
  • Being honest about the situation, but being mindful of not putting them in a situation that makes them feel like they have to choose sides
  • Remind them that they’re loved by both parents
  • Encourage them to speak openly and honestly with you about how they feel and listen to them. It’s OK for them to be hurting, just hear and try not to advise
  • Keep your daily routines as normal as possible 
  • Be patient, these things take time



Our experience:

I struggled immensely with guilt following the separation, as well as parental self-doubt. I genuinely felt like I’d failed as a parent because Evie’s mum and I hadn’t worked out.

It felt awful knowing that Evie was having to move between households because it as all new to her.

I’ve always been a passionate advocate of consistency when it comes to parenting (and adulting for that matter!).

I made it my life’s mission to make sure that I gave and continue to give Evie the most enjoyable experience possible when she’s with me.

If I say, “What’s Daddy’s house for?”, I can guarantee the answer she’ll give you will be…

“HAVING FUN!”

I try my best to do always do everything I’ve listed above. I’ll be honest, some days I’m better at it than others.

We all are.

The important thing to remember is that we all have off days.

Being self-aware enough to notice when you could be better is half the battle.

All you have to do then is act on it.

Putting your child first

Separation and divorce is not something anybody wants to go through and it certainly isn’t something to ever be ashamed of.

Parental conflict can have harmful effects on children and the most important thing is to take a child-focused approach every step of the way. 

Research has shown that it’s in a child’s best interests to have a healthy relationship with both parents, except in cases of abuse.

That means that establishing a solid co-parenting relationship should be the number one goal for you and your kids. 

If you’re struggling to get anywhere because one side is digging their heels in, seek professional support. 

You don’t always have to go to family courts.

Mediation is designed to help you come to a fair agreement and shape a Parenting Plan which sets out the terms of what will happen in future, helping you to both maintain a solid parent child relationship.

Our experience: 


Since creating ‘The Breaking Dad’ on Instagram (And recently passing the first anniversary of the account), I’ve been blown away by how few Dads take an active role in their children’s lives after separation.

When there is a high level of bitterness between ex-partners, I’ve experienced two things happening:

  • The mother can often weaponise the children and making it as difficult as possible for the father
  • The father can not bother or be inconsistent, often not doing what they say they will, or not taking an active interest

Of course, there are many, many more cases of parents working tirelessly to make sure they’re kids are happy too.


Let’s be clear: Every situation is different so it’s impossible to generalise. 

There have been points in the separation with Evie’s mum that I didn’t feel like I could keep going anymore. 

The only advice I can give either side, mums or dads, is to just keep pushing forwards

It gets better and if having a bond with a little person or people you brought into this world isn’t enough of an incentive to keep on pushing, I don’t know what is! 

If you’d like more on this subject, one of the most powerful books I read was, ‘The Guide for Separated Parents: Putting Children First’ by Karen and Nick Woodall. If you’re going through separation, make sure you pick it up!

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Activities

Cardboard Crafts: Fish Tank

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Following on from last week’s guide on ‘How to make a cardboard laptop‘, Evie and I decided to take it one step further.

This week, we made an interactive cardboard fish tank complete with fish and I have to say, we loved it!

Here’s a quick preview:

You will need:

1. Cut your fish tank


The fish tank shape is nice and simple – all you need to do is cut a little window in the front of the tank so you can see in.

Keep a reasonable amount of card on the surround to help the box keep its strength and rigidity.

We stuck down the edges to create a simple little frame too.



2. Draw your fish and seaweed

It’s entirely up to you how many fish you do; we chose to do four.

Using your different coloured card, just sketch the outline of a different fish onto each piece of card (Stuck for ideas, just do a Google search for fish templates for some inspiration!).

3. Let ’em loose with the paints!

The beauty of this next stage is that it doesn’t matter whether your kids stay in the lines or how they decide to paint the fish.

Evie got totally creative here with her paint pens and I think she did a fantastic job!

4. Give ’em some personality

Get yourself some googly eyes and stick them on as you see fit.

I mean, I think this part is relatively self-explanatory, but if you need some help as to where the eyes go, Evie will expertly demonstrate…

5. Get cutting

Now then, grown up…Time for you to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in.

Take each of your wonderfully fishy little shapes and cut them out as neatly as you can.

Evie expertly filmed me doing this, just in case you were wondering what cutting an object out looks like…

I know, right? We’re so helpful.

Well, would you look at that?

You’re a regular ol’ fish expert now.

5. Prepare your fish tank

Now you’ve got all of your fish ready and waiting for their new home, you need to get your cardboard tank ready.

We used blue card at the back of the tank and glued a few pieces of seaweed to the bottom.

These work really nicely for giving the tank a really three-dimensional feel.

6. Hang your fish

To hang your fish from your cardboard fish tank, you’ll first need to make a hole on each one somewhere near the top.

We did this by rolling a piece of plastercine into a ball, placing the fish on top and then piercing a hole using a golf tee (You could also use a ball point pen).

You’ll need to pierce a hole in the top of your tank, although grown ups…I’d suggest you do this bit yourself.

Next, you’ll need to connect a length of string from your fish through the top of your fishtank from the underside and out the top.

It’s a good idea to use something larger than the hole here that can be easily gripped by little hands…

This will give your child the ability to move your fish up and down in the fish tank for a truly interactive, sensory experience.

Et voila! You’re there.

Great job!

For other kids activities that you can try at home, have a read of this article, or for another great little cardboard craft, make sure you have a go at making a laptop too! Super simple and lots of fun.

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Guest Posts

Guest Post | Lockdown baby: A Dad’s perspective

This week’s guest post is written by Nick of @2_mindstogether. He talks about the experience of becoming a father for the second time during a national lockdown.

Having experienced both a lockdown and non-lockdown birth (3 years apart) you may be reassured to learn that these life-changing events weren’t that dissimilar.

Here’s our story, along with some top tips of how to cope with and support your partner giving birth during a lockdown.

Let’s face it…2020 was not the year we all thought it would be.

For me, 2020 was a huge year with the birth of my 2nd child. I wasn’t going to let the distraction of COVID come in my way but if I’m being honest, it was an extra thing to stress about.

It all began when the country (UK) went into a lockdown on 23rd March.

It was announced that all pregnant women in their 3rd trimester MUST stay at home and isolate until the birth.

The Government and top scientists were still unsure as to what harm COVID could cause an unborn child.

This was a strange feeling for me because all of a sudden, I felt an overwhelming responsibility to look after the household, even more so than usual.

It was down to me to do all the food shops and battle with the huge queues of people fighting their way into the store to secure the last remaining toilet rolls or pasta!

HANDY TIPS FOR THE LEAD UP TO THE BIRTH



Prepare well!
I can’t stress this one enough because when the baby is here you will realise how little time you have.

So, get planning those post-baby evening meals and batch cook in advance.

We did this and it worked a treat. It meant that there was one less thing to think about whilst adjusting to fatherhood!

Not only does this save money, but it also meant that the “Dad Bod” won’t appear from endless takeaways.

Be adaptable.
This is paramount in the lead up to the birth.

It could be as simple as doing additional tasks/chores in the house when your partner falls asleep on the sofa at 7 pm!

Yes, this is necessary to keep the house running smoothly (Us men also need to remember that our partners are growing a little human after all!)

• Keep calm.
I feel my most valuable bit of advice comes last; always remain calm in every situation.

Being pregnant is such a mix of emotions both positive and negative and in moments of panic or worry, a calming voice will always shine through. Sometimes all she will need you to say is “everything is going to be ok”.

Throughout the pregnancy, I was lucky enough to attend the baby scans (pre-lockdown), but I’m aware that many Dads are missing out on these special moments.

Scans are such an important part of the journey to meeting your newborn.

It’s like a jigsaw and you’re slowly piecing together the amazing gift you’re about to discover and being able to share these moments with your partner is so important.

During our pregnancy, I wasn’t to attend the midwife appointments which was a real shame because these are the only times she was in contact with a professional supporting her.

HANDY TIPS FOR APPOINTMENTS (OR LACK OF)

• Communicate.
Ask your partner how the appointment went and what was discussed, and listen to any concerns your partner has.

For me, it was about trying to be the most supportive I could.

It also allows your partner to talk through and process the information given to them clearly.

• Expect the unexpected
Secondly, during a lockdown, you need to plan for the worst-case scenario.

What if you tested positive for COVID-19 days before the birth? Can you really afford to run the risk of catching the virus by going out for non-essential activities?

Make sure you self-isolate for two weeks before the due date.

This is easier said than done and requires planning ahead for things such as food etc., but if done correctly and safely it should guarantee your presence at the birth.

The big day came and, surprisingly, I felt relaxed knowing that we would be meeting our new arrival.

I’m one of those people who likes to plan ahead and know exactly what the day entails. However, this completely changed when we arrived as the Delivery Suite was already full (at 8 am)!

They placed Lucy temporarily on a ward but no birth partners were allowed due to COVID.

This meant that we had to go our separate ways and I was told I would be informed when the section was going to happen.

I found this strange moment, but at least I didn’t have to witness Lucy’s cannula being fitted after several failed attempts (it sounded like the most traumatic bit)!

HANDY TIPS FOR HOSPITAL

• Be brave!
I had to remain strong for Lucy and put aside my phobia of needles in the prep for her c-section (epidural).

I don’t think she would have appreciated it if I had fainted and ended up on the floor!

Take snacks.
It’s hard work sitting around all day!

• Keep positive.
Your partner is bound to be her most anxious and be asking lots of “what if” questions.

Stay strong.
You need to remain as adaptable to the environment as possible, which takes mental strength. Hospitals are busy places and emergencies can occur at any point…so be prepared to wait your turn!

Take a charger!
You’ll be inundated with messages and will want to update certain people on progress, but you’ll probably want to watch or listen to something; you never know how long your wait will be.

Everything went well and our little boy had arrived in the world.

The major difference this time around was the limited time I was allowed with our baby and Lucy post-birth.

The two hours flew by and being told to leave by staff felt harsh and unnatural, but at the same time acceptance of the pandemic we were involved in soon took over.

Leaving the hospital that afternoon was strange.

Luckily, I was coming home to my 2-year-old and I was so excited to share the good news and tell him about his little brother.

It felt hard leaving Lucy, but I was confident that she’d be absolutely fine having done this all before.

I was obviously in the fortunate position to not be a first-time Dad, so I can only imagine how strange it would feel leaving your partner and first baby hours after becoming a father.

HANDY TIPS FOR POST BIRTH

Get stuck in
Taking an active role is important, especially when changing that first “tar” like nappy!

• Look after your partner
She’s bound to be shattered after going through so much, so be there for her and give her lots of reassurance.

Take plenty of photos
Capture the memories, especially videos; then you’ll be able to look through when you’re back home and everything isn’t such a blur.

The simple fact is that there is no blueprint as to how to parent.

Although we have been “winging it” from day one (and continue to do so now), it’s always good to seek guidance and support from others in those early weeks to reaffirm that you’re doing a good job.

In a lockdown, however, this can be tricky.

It was hard for us having limited contact with family and friends as they offer advice and support when it’s most needed.

Fortunately for us, we did feel lucky that this was our second child as it helped us to feel a little more confident.

All I would say is use the extra time that you have to get routines nailed, build confidence as a Dad and develop your relationship with your child.

Nick

Instagram – @2_mindstogether
Blog – www.2mindstogether.co.uk
Facebook – @twomindstogether
Twitter – @mindstogether_2

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Co-Parenting

A year of the Breaking Dad on Instagram

On the 27th January 2020, I was stuck in traffic on the way to work when the name hit me.

For those of you that have followed for a while, you’ll know that the run-up towards Christmas 2019 was one of the hardest few months of my life.

I’d sunk deep into depression and struggled with being a ‘co-parent’.

The thought of the first Christmas not waking up to see my little girl’s face hit me in September and got worse…and worse.

Unexpectedly, Christmas came and surprisingly, it was one of the best Christmases I’d had in years.

I was no longer in a relationship that wasn’t working, which meant I was in total control of the time I had with Evie.

Sure, it was less time than I wanted, but it was OUR time.

I realised focusing on what WASN’T was never going to help me.

OK, It may not have been the ‘happily ever after’ family life I’d hoped for, but for the first time, I realised the power was squarely in my hands to own every second I had my with daughter.

No more moping. I’d been slipping down a self-destructive path for a while; now was the time to face into it.

I decided 2020 would be different.

“The Breaking Dad”

Breaking, but never broken.

I thought it summed the journey to that point perfectly (And it conveniently rhymed with the name of one of my favourite TV shows).

This Instagram page is a journal. It holds me accountable to my daughter and my mission of raising a strong daughter. It forces me to be creative and focus on enriching her life.

12 months and just short of 12k followers later, I’ve been blown away by the sheer volume of fantastic people who use this platform – Kind and supportive people who embrace their roles as loving parents and inspire me to be the best that I can be.

What started out as a journey a single dad’s journey with his daughter evolved organically into finding love again with the most wonderful human, @always_rosie_ and her beautiful children.

2020 will forever be known in history as the year that COVID-19 struck. But to me, despite the hardshps we’ve ALL faced in the last 12 months, I’ll always remember it as the year I found myself as a father.

Thanks for following our journey.

Dan & Evie

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Follower Focus, Guest Posts

Follower Focus: The Windsors

We have so many fantastic followers on social media. Each and every one of them has an amazing story to tell and we wanted to share some here on thebreakingdad.co.uk. Our first ever Follower Focus is from one of our earliest followers, @WindsorFamLife, an amazing mum of five from Dorset!

I’m Gemma, 40 and a Mum of five from sunny Dorset on the South Coast, married to Darren and together we make up The Windsor Family!

My eldest daughter, Lottie (Charlotte) is 16 and she was diagnosed as having autism in June 2019. My eldest son, James is 15 and was born with Down Syndrome. My youngest son, Ollie (Oliver) is 13 and my youngest two daughters, Emily and Lucy are 7 and 5.

So, if your maths is good, you will have worked out that I had James when I was just 25, which isn’t at all common, as most women that have babies born with Down Syndrome are older mothers.

Darren and I met in 2002 and we had bought our first house together just a year later! A year later again in 2004 we had our first child and in 2005 we got married.

This brings us to December 2005, when we bought our next home and within 2 weeks of moving in we had James!

We didn’t know James had Down Syndrome and at the 12 week scan (which was the day before our wedding) they told me that I had a 1:400 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. Not to worry they said, you are very young! So we didn’t think of it again, until the night before I went for my C- section when it suddenly popped into my head! However as quick as the thought was there it was gone again as it was exciting to be meeting our second child.

James was born 5 days before Christmas and as they laid him on my chest in the operating theatre I was going cross eyed looking at his little nose trying to work out whose nose he had as it didn’t look like mine or Darren’s.

In recovery I tried to latch James on for a breast feed but he was so floppy and sleeping, he just wasn’t interested. So the nurse did his baby check on him instead and said to try feeding him again later.

While they did his baby check, a nurse brought me some toast and a drink, so I tucked into that not really watching the baby check but Darren however was watching and later told me they were spending extra time this time compared to our first baby’s check.

A few minutes later, the midwife went off to get a second opinion of another midwife. It was at this point they said they think our baby may have Down Syndrome as he showed several physical characteristics.

  • A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
  • Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
  • A short neck
  • Small ears
  • A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
  • Small hands and feet
  • A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
  • Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
  • Poor muscle tone and loose joints

There are several different characteristics and James had most so they said they would send for a blood test to confirm if he had Down Syndrome but it would be 5 days for the results.

We took one look at him and it was like the penny had dropped! That’s why we couldn’t quite place his little nose, why he couldn’t latch to breastfeed and why he was so sleepy.

They then said he needed warming up and a tube feed of some formula as he hadn’t fed since birth, so they popped him in the hot cot for the night while I was on the ward expressing breastmilk like fury!

I didn’t get to hold him again until the next morning which was really hard. Once I was able to get up and walk I was straight in to see him and it wasn’t long before he was on the ward with me again.

We stayed in hospital for 6 days, which included Christmas Day which was heart wrenching as it was our first Christmas in our new house and our baby girl was at home without her Mummy on Christmas morning.

We came home Boxing Day night once James had finally managed a bottle feed and had his tube removed!

It hit Darren hard the first day he was told James had Down Syndrome and he came home and cried.

For me, it was a case of carrying on being James’ Mummy. He was a baby who needed me. However as the months went on and all my other baby friends’ children hit their milestones, it started to sink in that James had Down Syndrome and what this meant for him. It hit me hard around 6 months – I went onto antidepressants and was at an all time low.

However with time and support, I got better and excited that James is just an absolute superstar!

He is 15 now and has proved to me he can do anything he wants to in life!

If you’d like to share your story, drop us an email on [email protected] and let’s talk!

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Evie, Rosie and Tilly baking cakes toogether
Blended Families, Co-Parenting

A blended family: All the ingredients

I remember the feeling of sheer dread the first day I introduced Rosie to Evie. The idea of a blended family seemed scary.

Up until that day, I’d been living two lives since separation: Dad and Dan.

In my days with Evie, I’d be focused solely on her from the moment I’d collect her to the moment she went home.

In my days without Evie, I’d just wish the days away until I saw her again.

This phase of my life was a real journey of self-discovery; I’d always been terrible at being alone and then, here I was, alone…a lot.

I found mindfulness and yoga and really focus on finding myself and who I am. Lots of the answers were covered in this post, ‘10 things you should start doing for a happier life‘.

Then I met Rosie.

Things were great from the off and we spent (and still do spend) most of our time together and just enjoying each other’s company.

All-of-a-sudden my life outside of Evie mattered a little more.

You can read more about how Rosie and I met here.

We waited a while until introducing Evie to Rosie. I was so worried because it was uncharted territory. I’d never introduced a child to a new partner before so how would I know I was doing the right thing!?

I spoke to Evie’s mum first and made sure we took things VERY slowly – completely at Evie’s pace.

They met, hit it off beautifully our two little world’s collided.

My introduction to Rosie’s beautiful daughters came soon after and I’ve been blown away by how quickly they’ve become little best buddies.

It’s just so effortless.

We had such a lovely day making cakes together yesterday and life, it seems, is moving in the right direction.

I don’t know when it’ll be the right time to use the ‘blended family’ label, but it certainly feels like it’s not far off.

And you know what? That feels good.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, we made these Butterfly cakes.

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