Picture the scene. It's 7am on a Monday. Our twin toddlers wake us screaming from their cot beds. We've overslept! "Oh ****, I'm going to be late for work!" We both leap out of bed. One of us jumps into the shower, the other changes two toddlers, then drops them in front of the TV and begins preparing two milk bottles and an adult lunchbox. Out of the shower, mother throws on a business suit, slurps some coffee, grabs the lunchbox, kisses dad goodbye and is out of the flat by 7.15am. Hold on! Wait a minute. She's out of the flat? That's right. She's out of the flat. Mother's gone to work. And dad's at home, doing the washing up, laundry and looking after the children, amongst other things. Yes, dad's the primary carer.Read More
I've got an addiction problem. It's threatening our relationship. I really need to get a grip.
OK it's not that bad. That was yesterday. But when you've got young children everything in life seems to be measured in extremes. You are either exhausted or on top form. Your child is either having a complete meltdown or behaving like an absolute angel.
Or is that just me?
Anyway, picture the scene. It's 3.30am. I'm sitting on the loo (sorry).
Mother gently knocks on the door.
"What are you doing?" she whispers.
"Nothing!" I nervously reply.
"Well, you must be doing something because I can see the glow of the iPad!"
"S**t!" I yell, chucking the iPad into the laundry basket.
"I'm coming back to bed!"
OK, i'll come clean with you. I was on my iPad. My son woke me up at 3.00am screaming for water. After I had convinced him that he couldn't hear the birds singing (which he could) and he had his slurp of water and drifted back to sleep, I needed the loo. And like any multitasking stay-at-home parent, I wondered what else I could do during this elusive moment off-duty.
I know, I'll check to see if anyone else has commented on one of my posts. Because that's likely at 3.30am!
I could sit on the loo and check my inbox.
You see, I suppose I have become a little bit addicted to blogging. I think we all do.
After two years working hard labour as a stay-at-home dad I was looking for something new in my life. Stay-at-home parenting can be monotonous, relentless and even debilitating and I realised that new something in my life needed to come soon; and if it wasn't going to be Kylie Minogue, then what?
I had considered a blog about my experiences as a stay-at-home dad soon after the birth of my twins. Fellow mums had also suggested I do it. But I had only ever thought about it. You see, in the early days of parenting you are so tired that everything becomes an effort; talking to friends on the telephone, doing the laundry, even eating! But there does come a time when you get used to the exhaustion and are ready for something new. Something to break the monotony and to challenge your brain in a different way. That something new for me was blogging.
I had even mapped out a blogging schedule in my mind.
Breakfast session: 30mins blogging before the twins wake. (Maybe throw in a morning jog too!)
Lunchtime Session: One hour blogging whilst the twins nap.
Dinner Session: 30mins blogging after putting the twins to bed sharp at 7.30pm and before sitting for dinner at 8.00pm.
Easy. I'd have a book deal within a year.
Here's how that provisional schedule has worked out:
Breakfast Session: You are joking. And go for a jog. What!
Lunchtime Session: 20-25mins at a push if the twins sleep and if I'm not asleep as well.
Dinner Session: Depending on whether our daughter decides to pass out before 9.00pm I might squeeze in 10 mins blogging before I also pass out!
You see, I learned the hard way that as a stay-at-home parent, dedicating all your free time to blogging is not great for maintaining a healthy relationship; you leave no time for anything else, you become boring and your relationship will fail.
Unless you're superman/wonder woman that is. Which I'm not.
Rule number one then for maintaining a healthy blogging/relationship harmony is don't let blogging become the something that was missing in your life because it will devour you. A stay-at-home parent needs to spend their precious free time in a variety of ways, not just blogging.
And don't find yourself sitting on the loo in the small hours starring at a small screen.
Which brings me neatly to rule number two.
Get some sleep.
Remember how you used to moan and whine about how little sleep you got during the first few months of your child's life? (Well I did. Still do).
Walking around like an irritable zombie all the time is also not good for a relationship.
More than ever, consumer electronics, including iPads and laptops (or basically all devices we bloggers use) are shining bright into our eyes right up to lights out (or even after!) Intelligent people say this can fool our brains into thinking it's daytime and thus disturb sleep patterns and exacerbate insomnia. And if you are anything like me you don't need another reason not to sleep!
After a particularly bad night's sleep recently (not helped by reading on the iPad under the covers until 1am) I found myself reaching for the iPad the moment I woke up on a Saturday morning. Mother saw me do this but remained, commendably, silent. But when during the morning walk with the twins I found myself reaching for my mobile to check my Twitter account, she let rip!
"This is our time!"
And she was right.
Which brings me neatly to the mother of all reasons why bloggers' relationships fail. Well, probably fail.
Seven little letters which together form a word that might eventually redefine my relationship. And not in a good way! We have got to the stage where I can't even mention the word (t*w*i*t*t*e*r) at home without howls of derision. It's a bit like Shakespeare's play Macbeth, which said to be cursed has led to actors avoiding saying its' name in theatre.
You see I spend rather a long time tweeting, retweeting, following and unfollowing people, which over the course of an evening, or a weekend, kind of restricts a young couple's conversation.
But it's difficult to convince the uninitiated of the power and addiction of social media.
I daren't think of the consequences on my relationship if I start using Facebook, Pinterest or Google + in earnest. Perish the thought.
So how will you know if I have managed to maintain a blog and a healthy relationship at the same time?
Well to start with it won't be a good sign if there isn't a new post on my blog next week.
Or I could just tweet you...
How do you maintain a blog and a relationship at the same time? Do you find it easy?
Step into the Tardis with me, and travel back two years to when I first became a stay-at-home dad of twins. It's a rainy thursday morning. I clatter the double buggy through the sports centre doors to join a soft play session. I scan the room for anyone I know.
There's not another man in sight!
I manoeuvre the buggy across the sports hall, passing mums who are beast-feeding, nannies chattering to each other in different languages and toddlers examining plug points and chasing brightly coloured plastic balls across the floor.
I find a spot alongside 50 or so other buggies and set my two babies free.
I look up again, anxiously, to see if there's anyone out there I know. I'm thrilled as a smartly-dressed woman waves hello to me as she guides her child down a baby slide.
But still not another man in sight.
So that was the scenario two years ago. Since then more men now come to the play sessions one of the fantastic supervisors working there assures me.
"Two years ago you, Jeff and Howie were just about the blokes who came here," she said.
Today, up to 120 parents, nannies and toddlers throng the sports hall on a thursday morning and it's unusual if there's more than six or seven chaps amongst the number. And that's a change I hear you ask?
Now I'm not here to bang the drum that more men should be at home looking after the children. And I'm not saying that I'm intimidated by a room full of women, although I am aware that I'm in the minority. But it doesn't bother me. It doesn't bother me like it would, say, if I was the only man sitting around the board table of some grandiose company. Sound familiar?
What I am here to say is that despite my being vastly outnumbered by women in all the playgroups and libraries of London which we go to, one thing that has struck me during my 28-month reign as a stay-at-home dad (SAHD) is that in the end we are all the same (well, apart from the obvious bits).
We all like to share our parenting horror stories
One of the great joys of working as a SAHD is that every now and again I meet parents who are willing to share their terrifying parenting tales. It's on these occasions that I'm reminded that I'm not a total disaster of a parent. I totally agree with blogger James & Jax who wishes 'more of us would share our horror stories of toddler parenting, so that fewer of us would feel like parental failures!'
Indeed, only last week, during a nursery playgroup, two women confided in me that they had suffered postpartum depression. Their willingness to talk about their struggles served as some form of personal therapy to me (and I am sure to them). Fathers suffer from postpartum depression too, especially first-time fathers and those fathers whose partners suffer from depression.
Listening to parenting horror stories demonstrates what we actually all know; that parenting is a bloody difficult job, but outside of the blogging world we don't talk about this enough. The fact that we are all muddling our way though life as parents unites us. Our experiences unite us.
We all want the best for our child
I seldom bump into someone at a playgroup who doesn't want to be there (apart from the odd child). Yes, we all whine a bit about the relentlessness and monotony of parenting (indeed, I moan a lot) but ultimately we all feel good about spending time with our children during their formative years. We wouldn't be at a playgroup or library together otherwise. We are bonded by a common purpose. Giving our children the best possible start in life.
We are all members of the same club
I have heard tales of men being asked to leave playgroups by breastfeeding mothers and of young fathers feeling ill-equipped to survive in a world which is naturally the preserve of women. I haven't experienced this; I just don't get it.
I feel somehow accepted by the majority of primary carers (mothers) I meet because I think I behave, struggle and muddle my way through life like any other parent. I join in with the informal chats on how tough parenting is because doing so helps me and consequently I feel as if I have been accepted as another memberof the club.
My belief is that I have assimilated into a predominately woman's world because I don't behave or speak in a macho way, bleating on about how easy being a parent is to everybody. That's because it isn't easy, so why pretend. Yes, I'm sure people see me as a man (I would hope so) but not as a threat. I may even be seen as a novelty, but I am also seen as another stressed-out parent, drinking too much wine, eating too much ice cream and in desperate need of exercise.
I'm not after congratulations or a pat on the back. It's just the way it is...