ChangingDad

Making the most of a new life


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Powerless in Yorkshire I

 

The other weekend I had the boys to myself while Karen was away. This is a situation which happens often enough as not to phase me, but not often enough as to make it unremarkable; and this time it was four days, the longest that I have had them on my own.

I was not too worried about this because I had got plenty planned out and the sun shined everyday. By the Saturday evening we had had two brilliant days and we got home in the evening tired but happy. Sam was straight into bed and asleep, and Jake wanted to watch a programme before settling down. We had only been back 15 minutes, however, when the power went off. Checking that the houses around us were still lit, I then realised that our lights were still on too (doh!) but that all the sockets were off and, when investigating further, found that I could not get them back on again.

Jake was very understanding about his programme and toddled off to bed, leaving me to wonder what to do next, and what happened next was very unexpected:

I freaked out a bit.

I started to think of things that I could do to rectify the situation, but they all involved using a phone or the internet; both of which were unavailable (and my mobile had no charge). I was freaked because I could not do this research, and I was freaked because I could not at least send Karen a text to tell her what had happened. This was stupid, annoying and irrational; but real nonetheless.

So I decided to wait until morning to sort everything out telling myself that the worst case scenario was that the food in the freezer would spoil. This did not help and after several sleepless hours I remembered that we had a phone charger in the car, so I sneaked out, switched on the ignition and charged my phone – hoping that no one would come along and seize a golden opportunity to steal both car and phone thus rendering the situation immeasurably worse.

Despite the risk I have to say that I felt a lot better with a charged phone, and was then able to look for an electrician to ring in the morning, and could send Karen that text. I started to feel in control again as if somehow the power in my phone gave me power too.

Part of me feels rather embarrassed to admit this episode, but I thought it was worth sharing because it showed me just how used I had become to having technology at my fingertips, how much it gives me the illusion of being in control, and how fragile that can be. I am sure that I would not have been so freaked out if Karen had been around too, or if I did not feel the responsibility of looking after the boys, or if I had not been so focussed on getting home and just relaxing.

I think it is fair to say that I am not the sort of person who usually worries unduly about things, and tend to be quite sanguine about change; but this incident somehow disturbed my equilibrium in a way that many more potentially impactful things would not. I guess I was caught off guard and although balance was restored when the power fully was the next day it still troubles me that such things can happen so easily.

I am sure that everyone has these bizarre irrational moments when we lose perspective and, as in my case with charging the mobile, make potentially bad decisions by taking unnecessary risks. These can be quickly rectified, or they can persist and get worse, even multiply sending us further off balance. I was fortunate that I had the personal resources to regain my equilibrium quite quickly, but can remember times in my life when that would not have been the case and it is striking for me that it was the lack of communication that caused me to freak the most.

So for me the key lesson is the importance of sharing issues and concerns and work through issues with others whether they be friends, family, or professionals such as coaches. It helps us to understand our situation more, and with that awareness comes a greater ability to not only solve problems, but find the sort of balance in our lives that we want.

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Food glorious food

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post due to a busy half term holiday, the upshot of which is that I seem to have a backlog of things that I want to write about. The first thing stems from an article that was in The Guardian about 10 days ago. It was an interview with Michael Pollan, someone I had not come across before who advocates healthy eating, and particularly that families should eat home cooked food together.

Most controversially he argues that families began to eat in a more fragmented way when women started going out to work more. This has courted criticism from feminist groups, although he claims that his point is more that food companies jumped on this trend and started producing the sort of unhealthy processed convenience food that made it more easy for us to eat separately.

This aside we are certainly trying to follow many of the things that he espouses. We always try to eat together in the morning, and usually spend 10-15 minutes together around the breakfast table. We then also try to eat together in the evening, and probably manage this on average 5-6 times a week. We also try to cook food from scratch, giving the boys ready meals no more than once per fortnight, and are quite choosy about which ones they have.

Sitting around the kitchen table together is an important time which is often quite chaotic, especially in the morning when we also have an agenda to get the boys to school and nursery on time. It is certainly not the easy option, but it is something that the boys are now used to and I very much hope that we can continue this as they get older, and that it becomes an important part of sharing and growing as a family.

I am also very conscious that we are lucky to be able to do this. Before I took redundancy from my job at the end of 2011, I would regularly be going out to work before breakfast (in fact the boys often had breakfast a nursery) and was back again once the evening meal was over. This was not something that I enjoyed which was why it was absolutely the right decision for me to make a considerable change to my lifestyle to be able to accommodate a more family friendly environment for the boys.

Such decisions are never easy or even obvious and I was very much helped by a life coach who enabled me to develop my own options and see that my future had more options than I thought possible. The irony has not been lost on me that, in the end, I chose life coaching as job which could enable me to do something that I both enjoy, while letting me have the lifestyle that I wanted. It has also given me the motivation to help other Dads, hence my setting up ChangingDad, who are in the same seemingly impossible situation that I was. I wish to help Fathers find a way forward that can be transformational for both themselves and their family life.

I think that I often take for granted the fact that I am home for breakfast and evening meals nearly every day now, but when I think back to how things used to be I am so pleased that I made the changes that I did. I have a great opportunity to watch my boys grow up in ways I could have never imagined, maybe you can too.


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‘Sharenting’

I have, for some time now, been thinking about doing a post on whether it is fair on my children to blog. When I have discussed this with others the general consensus seems to be that in the long run they will appreciate it, although there may be a period where they find it utterly embarrassing.

Having, in previous posts, talked about how I now have nobody to ask about my childhood and how I must rely on my own memories and a handful of photographs, I see what I write as being something that the boys can draw on in years to come should they want to know more about me and how I saw their early lives. I would also hope that I write the blog in such a way as to not criticise the boys, but rather reflect on the challenges and joys of being a parent.

In doing this, and posting pictures to ‘Friends Only’ on Facebook, apparently makes me a ‘sharent’. This was a term that I had not come across before reading an article in The Guardian at the weekend. The term has apparently been around for about a year and, as you may guess, refers to those parents who blog, post, and otherwise share details of their children online.

Putting aside the fact that ‘sharenting’ is, per se, the sort of neologism that I really dislike (I wince every time I read or write it) the article itself encouraged me to think more about what I am doing here, giving examples of parent blogging which I certainly would not countenance and could quite see that could potentially lead to problems in parent/ child relationships and, more seriously, real issues for the children talked about in such blogs.

Those on the other side of the argument say that parent blogging can be a good way of sharing our joys and concerns in today’s fragmented society; and that it is inevitable that our children, as ‘digital natives’, will naturally develop an online profile anyway, and that ‘sharenting’ will merely be part of a bigger picture. Basically the world has changed and we should get over it.

As is often the case with such things, what was more instructive were the comments left on The Guardian website below the article. Here a number of ‘correspondents’ piled in to complain about how their Facebook feeds were awash with pictures of babies and endless comments on those babies’ every movement (in many senses of the word); and how weird they found it that people should chose to do such things. I was both sympathetic and concerned. Sympathetic in that I can understand how one person’s bundle of joy means relatively little to another person, but also concerned that I was stepping over some sort of boundary: both with my friends and, more particularly, with my children.

So where does this leave us, apart from disappearing in some sort of postmodern puff of self-reflection? Well I think that the sharing element is important here. Blogging helps me to be a better parent as it helps me to understand myself, and I am not sure that I would get the same feeling, or keep the same discipline, if I wrote these posts just for myself. It is somehow important to me that others read it. Saying something that no one can hear may be very Zen-like, but is it therapeutic?

In the final analysis I think that if I continue to be mindful of what I am writing then my blog will do more good than harm, and while the boys have no say in what I write about them it is my responsibility to introduce them to it at the right time in the right way.

As I have said before I think that Dads are less likely to share their ideas and talk about their issues than women. This blog helps me to do this, but I have also found that the coaching that I have done to be a good way to share in a more private manner. This is one of the reasons I am setting up the ChangingDad coaching business, to help Dads express themselves and become the best Dads they can be. There are many ways of sharing, but do we really have to be called ‘sharents’?


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Crafting

 

In my last post I was talking about doing some crafting with Jake at a school workshop. I agree that the scenario sounded quite idyllic, and I did really enjoy it. What has been bugging me ever since is that I feel that it might have also been rather misleading. This is because I actually do not really like crafting, not for myself and not really with the boys either. Indeed there have been more occasions than I care to think of that Jake and/ or Sam have come up to me with a potential project involving painting, cutting out, drawing or sculpting in some way or another, and I have done my upmost to try to dissuade them; or convince them that they can do it on their own.

As I write this it makes me feel very bad. Am I, in essence, stifling their creative development? Why am I so opposed to doing this sort of thing with them? Should I snap myself out it and just get on with it? Well that little voice inside me is saying yes to that last question, but I still do not like hearing it.

I think that one of the reasons why I just do not like it is that I am really not very good at it myself, and while I do have my creative side (which I hope shows through in my writing) I just do not seem to have the vision to create something beautiful (I would be happy with recognisable) through the manipulation of paper, glue, crayons and various other ephemera.

While writing this my mind had gone back to an incident when I was probably twelve. I had been taking woodwork classes at school (to be honest I preferred domestic science) and had been let loose on a lathe, the idea being for me to produce a potato masher. I whittled away at the wood until I produced what can only be described as a standard lamp for a dolls house. I remember presenting to my Mum who was very taken with the object, but also found it hilarious when she found out what it was supposed to be. I remember that she carried it about in her handbag for quite a while as an example of my handiwork. She was proud but also realistic about my skills.

What I now wonder is whether experiences such as this, and the (lack of) expectation that was placed on me, have given me the ambivalence to crafting that I have today. Yes, as I said last time, they have the effect of allowing me to shape my own destiny much more; but there is a part of me that thinks that a little more encouragement in this area may have improved my confidence in my own ability to make and fix things.

What I have learned from my new work as a coach is that it is important to understand where our attitudes come from; and writing this post has helped me to surface some of the reasons why I am not all that keen on crafting. It is, for me, a relatively small thing but it will add to my overall view of who I am, and what sort of a Father I can be.

What it will not do is abandon my policy of keeping the DIY to a minimum. I may be more aware but I still think I can knock hundreds of the value of a house with one blow of the hammer. Overcoming that will take much more work.


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Happy Father’s Day!

When I think back to the birth of my first child nearly five years ago it seems that my life has changed so much over that time; sometimes for the better, sometimes in ways that frustrate me, and often it is just different. I love being a Dad and wanted to write this blog to help me to reflect on this change, and share it with others. I wanted to think how it has affected other parts of my life: family, marriage, work, friends, interests, as well as myself as a person. So this blog won’t just be about me, it will also be about the people and places that I have experienced and how they have shaped who and what I am.

I hope that over the coming months you will build up a picture of my life, my experiences and what interests me, but to do that you need to know some basic details. I have been married to Karen since 2006 and we have two boys: Jake (4) and Sam (2). We live in West Yorkshire; although we are shortly going to be moving to South Yorkshire (change!) with Karen’s job. I took redundancy from my job at the end of 2011 (more change!), and am doing a postgraduate course in Executive and Business Coaching. I will no doubt be reflecting on what got me here in future posts, so watch this space.

Since this blog is about my life as a Dad, I thought that it would be very appropriate to launch it on Father’s Day. I very much hope that you will enjoy it, be inspired by it, be entertained by it, and contribute to it through your comments, which will be gratefully received.

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!