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ONE FROM THE ARCHIVES: As it's Valentine's tomorrow,  I'm re-posting a piece I wrote for a US parenting site a couple of years ago...

It's almost Valentine's Day and love is swelling in the bitter February air, building to the romantic apogee that is the 14th. But why limit tender gestures to one day a year? Being romantic and being in love is wonderful isn't it, so don't let the overdone window display at Clinton's dictate when you should be reaching for the heart-shaped greetings cards.

I like to think I'm bit of a romantic, but a mortgage, school fees and buying a never ending supply of Calpol means I can't afford grand and expensive romantic gestures like whisking Georgia away for fanciful city breaks anymore. But, there are simpler and subtler ways to her heart. Some of them might seem rather trite to some, but once kids come along, finding the time and the money to be romantic can be tough. I've been discussing with US mums site Motherly, just how I try and keep up a little romance in our lives when life is dictated by children.

Let’s face it, the moment our darling dictators enter the world, life as we once knew it is over. Gone are wild nights and lazy mornings, instead we're confronted with a round-the-clock tsunami of toys, tantrums and tears. But, while we waved a sorry goodbye to those hedonistic luxuries a long time ago there’s one relief from a world of snotty noses and grazed knees that we shouldn’t dismiss, and that’s romance.

Sure, finding the time to be romantic when we’re wrestling with sleep deprivation and (literally) wrestling a toddler is tough. And thanks to weekends spent going from birthday party to birthday party or tackling a mountain of laundry, romance is often the last thing on our minds. That said, it is important to try and find just a little bit of time each day, even for the smallest of gestures to ensure that whilst the mountain of ironing might kill us, absent affection won’t.

Before children, we would skip around New York, Paris, London or Wolverhampton, arm in arm, carefree and young. These days, to get our romantic kicks we order a takeaway and curl up on the sofa with a decent boxset. And while that might seem banal to some, to us it still signals romance. Life has changed and so have our expectations; while we’re still very much in love, romantic gestures don't need to be so grand or expensive. Once the children are in bed Sofa-Ville is now the location of our romantic city breaks, and although it isn't quite akin to the air mile-crunching jaunts of before, the important thing is that we’re together. Frankly as long as I'm with my wife Georgia, I'm happy anywhere.

When we’re not knotted together on the sofa, semi-comatosed from thick pizza dough, there are a few other ways to woo Georgia and ensure my enduring love is still blatant. Small love notes find their way into her handbag for her morning commute, a simple yet unexpected bunch of flowers will always brighten her day, I’ll never leave for work without kissing her, I’ll run her a hot bath, I’ll cook (and I hate cooking) or I might give her a foot massage (and I really hate feet). If she’s extra lucky, I’ll check her Instagram and make sure I’ve ‘liked’ all her recent posts, even the rubbish ones – I know, what a Casanova!

Who said romance was dead? In my (very tired) eyes, it certainly doesn’t have to be.

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PHWOAR! Sex! Wahey! Oi oi! We’re all at it aren’t we? Candles dotted around the boudoir, some chilled wine sipped suggestively as we sprawl across the chaise lounge, anticipating a long night of hot, steamy passion.

Or not.

Let’s face it, we’ve all got kids now. We all work hard in our careers and/or at home, keeping on top of the mountains of very unsexy underwear that needs washing, and well, we’re all just bloody knackered. Instead of lying in bed having sex, we’re on our phones doing the Ocado shop. Sadly, sex these days tends to be a very discreet 10-minutes (if we’re lucky) whilst the kids are busying themselves downstairs with Netflix on a Saturday morning. Ah, romance, who said it was dead?

I’m sure we’d all love to be having the sexy sex, but modern life has just kind of got in the way hasn’t it? And so, because of that, should we make more of the unsexy regular sex? Should we talk and laugh about it more, have an open dialogue with our partners and even our friends so we can feel, well, more normal?

Well three very funny and talented ladies, calling themselves The Hotbed Collective certainly think we should…

Journalists Lisa Williams (ex- Press Association, Tatler and TantrumXYZ), Anniki Sommerville (Selfish Mother) and Cherry Healey (Inside The Factory, Letters to My Fanny) are launching their podcast The Hotbed this Valentine’s Day to encourage funny and open conversation about the kind of sex we’re all having. I’ve met Lisa before and she was instantly likeable, intelligent and witty. Anniki is the female equivalent of me (editor at Selfish Mother), so she’s obviously amazing, and we all know Cherry off the telly box; she seems a lot of fun but can also be frank when a subject requires – perfect for this. Take these three, get them talking about sex and John Travolta, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a great podcast.

The series itself consists of 8 episodes, with a mixture of conversation and live show footage featuring a host of personalities - I’ll definitely be tuning in for episodes 2 and 6 having seen what they’re called; ‘The Dangerwank’ and ‘I’d Like Something Up My Bottom Please’… you just don’t get this stuff on Loose Women do you?

The show is targeted at women, but gents, do have a listen too! It really is funny and not in any way intimidating. Plus, let’s be honest, it’ll probably do us a lot of good to hear how the women in our lives view sex these days. Maybe, just maybe that quickie with Blaze and the Monster Machines blaring out downstairs, might require a rethink.

You can listen to The Hotbed here:

iTunes link: https://apple.co/2FMA2td

Acast link (for android phones): https://www.acast.com/thehotbed

And follow on Instagram here:

@thehotbedcollective

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Not a fan of Valentine's? Join the club. I'm reposting this from a couple of years ago which details my loathing of Cupid's birthday... it is his birthday, right?

I’ll come straight out with it; I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. There is one seemingly obvious, but actually fairly unimportant reason for this, Valentine’s Day is my birthday. It always has been – weird that. Such a clash with dates got in the way a bit growing up, especially during those late teen, early twenties years when I’d be keen to sink a few bottles of Hooch with the lads but most of them were tucked up for the night with a rom-com VHS, a microwavable meal for two and a lukewarm bottle of Black Tower. Valentine’s kind of got in the way a bit.
 
But that's not why I resent Valentine's. No, my main reason for my said resentment towards this heart-shaped phenomenon has nothing to do with the birthday clash. No, it’s simply because Valentine’s Day is such a cringey, cheese-fest of an occasion, filled with fleeting affection, temporary tenderness, unnecessary financial burden and a desperation that destroys any possibility of genuine romance. A day when couples brush their troubles under the carpet and make awkward small talk at the same local Chinese restaurant they visited exactly a year ago for their last apparent romantic meal.

Valentine’s Day pressures people into romantic gestures that might not occur for another 365 days - how many of these Romeos have bought their partner flowers since the last Valentine’s Day, or surprised them with a spontaneous card left under their pillow declaring their immeasurable love? Not many I’m guessing. Remember, card shops are open all year round. So too are restaurants, hotels, parks for romantic strolls, florists and even Ann Summers if that’s your idea of romance. Love and romance are truly wonderful things. Don't limit them to one day a year.

So anyway, happy ruddy Valentine's Day! Oh, and happy birthday to me... bottle of Hooch anyone?

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Not a fan of Valentine's? Join the club. I'm reposting this from a couple of years ago which details my loathing of Cupid's birthday... it is his birthday, right?

I’ll come straight out with it; I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. There is one seemingly obvious, but actually fairly unimportant reason for this, Valentine’s Day is my birthday. It always has been – weird that. Such a clash with dates got in the way a bit growing up, especially during those late teen, early twenties years when I’d be keen to sink a few bottles of Hooch with the lads but most of them were tucked up for the night with a rom-com video tape cassette, a microwavable meal for two and a lukewarm bottle of Black Tower. Valentine’s kind of got in the way a bit.
 
But that's not why I resent Valentine's. No, my main reason for my said resentment towards this heart-shaped phenomenon has nothing to do with the birthday clash. No, it’s simply because Valentine’s Day is such a cringey, cheese-fest of an occasion, filled with fleeting affection, temporary tenderness, unnecessary financial burden and a desperation that destroys any possibility of genuine romance. A day when couples brush their troubles under the carpet and make awkward small talk at the same local Chinese restaurant they visited exactly a year ago for their last apparent romantic meal.

Valentine’s Day pressures people into romantic gestures that might not occur for another 365 days - how many of these Romeos have bought their partner flowers since the last Valentine’s Day, or surprised them with a spontaneous card left under their pillow declaring their immeasurable love? Not many I’m guessing. Remember, card shops are open all year round. So too are restaurants, hotels, parks for romantic strolls, florists and even Ann Summers if that’s your idea of romance. Love and romance are truly wonderful things. Don't limit them to one day a year.

So anyway, happy ruddy Valentine's Day! Oh, and happy birthday to me... bottle of Hooch anyone?

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Featuring me! Click on the link or the photo to take a look and what they have to say about me and some other great bloggers!

https://www.culturewhisper.com/r/kids/best_parenting_blogs/10957

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Today is World Cancer Day. An opportunity to raise awareness and funds, offer support and do whatever is necessary to rid the world of that utter twat, cancer.

Cancer Research UK's Unity Band - suggested donation £2

Recently, I was invited to see the amazing work that's going on at Cancer Research UK, London. To say it was a privilege to be invited is an understatement.

I sat intrigued and with complete admiration as I witnessed the most inspiring and powerful presentation from Dr Sanz-Moreno, the leader of a team of scientists investigating how melanoma cells move and spread around the body. Her passion for helping find cancer care breakthroughs with her team was quite moving and immediately evident. She was deeply honest, factual and helped remove some of the myths and conspiracies that we’ve all heard – no, the pharmaceuticals and scientists don’t currently have one secret cure for all cancers and are holding it back to ensure continued funding from governments! These people are trying to save lives, much like a firefighter or a paramedic would, so why would they keep such a thing to themselves. More here on such myths here:

http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2014/03/24/dont-believe-the-hype-10-persistent-cancer-myths-debunked/ 

Dr Sanz-Moreno spoke about how it’s likely that 1 in 2 of us will get cancer at some point in our lives. This is because of an ageing population, but also lifestyle, amongst other factors. We can help ourselves by living healthier lifestyles, but what’s key to ensuring increased chances of recovery and survival, is early detection – basically ensuring those cancerous cells have remained as localised as possible. Early detection comes by knowing when it’s right to see your GP. If something doesn’t look right, a mole for example, or doesn’t feel right, a breast or testicle, or other unexplainable symptoms persist, get to the doctor at the earliest opportunity.

Here are some links to early diagnosis that may be of interest:

·         http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/our-research-on-diagnosing-cancer-earlier

·         http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/10/26/cancer-patients-diagnosed-at-an-earlier-stage-are-more-likely-to-have-surgery-than-chemotherapy/

·         http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/12/05/nhs-cancer-plan-marks-first-step-towards-fixing-chronic-staff-shortages/

·         http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/12/19/cutting-cancer-diagnosis-delays-means-understanding-each-patients-journey/

Further to the pieces on early diagnosis, some further links on prevention are below. The work of the scientists at CRUK shows that more than 4 in 10 cancers are preventable:

·         http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/our-research/our-research-by-cancer-subject/our-research-on-preventing-cancer

·         http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2016/10/11/the-second-biggest-preventable-cause-of-cancer-being-overweight/

·         http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/04/18/discovering-unknown-causes-of-cancer-through-fingerprints-in-dna/

·         http://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2017/07/01/the-uk-is-10-years-smoke-free-and-theres-more-at-stake-than-just-clean-smelling-clothes/

Obviously I’m a parent, this is a parenting blog after all, but so were the other bloggers in attendance. Key for us all was to find some further information about cancer and children. It has to be every parent’s worst nightmare and I feel so much sympathy for the parents and children going through such cruel hell.

CRUK are running a Kids & Teens campaign at the moment. Details can be found below on the work they’re doing and the ways in which you can help. Surely you have a bag of clothes to donate at your nearest TK Maxx? Plus, please make sure you support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September. It doesn't take much effort at all to make a big difference.

·         Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens is a fundraising campaign set up by Cancer Research UK to support research into new, better and kinder treatments for children and young people with cancer (aged 0-24 years).

·         100% of the money raised through Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens will be ring-fenced to fund research into cancers that affect children and young people (aged 0-24).

·         September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM). People can show their support by wearing a gold ribbon pin badge or a gold ribbon.

·         Keep an eye out for the TK Maxx ‘Give Up Clothes For Good’ Campaign which encourages people to donate their pre-loved, quality clothes, accessories and homeware to their local TK Maxx and help beat children’s cancers sooner by raising money for Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens.

·         The Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens Star Awards, in partnership with TK Maxx, celebrate the strength of children in the UK who have been diagnosed with cancer. The awards are open to children aged under 18, who live in the UK and have been diagnosed with cancer within the last 5 years at the date of nomination. Each child nominated receives a trophy, t-shirt, certificate and £50 TK Maxx voucher.

·         Nominations are open now, and you can find out more online at http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/support-us/donate/kids-and-teens/kids-teens-star-awards

Our tour of the lab was another moving experience; lead by young scientists with a passion I haven’t really ever experienced before in any other line of work. They spoke so positively about the work they’re doing. They’re spending hours and hours each day in sterile conditions, with their eyes glued to microscopes and laptops, just looking for that one breakthrough that might help. Week after week, month after month, year after year, they’re manipulating cells in certain ways to understand cancer and to find progress in the ways it can can be treated. And when a breakthrough is made, there’s never that ‘right our work is done, let’s go to the pub’ attitude, because it seems everything they do is a small step to helping beat a very ugly and huge beast of a problem. Then there’s also the issue that a positive step might in fact fall flat as soon as it's taken out of lab conditions and tested away from a petri dish. Hugely frustrating for someone like me, but this team are just intent on helping, however long it takes. I have so much admiration for them, the rest of the team at CRUK and the work carried out by other cancer charities.

I'll leave you with the one key message I took from my time with CRUK; I've already mentioned it earlier, but early detection is absolutely vital to survival. Please, please check yourself, don’t be shy and see a doctor if you’re at all worried. I know next time I have a concern, I won’t delay having it looked at.

Thank you to Cancer Research UK for allowing me to see the incredible work you're all doing.

Joining me at CRUK: (L to R) Emma (@_.s.a.s.h._), Jo (@guiltymother), Pascal (@style_mum), Louise (@mamastillgotit) and Bonnie (@mrsbonnie_barry)

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Sometimes everything is not ok, but talking to someone might help. Today is Time To Talk Day and it's a chance for all of us to be more open about mental health – to talk, to listen, to change lives. Wherever you are – at home, at work or up the top of a mountain, have YOUR conversation about mental health.

I've been dealing with depression, anxiety and panic attacks for some time now, but I've learnt that talking about it and being as open as possible about it with the people that care about me, really helps. 

There are lots of really honest pieces about mental health on thefmlyman.com under 'wellbeing' in the top menu. Do have a read, and if you'd like to write about your personal experiences, please do. It’s easy to think there’s no right place to talk about mental health, but the more we talk about it, the better life might be for all of us...

For more info on Time to Talk Day, visit the Time to Change site here

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Claire from Cailyn's Mummy blog asked me to write a few words on what self-care means to me... 

Check out the post here http://www.cailynsmummy.com/self-care or by clicking the image below:

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Along with Anna Whitehouse (@MotherPukka), I was recently interviewed on all things parenting, work, blogging and technology by City Parents Magazine. You can read mine and Anna's interview by clicking the image below (God knows what's going on in that photo of me!):

http://www.cityparents.co.uk/News/An-interview-with-two-highly-successful-parent-bloggers.htm

 

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So here's the thing... I've been doing Dry January and God only knows why. It's bloody tough. So instead of getting by on sparkling water and not feeling the benefits I should be, I'm bending the rules a little. Ok, a lot.

Have a read over on The FMLY Man by clicking here (or below) to find out how my month of no booze is going.

Spoiler: not well.

https://thefmlyman.com/slightly-damp-january/

 

 

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