Being a dad means you have to deal with a ton of responsibilities on a daily basis, but being a working one with lots of professional duties on your back can be even worse. That probably means you’re torn between your family and your work, and chances are you’re not able to give your 100% to either one. Therefore, you have to find a way to strengthen up a bit and give your body some fuel, and the best way to do so is by eating healthy and natural food.
Finding time for that seems like the toughest thing in the world at first, but it’s actually not as big a problem as it initially seems. All you need to do is figure out a few dishes you love more than anything else and build your diet around them. If you’re still unsure how to do that, here are a few tips on how you can eat healthy even if you’re a busy working dad.
The importance of good food
Although sticking to KFC’s chicken wings and Coca-Cola sounds like the perfect meal plan when you’re in your twenties, it’s definitely something you shouldn’t be doing if you’re a dad – no matter how old you are! Even the youngest of dads need some proper food in their bodies every single day because of one simple thing: they’re dads! And being a dad means you’re responsible for your family and you must never run out of strength.
Let’s face it: chasing after kids all day long can really take a toll on you, but if you make healthy food choices, you’ll still be able to do so and have some time for your significant other too. Moreover, you’ll be able to perform at your best at the office day after day, and that’s rather important as well. Therefore, you should understand why cooking is vital, but also master a few simple techniques that will put fresh food in front of your family every single day.
One meal at a time
If you’re working full-time, turning into an absentee father is rather easy – after all, you have a commitment to your company and there’s no way of ignoring it, or else you’ll get fired in a matter of days. That’s why it’s essential to find a balance between private and professional life, and juggling a desire to eat healthy food makes things even more complicated. Luckily, there’s a solution that’s highly effective and something you should definitely try.
Instead of freestyling your daily menu and not knowing what you’re going to be eating next, you should always plan your meals in advance and be certain that they’re as healthy and nutritious as they can be. This way, if you know what you’ll be cooking next, you can prepare your ingredients and your kitchen beforehand and do your weekly shopping knowing you’re buying the most nutritious items you can find. This is why you should give healthy meal plans a try and why sticking to them is so important. So, start thinking in advance as soon as possible, and you’ll see how much this will help you bring your A game both in the kitchen and in the office!
Start the day right
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s true for working dads as well. However, their breakfast is twice as important because they’re preparing it for themselves and their family, so you need to think well into the future and make sure you don’t run out of breakfast ideas and natural ingredients. Again, if you want your breakfast to be super nutritious and healthy morning after morning, you should plan ahead and make a schedule.
What’s great about breakfast is that you don’t have to put a ton of time, money or energy into it: all you have to do is keep a few different ideas on your mind and adapt them to the wishes and preferences of your kids and your partner. You can make something really simple and easy, such as cereal or oatmeal, or something a bit more complex but equally healthy – scrambled eggs, fruit salad, a healthy sandwich and some freshly squeezed fruit juice are always a good option – and you’ll be able to provide your family with a nice breakfast all the time. Remember to serve it on time, so that nobody’s late for school and work.
In the end, you need to keep another thing in mind: don’t forget to give yourself enough healthy food every day of the week too. Taking care of your kids and working full-time is exhausting, but you need to stay at the top of your game, and lots of healthy food is the only way to do so!
Shared Parental Leave has been in the news again of late. The main focus has been on the low take-up of the leave. Research shows there are several reasons for the low take-up.
Many don’t know about their rights.
Those who do don’t get much support and find it difficult to negotiate the legislation because is very complicated.
The leave is not sufficiently remunerated.
Men feel they would suffer a career penalty if they took it.
It is up to women to agree to split their leave, meaning it is not really something that is felt shared, but something women give up.
Added to all this is the stigma attached to taking Shared Parental Leave because hardly anyone else is taking it. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
Asking dads about Shared Parental Leave
An event on working dads in June heard from researcher Katherine Twamley who has been asking parents about SPL. Her initial findings include that dads would be significantly more likely to take the leave if more of their peers took it and if it was a standalone entitlement.
SPL is a big deal when it comes to sharing childcare more equally because patterns established in the early years can easily become entrenched, meaning women are penalised at work for being the main carer and dads find themselves back into the traditional breadwinner role.
Another area where there is a need for progress is flexible working. A recent study by Jasmine Kelland from the University of Plymouth showed fathers face bias when applying for part-time employment, with questions over their commitment and suspicion regarding their quest for a work-life balance.
It suggested fathers who choose to work part time face a number of potential issues while mothers receive praise for their dedication to proactively seeking a work-life balance.
The problem is that the reality of family life today is coming up against the brick wall of outdated assumptions and old-fashioned practices and work structures. That wall is being slowly chipped away by daily studies and polls which show the desire for change.
For example, a poll of 1,000 mums and 1,000 dads by Aviva published in June found flexible working came second only to salary in what parents ranked as most important when looking for a job. The poll found:
A strong interest amongst parents for job-sharing options, although only 4% of dads questioned were doing a job share, compared to 9% of mums.
However, 48% of parents said they would consider a job share.
Almost two thirds said their employer did not offer them.
Interestingly, nine out of 10 parents also said parental leave should be equal for mums and dads.
A new resource
Workingmums.co.uk has just brought out a new e-book which gives case studies of employers who have modernised their processes and of dads who are working flexibly and taking extended parental leave. It also gives practical information on how we can move towards greater equality at work and at home.
One of the biggest barriers to progress is the lack of quality flexible roles, advertised openly, which is consigning many mainly women to lower paid roles. Not only is this providing fewer prospects for career progression, it also discourages many dads from asking for flexibility.
It’s two different experiences of work, neither of which delivers an engaged workforce and neither of which is fit for the 21st century.
Too often mums have been pitted against dads as the two have experienced different issues around work – some of which are opposite sides of the same coin. But the quest for quality flexible jobs, like parenting, is a joint venture.
So here I am, ready to return to work after two amazing weeks off with my newborn daughter, 12 month old boy and my incredible wife. My second bout of paternity leave in 12 months is coming to an end, and it’s difficult.
For some background, my wife and I welcomed our baby boy in June 2017, and just less than 12 months later (361 days to be exact) we welcomed our baby girl (which makes them “Irish Twins”!) – hectic to say the least!!
First time round my paternity leave diary contained ‘appointments’ such as:
‘Fix the garage light’
‘Tidy the loft’
‘Paint the garden fences’
I can honestly say that none of these things were done during paternity leave. This time round I thought I’d learned my lesson and limited the list to:
‘Watch the World Cup’
Again, I can honestly say that during my paternity leave, I watched a grand total of zero world cup matches.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing, rewarding time but as soon as the baby is born the countdown clock to returning to work begins. You spend every minute of every day trying to squeeze the last drop of love out that you can, knowing that in just 14 days it’ll all be over and the time you get to bond with your baby (babies in my case) will likely be limited to bath and bed time.
This realisation forces you to fill every moment you can with an activity, a job, an errand, a load of washing – anything that can help ease the load on your partner whilst also maximising the time you have with your new baby.
It becomes very easy to feel guilty for returning to work, with the passing comments of ‘back to work for a rest’ ringing in your ears. The irony is that rather than sitting in your daily traffic jam, you’d love nothing more than to be spending another two weeks embroiled in the never ending battle with nappies, bottles, baths and washing!
Returning to work for most dads is a necessary evil. Although I really do love my job, since starting a family, it’s no longer my absolute priority. The drive to succeed and progress hasn’t left me, I’m still determined to push my career forward at every opportunity. However nowadays it isn’t for my own gratification, it’s for my family. There’s a new level of pressure to perform on your shoulders, one which doesn’t go away.
Having experienced the return to work previously, I know what to expect. Or at least I think I do!
Making it work
The key to making the transition as easy as possible is to re-energise yourself on your way home from work. You might have had a long day, a hard day, a boring day – but your children don’t know that. They don’t even know why you haven’t been at home all day.
The chances are that your time with them will be limited to a short amount of play time, and then it’s time for bath and bed. You’ve got to grab this time with both hands because you can’t get it back. Not only do you get to spend some precious moments with your children, you give your partner a deserved break after a day of undoubted bedlam.
The recent Daddilife post around dad’s at bath time pretty much sums up the reasons why you need to embrace this time and I can’t echo its messages loud enough.
From experience I can promise you that your time with your little ones increases as they get that little bit older.
I now give my 1 year old his morning bottle and manage to have a quick roll around the front room pretending to be a dinosaur before work. It’s something I can’t wait to share with my daughter when she gets to his age too.
After work provides the beaming grin as they see you walk through the door, followed by another opportunity to play before it’s time for a bath and bed, make that YOUR time.
Right now though, as you’re sat watching the paternity leave clock near its end, you’re probably struggling with coming to terms that you’ll soon be back at your desk, waiting for 5pm to come so that you can get back to your brood.
My advice is to take your eyes off the clock, cherish every moment with your family and make your work your vehicle to provide for them.
Dads bring something different to kids play – here’s how to make them even better.
Having playtime with our kids seems such a natural, instinctive thing, but at the same time – for many dads – it can be a source of anxiety.
Working dads (and mums) worry about the quantity of time they spend playing with children. And many of us, working or otherwise, can feel a little unsure about the quality of playtime. Are we making the most of it? Do our kids really enjoy it? Is it helping the parent/child bond?
Time for kids play is important
Dr Erik Fisher is a psychologist and resident expert for the Genius of Play, a parent-focused movement to raise awareness of play as a crucial part of child development, and encourage families to make time for play in their daily lives. He believes that playtime is important for everyone involved, and that working parents – often dads – have particular reason to make time for focused play with their young children.
“Because they may not have as much time with the working parent, it is important that the child sees them as approachable and not intimidating.”
“Play is a great way to communicate this, as well as communicating that the child is important to that parent. And quality is the most critical component during this time, because working parents may not have a lot of time. When you are playing with them, put everything aside and be present,” says Dr Fisher.
With play, as with so much else, quality is at least as important as quantity. There may only be a few opportunities for you to spend quality playtime with your child in an average week, but if you spend the time wisely the benefits are almost endless. Kids play is integral to healthy child development and the dad/child bond.
Dr Fisher adds: “Playtime with kids is often how we attach and begin to teach our kids about interaction and social skills. If we laugh and have fun, if we are serious, if we always have to teach something when playing, if we (as a parent) control what we play, if they control what we play…these approaches influence how your children will see the world.”
To some extent, what you play is less important than how you play. Most critically, if you’re playing with your child, really play with your child. Don’t be half-hearted or absent-minded.
“Are you giving your child attention or are you really present with them?” asks Dr Fisher. “Plenty of kids may get attention and acknowledgment from their parents, and parents may still be distracted. What effect does this have on your child’s sense of importance and value?”
After that, there are no hard and fast rules as to what to play. Do what you all enjoy, inside or out, with or without props and playhouses. But mixing up a variety of activities can help development in the different areas identified and supported by Genius of Play: creative, cognitive, communication, social, emotional and physical.
“Variety is the spice of life, and while some kids will want to play the same thing again and again, you want to stretch them…” says Dr Fisher. “Sometimes making a list of things you can do to refer to can be helpful, or even create a wheel that your child spins to decide what type of activity you can do. Additionally, laughter is critical to play. This is time to just be. Yes, you can sprinkle in teaching, but don’t have that be a major prescription.”
So do what you like, but mix in a little variety from time to time. The reassuring thing is that, as long as you’re present and actively engaged, you can’t go too far wrong. Even if playtime with dad is an occasional treat rather than part of a daily routine, it can still be one of the most rewarding parts of your parenting life.
“Don’t feel like you have to play perfectly or always know what to do. Your kids will feel loved when you are present, and often they will talk more too, while they are playing”
Turn off technology when you play with your kids. No phone, email, tv… and let this time be about them. This doesn’t mean that you don’t spend some time playing with technology, but you want to make sure to add variety.
Dads are often more likely to engage in rough housing or sports. Because that’s where they may feel more comfortable. Step out of your comfort zone and see what your kids like to play, look for some new things to do, and be willing to do some crafts or make things in the kitchen with them too. No matter what their gender, I believe we are seeing the benefits of raising balanced kids.
Don’t feel like you have to play perfectly or always know what to do. Your kids will feel loved when you are present, and often they will talk more too, while they are playing. Be sure to listen without judgment, and see that as a great time to look inside to see the person they are becoming.
Playhouses are great for child development and - most importantly - loads of fun. So which one is best for you and your children?
Children love having a space to call their own, a secret den just for them. In Summer they love to set up “house” in the garden and hang out away from boring mums and dads. In winter, a playhouse can be a cosy home within your home.
Studies show that the sort of pretend play encouraged by playhouses can also help children develop creativity and social skills. Here’s our parents guide to the very best children's playhouses around.
They encourage imaginative play, helping to develop creative skills. That's an area that can start in children at a young age, and keeping that sense of play is vital as they get older too.
Playhouses also encourage collaborative play, helping to develop social skills. Get 2 or more children in a playhouse and watch how quickly their team building skills start.
According to a number of studies, and even the Wall Street Journal (!) playhouses encourage autonomous play. This helps children independently develop interests and passions, and gets them working problems out for themselves.
Wooden Playhouse or Plastic? How to choose the right one
A good playhouse is a great investment, but you need the right one for both your kids and your surroundings. There’s a few questions you’ll need to ask yourself:
First of all, how do your children play? If they’re all-action heroes, a wooden fort or clubhouse might be the right choice. If they like “playing house,” something simpler would be more appropriate.
You ofcourse need to take into account the space you have. A lavish recreation of a medieval castle might be a bit much for a small apartment.
Other things to take into account include storage and maintenance. Does it need regular painting or waterproofing? Does it need to fold away to save space? Can you safely assemble it yourself, or might it take two of you?
With all that in mind, here’s our review of 7 of the very best playhouses for children.
If they’re fighting aliens, monsters or the forces of darkness, your little troopers need a place to store weapons, discuss strategy and stop for a nice drink of juice. This wooden playhouse is a great little hideaway in the garden, with three windows and two opening observation points (so no baddies can sneak up unobserved). But it does take a bit of assembly and an annual wood treatment.
Assembly and maintenance: 3-5 hours (2 people) and annual treatment
At the front it’s a school, on one side a shop, on the other a petrol station and round the back a ballgame court. This great little playhouse has been made with little imaginations very much in mind, featuring four fun-packed ‘around town’ zones for countless play scenarios.
Assembly and maintenance: Flat packed - some assembly required, weather resistant
This cosy teepee tent provides a great place to sleep, read, draw or play, both inside and out. It gives kids a sense of safety and privacy, letting them create worlds and adventures that are entirely their own. Best of all, it’s easy to put up and take down.
Material: Cotton and Wood
Assembly and maintenance: Minimal, and the cotton is machine washable
Sometimes all kids really need to fire their imaginations is a big cardboard box. This one aids the process with readymade doors, windows and a roof. It’s easy to put together and is shipped plain so that your children can personalise it with paints or felt tips. The playhouse is made from tough recycled cardboard and easily stored when not in use.
Assembly and maintenance: Easy assembly, inspect regularly for signs of damage
This fine wooden wigwam is perfect for a wild west adventure, and makes an attractive feature for any garden. The sustainably sourced wood is pre-treated so you can paint or stain it in any colour you like, or leave it as it is, and there’s a fabric door so kids can use it as their own private hideaway. Be aware that it will take a couple of adults the best part of a day to put together, though.
It’s not cheap but this high quality playhouse comes with a balcony, ladder and slide, and it’s elevated position gives kids the illusion of being in their own private clubhouse, far from the adult crowd. The pressure treated timber is low maintenance and hard wearing.
Material: Wood (house) and Plastic (slide)
Assembly and maintenance: 2 adults, several hours. Comes with 10 year guarantee
This fine, compact design is great if you don’t have much space, and features working doors and windows with shutters. It’s durable, easy to assemble and put away, and the Cape Cottage’s detailed brickwork design make it look like your child’s very own home.
Assembly and maintenance: Easy assembly, no maintenance
Father’s Day means different things to different dads: when you spend your working life following President Trump around the world, it’s especially important.
What does Father’s Day mean to you? To some dads, it’s simply the chance to have a long lie in and some uninterrupted time in front of the World Cup.
To others, it’s a chance to reflect on what fatherhood means to them. Peter Alexander is the national correspondent for NBC News in the US. He can be found at White House press conferences, or – most recently – in Singapore for the US/North Korea summit.
But most importantly, Peter is the dad of two daughters, five-year-old Ava and Emma, three. “At the end of the day, being a dad is more important than anything else in my life,” he says.
To celebrate Father’s Day 2018, we talked to Peter about the sort of challenges we all face as dads: balancing a demanding job with family life, making sure we’re around for the countless pleasures children bring, and falling asleep on the sofa.
What does Father’s Day mean to you? Do your daughters make a big deal of it?
Peter: Ava hand-delivered me several Father’s Day cards with “DADDY” scribbled across the front, so I think I’m in good shape. For me, Father’s Day is really a family day. These days, fresh off of a presidential trip in Singapore, I wanted my wife, my girls and me to have a whole day to ourselves. I think the most special Father’s Day is a day when we get each other’s undivided attention.
How easy do you find it to combine fatherhood with a demanding job?
Peter: At the end of the day, being a dad is more important than anything else in my life, which makes it that much more challenging to balance work and fatherhood, especially when work can occupy my days from dawn to dusk. My goal is to focus on making sure when I am home – and with my girls – that I put down my phone and focus exclusively on them.
What have you found to be the most satisfying part of fatherhood (up to now)?
Peter: Watching my daughters play together.
Obviously, it’s not always happy-joy-joy. My youngest has a Ronda Rousey streak in her, so things occasionally get ugly, but in those quiet moments, seeing them together as sisters – and best friends – is what makes me most proud.
How similar – or otherwise – is your parenting style from that of your own dad? What did you learn from him?
Peter: My wife jokes we’re both really good at falling asleep on the couch. But the chief lesson he taught me stuck: Family first. The rest is details. Each day, I believe I honor him by working to pass on that love to my daughters. A native Chicagoan, my dad raised me as a die-hard Cubs fan. I’m indebted to him for so many shared memories rooting on the Cubbies: road-tripping to spring training or just sitting together on the couch watching WGN. My daughters prefer ballet to baseball, but what really matters is that we enjoy it together.
“The chief lesson my dad taught me? Family first. The rest is details”
Given your career, do you ever get dad guilt – feeling like you’re not around enough, helping out with the minutiae of family life?
Peter: I was overseas on assignment for Ava’s pre-K graduation, so I got my first real dose of missing a meaningful milestone. It was exactly what I promised myself I wouldn’t let happen, but I watched on FaceTime and kept the camera on through the whole ceremony, mostly so Ava could know I was with her. Still, I’m most guilty about all the everyday moments I miss: sitting together at breakfast, the drop-offs and pick-ups at school, the afternoon swim classes. They’re growing up so fast, and I am doing my best to share in their daily routine whenever possible. That way I’m not just asking about their day; once and a while I get to experience it with them, too.
What do dads really want about this Father’s Day? And if so, how should be marking the occasion?
Father’s Day in the UK this year is Sunday 17th June (but a few days away at time of writing!), and recent research by Royal Mail has revealed that perhaps it’s time we reconsider what makes Father’s Day really special.
What does dad want this Father’s Day?
According to the survey with over 2000 British dads, the top 5 things that dad wants this Father’s Day are:
A meal out with the family
Hugs from the children
Receiving a Father’s Day card
Spending quality time with their children
A walk in the countryside with their children
A card in particular has a lot of meaning behind it. For those Father’s unable to spend time with their family on the day or those working away, a card is something that really goes a long way. In fact, apparently dads are very likely to keep their Father’s Day cards throughout the year.
Dads in Belfast are apparently most likely to keep their Father’s Day cards throughout the years (75%), followed by fathers in London (73%), Cardiff (70%), Worcester (70%), Northampton (69%) and Manchester (69%)
The Father’s Day “Tie” card
Well maybe the research is onto something as this year I got this little beauty from my 3 year old…
Now, I’ve worn a tie approximately once in the last year (and that was to go to a wedding), but apparently what really makes him think of me this Father’s day! Well, it is a pretty nice colour.
Father’s Day & Mother’s Day
On a serious note, there is a danger that while the day itself isn’t always considered in the same way as other parenting anniversaries, like Mother’s Day, there is some indication that it doesn’t even get anywhere near the level of focus it should.
For instance, 24% of dads reported that at some point their families had ignored the occasion because “dads just aren’t that bothered” or stating that “dads are impossible to buy for.” That is rather depressing all-round! A lot of gifts that dads doesn’t need more of include more dad mugs or more craft beer! But some of the traditional presents aren’t all – bad, and dads never have enough dad socks in our view!
Father’s Day ideas
So, if this Father’s day is about creating simple pleasures for dads, here are some things to think about:
Breakfast in bed – get the kids involved in that cooking too!
Grandad is still a dad too – Send a card or pick up the phone.
Don’t buy your gifts at the last minute, but don’t worry if you haven’t sent the card yet, as you can still send 1st class on Friday 15th June.
Whatever you do, have a great day.
Disclosure: this is a collaborative post in association with Royal Mail.