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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!

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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Blended Families

5 things about parenthood NOTHING can prepare you for

Parenthood is the best, without a shadow of a doubt.

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to take it as a given that parenting is the best thing ever.

You’re in safe hands, what you read from here is going to be our little secret. I won’t tell if you won’t…

Now, it’s time to dispense with the niceties about raising kids and…just tell the truth.

It’s bloody difficult.

I don’t know about you, but before I became a Daddy I definitely thought I would be awesome at it.

The following things used to drive me insane:

  • Children who cried on planes and the parents who didn’t ‘deal with it’
  • Parents who plonked phones in front of children at restaurants to keep them quiet
  • Parents who didn’t deal with temper tantrums

I could go on.

“Why don’t you just pull yourself together and just parent!?”

I mean it can’t be that hard, right?

GIF of Gordan Ramsey shouting, "Wrong"

Oh, how wrong I was.

My brother and his wife recently had a baby and by his own admission, it’s been a bit of a shock.

Nothing can truly prepare you for the stress, worry and often despair that children can bring.

I’ve learned so much about myself since becoming a parent.

To be honest, you won’t find most of them in an instruction manual, so I thought I’d share them.

Here goes.

Here are 5 things about parenting that NOTHING can prepare you for.

1. The first few months of parenthood is essentially sleep deprivation torture

Man looking tired and saying he hasn't slept in four years

We’re all patient, positive and happy creatures when we’re well-rested.

The problem is, resting well doesn’t generally come with the territory when a baby comes along.

A newborn baby hasn’t yet learned the sleep manners and protocols we’re so used to and trust me, they’ll let you know about it.

Using their greatest weapon in the battle against restful sleep, your baby will let out a cry that has so efficiently evolved over many thousands of years to be as awful to listen to as possible.

Just as you think you’ve settled them, they’re ready for round two.

…and three.

…and four.

Ever tried running on empty? It sucks.

We get irrational and we get very grumpy.

Those bags under our eyes? They’re now permanent shady little fixtures under what was once a pair of gleaming, bright and wistful eyes.

Data from thousands of men and women shows rest is at its worst three months after birth and could last up to six years.

See you in a few years, sleep. It’s been fun.

The early days are tough for sure, but it gets easier. You can never underestimate the importance of taking time for yourself and should work together as parents to find time to decompress.

I often say you can’t pour from an empty cup and sometimes having five minutes to recharge those batteries is necessary, particularly if you’re not sleeping much!

2. You were woefully under-prepared for parenthood.

Man shaking his head and saying, "I'm not ready"

I remember the first time I got behind the wheel of a car for a driving lesson.

I was terrified.

I’d watched people driving all my life and I’d been in the passenger seat countless times.

But everything looked SO DIFFERENT from the driver’s seat and suddenly the driving instructor’s life was in my hands.

That’s parenting.

I remember holding Evie to my chest for the first time and being so absolutely blown away by the beauty [and horror] of childbirth.

Side note:
There is no time in a man’s life that are more totally redundant as when they watch a woman, surrounded by other women, bring a life into this world.

If you can witness something like that and EVER suggest men are superior to women, you should probably stop existing.

When I held Evie for the first time it dawned on me that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Putting her little [ish…Evie was 9lbs 11 when she was born] arms and legs into her first babygrow, I knew that I was the beginning of a long journey of discovery.

I felt hopelessly ill-equipped for it.

I often talk about parenthood as being like a secret club; you suddenly appreciate how much other parents we know are pretty much just blagging it!

3. Parenthood is EXPENSIVE.

I have never had less money in my life than in the first year after Evie came along.

Pushchairs, cots, bottles, formula, clothes, bibs, dummies and nappies…

…Oh, the nappies.

To be honest, I stopped typing the list because it’s not fair on you as a reader.

The point is, it’s a lot of stuff.

Even now, the biggest proportion of my disposable income goes on Evie by far.

It probably always will.

I’m OK with that.

That said, some of the best fun we ever have together is when we’re finding things to do at home on a budget.

If you’d have told me before I joined the ‘glamourous’ world of parenthood that I’d be making home-made ‘rainbow rice‘ and routinely baking with my little munchkin, I wouldn’t have believed you!

4. You WILL be that annoying parent who posts takes too many photos.

It’s early September.

The glistening summer sun is starting to beat its end-of-season retreat and autumn is on its way.

It’s here.

The kids are going back to school…

You make one fatal mistake.

You open Facebook or Instagram.

All-of-a-sudden, your feed is swamped with pictures of your friend’s child stood uncomfortably, harbouring a forced and uncomfortable-looking, grimace-like smile.

Why? Because it’s an important to parents, for some reason.

I mean, the biggest difference is that they’re wearing a different outfit know as, ‘School Uniform‘.

There they stand in all their generic glory, boasting a pitiful shade of red, blue or green.

Some kids, if they’re really unlucky, wear brown.

You’ll know the ones, they always look like they’ve accidentally stumbled across a time machine that warped them from World War II.

Why does the fact your child is wearing a school uniform for the first time in the school year mean anything at all?

Bad news Brenda, your kid looks the same in that picture as they did yesterday; the key difference being that they’re not wearing the unfortunate outfit you chose for them in the misguided pursuit of stylishness.

“I’ll never be one of those parents who over-shares their child’s meaningless milestones on social media because nobody’s interested.”

I mean, those are words I SAID.

Certainly not words I live by.

From the moment your kid enters this world, every single development is precious.

I’ll level with you.

At this moment in time, I have 37,995 photos stored on Google Photos account.

Screenshot of Google Photos storage with 37,995 photos

I shudder to think how many of those are of Evie.

The first time she opened her eyes, the first time she smiled, the first time she laughed (that was a video in case you’re wondering), the first time she slept on her tummy, the first time she had solid food…

Honestly, it’s ridiculous.

What’s more surprising is I could go back and pinpoint each photograph and when it happened, but I can’t find my car keys and wallet from 10 minutes ago.

Do you want to see the first time Evie went in a swing? No?
Baby daughter uses a swing for the first time

Too late, sorry – it was a milestone and I cared about it, so I shared about it.

After having children, you see that they very quickly become the centre of your universe.

If people don’t want to see it, they’ll soon fall out of your orbit.

Oh and a confession:

Evie’s first day at school was magical.

As a parent, I was absolutely bursting with pride to see my baby all dressed up in her smart little uniform and ready to kickstart her education.

So, Brenda…

Please accept my apologies; I will be posting every year for the foreseeable.

5. You’ve changed.

Children painting a father's feet

Up until the day your child was born, your life was yours.

  • Fancy a nap? Crack on.
  • Want five minutes peace and quiet? Sure thing.
  • Fancy nipping to the gym? Go flex ’til your little heart’s content.

Until you have children, you’re the custodians of your own destiny.

Whatever you fancy doing with your other half this weekend – you can.

[Within reason…we’ve just been plunged into another national lockdown]

Parenthood changes you, permanently. I can’t honestly tell you whether it’s for the better or worse, everybody’s different.

If you have children, see if you can relate:

  • I often look back at the first 27 years of my life and know that I”ll NEVER again underestimate the value of a nap.
  • Snot GROSSES me out, but I’ll regularly wipe it from Evie’s nose with my bare hands so she doesn’t have to be snotty.
  • Being urinated on, farted on, thrown up on and covered in poo…is, unfortunately, par for the course.
  • I HATE sharing food, but Evie can have whatever she wants…even if she decides she doesn’t like it and spits it back onto my plate.
  • I’m VERY GOOD at playing Mums and Dads
  • I’m AWFUL at doing Evie’s hair.
  • I smile KNOWINGLY at new parents who say they’re finding a newborn difficult when they haven’t yet experienced a two-year-old.

As somebody who has yet to or chosen not to have children, you might look at that list and think it sounds horrific…

For the parents reading, you’ll know that all of this stuff contributes to that magical journey we call parenthood.

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Blended Families

Raising Strong Daughters: Here’s what you must do

It’s no secret that I love being a Daddy. I see raising strong daughters as more than a goal, it’s my responsibility. You should too.

Since having a daughter, I’ve realised that us Dads can play a fundamental role in helping our little girls become the fierce women they deserve to be.

Contents:

1. How to Raise a Self-Confident Daughter
2. Be a Strong Male Figure in Her Life
3. Highlight and Acknowledging Sexism
4. You’ve got a battle on your hands

We’re surrounded by white male privilege. By my very race and gender, I’m a beneficiary. It doesn’t sit quite right with me.

Nothing could have possibly opened my eyes more than the birth of my baby girl.

I love my daughter more than life itself. Becoming a parent taught me the value of family.

More importantly, being there for my daughter has shown me the importance of raising a strong daughter in a world of imbalance.

Kids learn how to view the world from those closest to them. In their early years, it predominantly from their parents.

Meg Meeker’s article, ‘How to raise strong and confident daughters‘ got me thinking.

I want my daughter to grow up with the confidence to challenge society, break down boundaries and be who she wants to be.

Here’s a simple guide on how to raise a daughter for dads.

It’s by no means extensive, but it should start you off.

The motivation?

Helping you teach your daughter to be strong.

To raise a girl who is happy in herself.

To show her that she can be what she wants to be.

How to raise a self-confident daughter

As a father, I don’t want my daughter to be defined by superficial values.

Of course, we all want to look good and liked to be complimented from time-to-time, but it’s not everything.

Women are under more pressure than ever to look good, perhaps even more so than men.

Social media amplifies this obsession even more and creates a kind of ‘en mass peer pressure’ that of ideals they feel they need to abide by. I want my little girl to know there’s more to life than looks.

Kindness, decency, resilience and courage should be the yardstick of success when raising a strong girl.

This great article, ‘10 Compliments to Give your Daughter That Have Nothing To Do With Looks‘ is perfect.

Compliment your daughter on traits that really matter.

  • Resilience
  • Courage
  • Intelligence

Make sure they have the confidence to tackle the world around them without being afraid to fail.

Girls are strong.

I’ve been surrounded tough women my whole life. They taught me how to be respectful as a man, as well as how to raise a strong girl.

One of my favourite compliments to give Evie is this:

“You’re so kind.”

Kindness is currency.

A warm heart is a vital foundation in the making of a good parent, an effective employee and one strong little girl.

Of course, kindness can be taken for granted. Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith in order to share a happy and fulfilling life.

Be the strong male figure in her life

As a Dad, if you ever finding yourself asking how to raise a strong daughter, there’s a simple answer: Lead by example.

This article for PsychCentral covers the subject perfectly.

I’ve summarised a few of the key points for you:
1. Love her mother

I separated with Evie’s mum a few years ago. Since then, we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs.

One thing I’ve NEVER done is criticised my ex in front of Evie.

A little girl needs to learn from an early age that a man should treat a woman with respect.

2. Don’t be afraid of attachment

Don’t underestimate how important it is for your daughter to form an attachment to you.

Spend quality time with them, play games and let them know you love them often with words as well as physical affection. Evie rarely tells me she loves me back and I never force her to.

To me, those gestures of love are investments into an emotional bank account for the future, which hopefully Evie will be able to reinvest into her own children one day.

3. Celebrate her mind

We’ve covered this topic above, but I can’t stress the importance of it enough.

Be honestly enthusiastic and interested in the things she tells you and take time to understand the way she thinks.

For example, Evie’s latest thing is to go,

“Daddy….guess what…”

This is Evie’s little precursor to telling me something that happened in her life that she wants to share with me.

No matter what, I respond with the same enthusiasm and excitement, whether it’s the first time of the day or the fiftieth.

4. Treat all adult women the way you want your daughter to be treated someday

If you want to know how to raise strong daughters as a Dad, there’s something incredibly simple you can do: Treat women the way you want your daughter to be treated.

Your attitude towards women is a direct reflection on how your daughter will come to view herself.

Take every opportunity you can to SHOW her that she deserves respect, support and love.

Highlighting and acknowledging sexism

There are so many confusing double-standards in today’s society.

For example, assertive men are considered favourable, but assertive women are typically dismissed as rude or abrasive.

This study showed how most of children’s literature was dominated by male figures when it comes to fairytales and children’s literature; something that just reinforces gender stereotypes.
. No surprises there.

What was more concerning was how the girls were “portrayed as acted upon rather than active”. Objects or supporting roles, basically…Not aspirational role models.

The message: Adventures are for men, not women.

I hate that.

Where are the female role models? Who will teach girls to aspire to something more?

Our children should be ready to take on the world and be whatever or whoever they want to be.

Telling stories that continually emphasise these gender roles is a recipe for disaster.

Don’t get me wrong…There has been a definite shift.

Let it go.

Disney’s Frozen definitely helps to dismantle some of these traditional damsels in distress stories.

They deliberately steered clear of power-hungry evil witches or relying on handsome princes to save the day.

That’s a lesson on how to raise daughters in my book.

Take this point with a pinch of salt.

What I’m NOT doing, is telling you that your children CAN’T read classic tales.

Just be aware of those gender roles and remind your daughter to challenge them.

It’ll pay dividends in her development.

Raising Daughters Meme

You’ve got a battle on your hands

If you really want to know how to raise a good daughter, you need to encourage them to be themselves, right into their teen years and beyond.

A good man should know how teach girls that they can be the person they want to be unapologetically, unconditionally and unwaveringly.

If we ever hope to bring genuine gender equality, then men need to take action too.

I’m going to share some bad news with you though…

If you get it right, she’s going to push your buttons, test the boundaries and challenge the rules, particularly during the teen years…so I’m told.

Perfect.

Your little girl needs to understand that her opinion matters.

She needs to know her voice is heard.

You definitely won’t always agree with her.

In fact, she’ll probably drive you up the wall.

Be patient, it’s a sacrifice you’re going to have to be to make.

What do you get in return?

You’ll have guided your little lady through her life, imbued with the sense of self-worth that she deserves.

Want your daughter to take a leap of faith and be who she wants to be? Y

You need to be there to catch her.

No matter what.

That’s what I plan to do with Evie.

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Blended Families

My top 10 parenting rules to live by for 2021

Nobody’s perfect. It doesn’t matter how hard you try; you’re probably going to get it wrong sometimes. ⁣⁣⁣

If you’re anything like me, you’ll second guess yourself when you see how other people choose to bring up their children too. ⁣⁣⁣

Let’s stop just a minute. If you remember one thing today about good parenting, it’s that you can only try your best. ⁣⁣⁣

⁣⁣I try to stick to some rules when it comes to bringing up Evie. 

Full disclosure: I haven’t always been good at these, it’s taken a lot of practice and I’m STILL learning every day.

⁣⁣⁣Parenting is a journey, and using these rules is great for setting limits and making sure I can be the best possible role model for my little lady.

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Be patient; they’re just testing boundaries⁣⁣⁣

I wanted to start with this one because trust me, if there’s one thing you’re going to need as a parent of young children, it’s patience! 

Most parents find that their darling little bundles of joys are incredibly skilful when it comes to testing your patience. Your child is growing and learning about the world around them. 

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that your little one just doesn’t quite understand how to interact with the world around them, so what you think is bad behaviour could be their little way of learning what is acceptable and what isn’t.  

I’ve certainly learned that in order to get good behaviour out of Evie, I need to be patient – very patient. 

The more patient I’ve been in terms of my parenting style, the better Evie responds to me. 

Struggling to be patient? Read this great article from EmpoweringParents.com.  

Use positive and supportive language⁣⁣⁣

When it comes to discipline, finding a balance can be tough. We all want to be relaxed parents, but after a stressful day, that all-important patience can start to dwindle. 

Using negative language, phrases like “Don’t do this”, “Stop doing that” can actually have a negative impact on your child’s behaviour too. 

In this great article from Parenting from the Heart Blog, Alana talks about how you can swap some common negative language for more positive ones: 

Instead of:Try using: 
Don’t run Walk, please
Stop touching your sister Hands to yourself
Don’t throw toys Please keep your toys on the ground
Stop interruptingI can see you want to talk to me. Wait one moment, please. 
Leave him alone Come over here and play.
Don’t hitOnly gentle touches, please
Stop yellingQuiet voice, please. 

What I like about this approach, and try to take with Evie, is that you shift your focus toward teaching your child how they should behave, rather than chastising them for how they shouldn’t. 

Be tirelessly enthusiastic⁣⁣⁣

I’ve never been a big believer in speaking to your children in a different way to how you would speak to an adult. I’m never going to be one of those dads who speaks to his children in baby voices or uses silly words for things; it doesn’t help your child learn. 

With that in mind, something I will always do is show boundless enthusiasm towards Evie. It doesn’t matter what she’s telling me, I’ll always consciously make an effort to sound as interested and excited as possible, irrespective of the day I’ve had or how stressed I’m feeling. 

There’s a reason for that…

To me, good parenting skills come from the ability to build a great relationship with your child. I often see parents when we’re out on days out barking orders at their kids or only half listening and I imagine how that parent would feel if the same thing happened to them at work or when they’re talking to their friends. 

Single parenthood has really helped me to hone that skill. Since our traditional family life came to an end, it’s helped me to appreciate and cherish the time more than ever because I understand that our time together is always on a countdown until I have to take Evie back to her mum’s. 

Taking a step back even further, our children grow up so fast. The bottom line is that they won’t be little forever. As they grow older, they’re going to face more complex and challenging issues with school, relationships and work. 

I want Evie to be able to always come to me and know that  I’ll be enthusiastic and interested.

Listen, don’t lecture⁣⁣⁣

By the time most of us come to having children, we’re lucky enough to have been on this earth rather a few years. I’ve now had almost 32 of them and in that time I’ve made many, many mistakes that have helped me to become the person I am today. 

We have to be able to allow our children to do the same. If Evie is anything like me, which she certainly is this far, all that’ll happen if I was to slip into ‘naggy parent’ mode is that she’d push back and do exactly the opposite of what I’d told her to. 

Children need to be able to learn and, even if there are behaviour problems, they need to be able to express their feelings so that you can guide them supportively rather than dictate.

Be consistent ⁣⁣⁣

There are very few aspects of life in general in that don’t benefit from consistency. Whether it’s training at the gym, performing at work, keeping in touch with friends – You name it, people just like reliability. 

I harp on about consistency all the time when it comes to parenting because nothing is more crucial when young people are learning the boundaries than knowing what the expected outcome is. 

For example, imagine if day to day you’re nice and calm when your little one decides they don’t want to eat their dinner, but one day you’re in a bad mood and lose your temper, they won’t understand. 

Likewise, if you have rules in place at home and you sometimes relent on them, they’ll always try their luck. A good example of this might be bedtime – If your child cries when you put them down to bed one night and you go to get them, they will no doubt try it again another night to get the same response…just in case

Shower them with love ⁣⁣⁣

As parents, we all want our children to feel as safe, secure and loved as possible, right? Having a solid foundation helps to instil a sense of confidence in our children, as well as a feeling of self-belief. 

I don’t know about you, but I certainly love to feel loved and I want Evie to feel that too. 

There are so many ways you can show your child some love, but I think this great article explains it far better than I can. 

Create clear rules and expectations⁣

I covered this a little earlier when I talked about the importance of consistency. Setting very clear rules and boundaries is crucial if you want to help your child develop into a well-rounded little human. 

Very often you’ll see parents swerve on a pendulum between either trying to be their child’s best friend or being the military disciplinarian. We’re all guilty of making mistakes on that front – I certainly have. 

You can look at rule setting in terms of 5 Cs: Clarity, consistency, communication, caring and creation. 

You can read this great article from Psych Central for more detail here, but in summary: 

Clarity
Being clear when you set rules, limits and boundaries for your children

Consistency
As we talked about earlier, being predictable in your response so your child knows what to expect

Communication
Talk about the reason why certain rules are in place to help them to understand

Caring
Use positive language and reinforcement to encourage good behaviours

Creation:
Encourage your child to feel that they have a responsibility for their own behaviour

Don’t take things personally ⁣⁣⁣

Trust me, there will be times when your child is downright brutal. Don’t take it to heart, they just haven’t learned how to filter out their thoughts yet. 

As they grow, it’s our job to teach them the social skills to be able to realise that saying, “You look really fat today” probably isn’t a good idea in the long run.

Show rather than tell ⁣⁣⁣

Effective parenting is about demonstrating how to behave, rather than telling. One of the greatest gifts for me about raising a child is getting to be the person who teaches Evie how the world around her works by spending time with her

There’s a great quote by John C. Maxwell that says, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”. 

As a parent, it’s time you take the lead.

Celebrate effort, not just success⁣⁣⁣

In life, we’re not always going to win. To be honest, that’s not even the important part – The effort is what counts. Fear of failure is something we learn as we get older and become more mindful of silly feelings like embarrassment or pride. 

The beautiful thing about children is that they don’t have any of those problems because they haven’t learned them yet. 

If they fall, they get back up and try again and if they make a mistake, they move on. 

I believe that embracing and learning from mistakes is the secret sauce to success in everything you do

Nothing is more damaging to a person than holding on to the past, dwelling on mistakes and being bitter about what should have happened. 

I believe in encouraging children to embrace their mistakes and move on. It teaches them resilience, which is great for their mental health.

⁣Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post! If you think I missed anything, drop a comment below and let me know! 

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Blended Families, Lifestyle & Adventures, Parenting Hacks & Tips

Grow Your Parenting Instagram Account to More Than 10K In Less Than 12 Months

Want to grow your parenting Instagram account? It’s easier than you might think. You just need to show up.

With a little bit of time, effort and consistency, you’ll get to 10k in no-time.

I couldn’t believe it when we hit 10k followers on Instagram. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that we’d get to that point in less than a year, but here we are!

There has been SO MANY things I’ve learned along the way when it comes to managing an Instagram account along the way and it can certainly feel like a bit of a minefield when you start out.

With so many ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’ of Instagram, it can be difficult to know how to grow your account for the best.


I’ve broken down some of the key tips and tricks we used to be able to grow our account to more than 10k in less than a year.



Want to view it directly in YouTube? Click here.

Daddy cuddling with daughter
Blended Families

The importance of taking time for yourself

I saw a great article the other day; it talked about how we should stop glamorising over-working.

It hit home, hard.

I work a full-time job, high-pressured and do all the hours…and extra hours…that come with it.

To be able to pick up Evie from school on the days that I do, I work crazy hours to catch the time back up.

Throw in exercise, managing an Instagram page, YouTube channel and website as ‘The Breaking Dad’, seeing my girlfriend, her kids, and making time for ‘me time’ and, well…the maths doesn’t quite stack up.

Matter over mind.

I’m ambitious, like many other people.

Driven by the desire to give my daughter the best life I can possibly give her, I try to use my time as effectively as possible.

Problem is: There just isn’t time for everything.

I don’t know about you, but I regularly over-do it.

Curiously, I don’t ever feel stressed. I like to think I’m quite a laid back chap, more so over the last few years – I certainly never used to be.

I know when I’m stressed because my body tells me before my mind does.

My eyes start flashing as if I’ve been staring at a light for too long. Warning bells go off in my head because that’s the first signal that a migraine is coming on.

My body goes into shut down, and I can do nothing but lock myself in a dark room until it passes. The next day always feels like a hangover.

100% attention, 100% of the time.

If you look up the job description for ‘parent’, it’ll tell you that stress is par for the course.

When we’re with our children, they expect (deservedly so) 100% of our attention, 100% of the time.

“Daddy, can you get me a drink please?”

“Daddy, I’ve done a poo!”

“Daddy, can you pass me the toy that is literally within arm’s reach of me?”

On top of this, you have the continual worry that your child will injure themselves. The moment you look away, they’ll slip, trip or flip over the only object in the room. It’s inevitable.

I don’t know about you, but whether you work, parent full time, or balance both…It’s bloody stressful.

Dealing with Stress

We all need to take time to recharge our batteries.

I can’t lie to you and tell you that this is something I’m good at, I’m not.

But over the last two years, I’ve tried to focus on my mental wellbeing. That’s because if I’m in a good place, I’m a better parent to Evie.

Meditation

If you haven’t tried meditation before, I can’t recommend it enough.

Meditation is a process that helps you to clear your mind of thought by focusing on the present moment.

I’ve used a few different apps and there are lots of great ones out there. I used to use Calm, which was great…but I’ve recently moved over to Headspace.

You can try both of them for free, and I really recommend them; meditation got me through some very low periods in my life.

Now I just use it help alleviate some of the pressure I tend to put on myself.

I often find that by the end of the day, my head feels really tight, like somebody’s squeezing it.

Meditating for 10 minutes every day helps me to slow down the pace and focus on what matters.

Exercise

Outside of the difficult circumstances we’ve faced surrounding lockdowns this year, I’d ordinarily use exercise as my outlet.

I won’t bore you with the science stuff, but there are tremendous benefits for your mental health, as well as physical.

Exercising releases ‘feel-good’ chemicals which help to regulate your mood – dopamine and serotonin (as well as others).

I’ve always struggled with body image and had an interesting relationship with food as a teenager – I genuinely believed that to look good, I needed to look as thin as possible from the side.

It wasn’t great.

As I got older, I discovered exercise and my relationship with how I viewed myself improved.

Now I find that exercise helps me in a number of ways.

  1. Self-esteem
  2. Stress
  3. Sleep
  4. Energy

Spending time with people I love

Being a Daddy is the biggest stress release for me. Whatever is going on in my work or personal life, my focus always falls squarely on Evie when I have her.

Really, it’s a form of mindfulness. I stop thinking about the past and the future and focus squarely on the now: Making sure my little girl is OK.

I love being with Evie, even though spending the day in parent-mode certainly does have its own challenges.

That’s why I try my best to make time just to switch my phone off and relax with my family and friends as often as possible.

As much as I love working, sometimes it’s important.

Make time for you

Overworking isn’t glamorous. There’s a subtle art, which I certainly haven’t mastered yet, to working hard.

It takes a more holistic approach than most of us are used to.

Putting in the hours at work or looking after your kids is a noble cause, there’s no doubt about it. HOWEVER, if you burn out, you’ll be grumpy, less effective and less valuable to the world around you as a consequence.

Take that work ethic of yours and spread it across your personal, parenting and work-life and strive for balance.

Only when you invest time in all three of those things, will you recognise your true potential, I imagine.

I’ll let you know when I manage it.

Daddy and Daughter
Blended Families

Facing into Parental Self-Doubt After Separation

There’s no manual for parenthood. It’s harder than most people imagine, but infinitely more rewarding. 

I’ve learned in recent years that parenthood is one of those un-winnable games. 

Once you think you’ve mastered one level, you’re onto the next – each level with harder puzzles to solve along the way. 

Throw separation into the mix and quickly you’ve got two players trying to help one character win, each with conflicting strategies and objectives.

I have Evie on a two-week split timetable and there’s a gap that I don’t see her every two weeks of about five days.

It sucks.

It’s always been this time I’ve struggled most.

Thankfully, children are malleable little creatures and they adjust so quickly; Evie certainly does.

She fully relaxes back into her routine with mum and when she sees me again, it always takes her a little while to warm back up.

Considering I see Evie seven out of nine days that break after seems like a long time indeed.

That’s not to say we don’t always have a great time together, we do. It’s just that the difference is noticeable.

It‘s this time that causes me to question myself most.

Does Evie want to be here? 

Am I doing a good enough job?

Is she really happy?

It plays on my mind a lot.

More recently, I’ve tried to remind myself that we all succumb to that self-doubt from time-to-time as parents.

Instead of suffering like I used to, I try to think of self-doubt as not only healthy, but useful. 

Questioning myself forces me to continuously examine my behaviour and re-evaluate my approach towards parenting to ensure I’m doing what’s right by my little girl. 

There’s no one size fits all strategy for bringing your kids up.

What matters, and what they’ll remember, is that you tried your damned hardest to fill their lives with love, security and laughter.

So keep smiling.

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