This blog is a home to the online community of fathers, and men looking to be fathers in the future, from the UK and beyond. We share stories from fathers through our blogs, review family days out and parenting products.
Competition: Win 2 tickets to the fun and empowering ‘I am festival’
We have two tickets to give away to the I Am Festival on Saturday 21st September in London! You can enter the competition via our Instagram,Twitter and Facebook channels. All you need to do is let us know what you are most proud of to be in with a chance to win. Good luck and hopefully we’ll see you there! See more information below.
The festival, by ‘Casey Elisha Books’ is an event where children from all backgrounds can come to be celebrated and empowered, and to discover new literature with images that reflect their reality.
There will be a marketplace full of vendors, as well as workshops and activities for children and parents to take part in throughout the day.
Taking place on Saturday 21st July, I Am Festival is aimed at children aged 4-11 as well as their parents and guardians. The day will consist of free workshops and activities related to diverse literature and empowerment that children can get involved with.
We have a number of workshops to on the day including workshops from Hair the Beat, Nahdz Adventures, children’s book illustrator Aliecee Cummings and the I Can Project.
We will also have a book reading from Davina Hamilton, author of Riley Can Be Anything and Riley Knows He Can.
There will be a selection of vendors on the day selling diverse children’s books, as well as other products, from Casey Elisha Books, No Ordinary Bookshop and Little Literatures.
MusicFootballFatherhood named in the UK’s Top 10 websites for dads!
Now for some more big news. We’ve been named in the UK’s Top 10 websites for dads! The list, by countries biggest influencer & PR company Vuelio, features all the heavyweights from the dad blog world so it’s a massive honour that we have been recognised.
We don’t do this for recognition but it’s nice to be on a nationwide Top 10 list. I want to give a massive shout out to the contributor and management team and all the other people who have worked to make MusicFootballFatherhood the platform it is!
So, my plan was to write this blog about the weeks and days leading up to our due date, and to look ahead to the arrival of our first child – who would, most likely, be born between me writing this and it going up here on MusicFootballFatherhood. That was the plan, but then, when do babies ever stick to the plan?! Instead, two days before our due date, our wonderful daughter Isabella was born. So I decided instead to write my next article as a two-parter. The first documenting my wife’s labour and Isabella’s birth, and the second documenting the first few days and weeks the birth – all from my perspective. So, here goes part one…
I woke up at 1am to find my wife sat on the side of our bed, saying that she had back and period-like pain. Thanks to all the insight and knowledge we gained from attending various NHS classes and an NCT course amongst other things, I instantly knew that this could be the sign of the early stages of labour.
Over the next half an hour or so my wife displayed one or two more signs of labour, before then starting to experience small contractions – or, as she described them, waves. As I’ve mentioned, we’ve attended various NHS and private parenting courses in preparation for the birth of our first child – and I really can’t recommend this enough! It has been so helpful, informative and enjoyable to learn so much about what to expect from pregnancy, labour, birth, and early parenthood. If you have the chance to do any sort of course or classes, I would say go to as many as you can – there will no doubt be a fair bit of overlap and repetition but, for me, if anything that just helped the information I was hearing to really sink in better.
Anyway, back to the labour! So, initially the waves my amazing wife was feeling were quite mild, and she could easily talk through them and generally go about her business without too much interruption. One thing we noticed fairly quickly though, was that where we had been told that the waves would gradually get stronger, longer, and closer together – this wasn’t really our experience. They certainly got gradually stronger, as my wife will be quick to confirm – but in terms of longer and closer together, that really wasn’t how it happened for us. My wife would have one wave that lasted a minute, then a minute’s gap, then the next wave would last five minutes, then another minute’s gap before the next wave which lasted seven minutes.
This is not something anyone told us might happen, so it made it quite hard to tell how quickly things were progressing, the only way we could judge that was by the intensity of each wave progressively getting stronger.
I made a few phone calls to the hospital’s triage number, but I think that the randomness of Harriet’s waves made it harder than usual for them to gauge how far in to her labour she actually was, and as such I think we probably ended up leaving it a little later than we should have to head in to the hospital.
At just before 5am Harriet’s waves were so strong that she was screaming through them now, and was telling me that she felt she had to start pushing. I’m not going to lie, that was pretty terrifying! I’ve not had any formal midwife training, nor have I had any informal midwife training, so the prospect of not making it to the hospital and having to deliver my own baby was, to put it mildly, somewhat concerning.
After another phone call to the hospital’s triage number, I was advised to try and bring Harriet in to hospital, but that if she got to the point en route where she felt she had to start pushing, that I should pull over and call for an ambulance directly. So, there we were, on our driveway outside our house in the cold and pitch dark at 5am. Harriet’s waves were now so strong (and had finally started getting closer together) that the only way she could be marginally ‘comfortable’ was to be on all four, on the tarmac of our driveway, screaming her head off!
In fact, the pain from the waves, and the now much shorter gap between them, was making it impossible to actually get Harriet in to our car. Eventually after quite a few failed attempts to get her in the car between waves, we managed to get her in to the back seats, but still having to be on all fours. About three quarters of the way in to the hospital Harriet’s screams were getting stronger, louder, and longer. At this point, she told me that she really didn’t think she could stop herself from pushing, so I pulled over and called for an ambulance. The ambulance then arrived about 10 minutes later, Harriet was loaded in (again having to go on all fours on the ambulance gurney) and I had to follow behind. I was told, somewhat less reassuringly than it was meant, that if she started having the baby the ambulance would pull over so that I could jump in and hopefully not miss the birth of my child! That was the scariest drive I’ve ever done – constantly hoping that the ambulance wouldn’t need to pull over!
Thankfully, it didn’t, and we arrived at the hospital still with a bump rather than a baby. After a brief, panic-filled few minutes, of having to park our car away from where the ambulance had pulled in – and subsequently losing track on Harriet within the hospital itself – I found the birthing room Harriet had been taken to and was able to rejoin her and our as-yet unborn child. In the rush of trying to make sure I rejoined my wife before our baby was born, I’d left our hospital bag and, more critically, my wife’s hospital notes folder in our car. Thankfully, one of the paramedics very kindly offered to go and get them for us so that I didn’t have to leave, which was incredibly helpful of him! So, at this point, I noticed that there was a birthing pool in our room, and a water birth had always been our preferred choice – but as my wife was being inspected on the bed, and I was under the impression that our baby could arrive any second, I thought the pool must’ve been out of the picture now with not enough time to get it sorted. So things continued progressing, and by this time Harriet was now being actively encouraged to push as much as she could. At one point, whilst the midwife was performing some checks, she mentioned that Harriet’s waters were still intact – which was news to us, as we assumed they had already broken at some point earlier!
After a little while Harriet asked if she could get up and walk around a bit, as one thing we had really had taken note of from all the courses we’d been on, was the benefits of the woman being in a more natural, upright, position when giving birth – to essentially make the process as smooth as possible (I use that term lightly) – with the acronym ‘UFO’ (‘Upright’, ‘Forward’ and ‘Open’) being lodged in our thoughts. As it turned out, things weren’t (quite) as far along as I had thought, and so when Harriet asked to stand up the midwife said “Of course, would you like to get in the pool?” – I think I can speak for both of us when I say that this was an amazing realisation to know that the birthing pool was in fact still an option, and so Harriet swiftly accepted the offer to use it. One small moment of achievement from myself here – Harriet was in such a rush to get in the pool once it was ready, and understandably so focused on what was happening with her body that she completely forgot that she had a Tens machine on, pretty much at full blast, stuck to her back. Thankfully I just about managed to switch it off and then whip off the sticky pads before she leapt (not literally) in to the birth pool with it all still pulsing away and attached to her! But anyway, back to the really important and impressive stuff… It’s safe to say that Harriet really enjoyed the birthing pool, although not as much as she enjoyed the gas and air, which she had been chugging away on like a chain smoker the entire time we were in the hospital (and apparently in the ambulance too). At one point I nearly said “leave some gas and air for the rest of the hospital, love” – but quickly decided that it really wasn’t funny enough of a joke to be worth getting punched for, and kept quiet! So back to the birthing pool – Harriet was basically sat squat in the water, leaning on the edge with me there helping support her and trying my best to reassure and encourage her to keep pushing. At this point it was very clear just how exhausted and drained Harriet was. Thankfully she had been sensible enough to pack some healthy, high-energy, snacks in our hospital bag – so I quickly suggested she make use of those, as it seemed she was close to passing out.
Once Harriet had got in the pool, the midwife was really encouraging her to focus all her energy on pushing (including not ‘wasting’ energy on straining or screaming which, understandably, was easier said than done!). By this time I’d completely lost track of time, and thought we’d been in the birthing room for hours. The midwife was regularly checking both the baby’s heart rate and also checking how things were progressing with a well-placed mirror! I was starting to think maybe things were taking longer than ‘normal’ (again, I had well and truly lost all track of time), and was worrying that at any moment the midwife would tell us that it wasn’t happening fast enough, and that Harriet would need to be whisked off. In fact, even when a short while later Harriet let out the loudest scream I’ve ever heard, and the midwife explained that the baby’s head was now out – I was still concerned that Harriet and the baby weren’t progressing as fast as they should be. I’ve no idea where those thoughts came from – we’d done a lot of reading up, and been to sone very helpful courses beforehand, so I knew how things “normally” go for a first time birth. I think it was just a combination of having been awake so long at this point, and nerves/adrenaline. Then my concerns were realised when the midwife instructed Harriet to stand up and head over to the steps of the birthing pool. Just as a thousand thoughts flashed through my mind as to what would happen next – Harriet had one more, much less screamy, contraction – and our beautiful, amazing, daughter instantly fell from her mum and splashed into the water! I can’t do any justice with words to that feeling I had of seeing my own child splashing in to this big crazy world, and make her much-anticipated appearance – but it genuinely was the best feeling I’ve ever had! The midwife checked her over and then handed her to Harriet who did her first session of skin-to-skin with our daughter. I’ll never forget the look on my wife’s face at that moment – pure joy and unfaltering love mixed with relief, tiredness, wonder and so many other emotions all at once! I should mention at this point – as you may have guessed, it turned out I was way off the mark with my concerns that things were going too slowly and that we were about to be told intervention was needed. In fact, the whole experience from arriving at the hospital, to our beautiful daughter being born, was only an hour and a half! Crazy! In fact, the midwife told us that it was so quick and straightforward that we shouldn’t bother coming in to hospital next time around.
All in all, from Harriet waking up in the middle of the night with early signs of labour, to our daughter being born was only six and a half hours – which is incredibly quick for a first time mum! Super proud of my wife for that! We were definitely very fortunate, and very blessed, to have such a quick and straightforward labour and birth – and I realise our experience is definitely not the norm for a first baby – and we are very grateful for that. Oh, I should mention her name at this point. We’d settled on our favourite pick for a boy’s and a girl’s name beforehand, not knowing what we were having, but said that we’d wait until the baby was born before finalising – just in case we ended up deciding the name wasn’t a good fit, or just if we changed our mind etc. So, when the midwife asked us if we had a name for her – before I could say “not yet” – Harriet just instantly said “Isabella Grace”. Luckily, I also agreed that it was a great fit for this tiny bundle of awesomeness, so that was that settled!
After some quick initial checks on Isabella and Harriet, we were then left on our own in the birthing room to start getting used to now being a family of three! I’d like to thank our midwife, ?, who expertly helped guide and encourage Harriet in bringing Isabella out in to the world – but most importantly I’d like to thank my amazing, beautiful wife, Harriet for absolutely bossing the whole birth process – and the pregnancy beforehand! I’m sure there’s stuff I’ve missed out but, if you’re reading this then well done for sticking with me to the end – I realise this has been very long, but I wanted to present our first birthing experience in as much detail as I could, and hopefully it’ll be of interest to someone out there…
In my next article I’m going to be detailing my experiences from when we left the hospital through the first few weeks of life as a Dad, so I hope you’ll join me then too.
On Father’s Day we launched our new #FatherhoodStories podcast! This is the space where we speak to inspiring men from the world of music, football and business about their career and fatherhood journey. The podcast kicked off with an introductory episode and now we bring you our first episode with an amazing guest, Leon Mann.
Leon is a film maker and has made films with Usain Bolt for the BBC (you probably saw one of them in the lead up to the London Olympics!). Leon’s also a broadcaster for established channels such as the BBC & ITV and he runs a football management company which has taken him to the World Cup this year with his client Yaya Toure. As well as that, Leon co-founded and founded the Football Blacklist and BCOMS, both organisations that promote, develop and celebrate black people in football and sport.
But most importantly, Leon is a great father of 2. In this conversation we go deep into his career and fatherhood journey. Leon drops gems about building his business, balancing his career and family life and encouraging his children to live their best lives and be individuals.
Have a listen, give us some feedback and share with your friends!
#FatherhoodStories Podcast - Episode 2 with Leon Mann - SoundCloud (3217 secs long, 25 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Last year I took three months of Shared Parental Leave to look after my then eight-month-old son Zakariyya. I’ve been lucky enough to have had some pretty amazing experiences in my life – I’ve competed in the London Olympics as a discus thrower and, as an athlete, I’ve been sent to Korea, San Diego and South Africa.
But those three months of Shared Parental Leave with my son were the highlight of my life so far.
With Shared Parental Leave, you can share up to 50 weeks of leave with your partner. You can take it in up to three separate blocks, or have the time together – and you get paid while you do it. I can’t recommend it enough.
I think it’s especially important for dads in the Black community to think about it. We are portrayed negatively in the media when it comes to our family involvement – that’s often unfair. If more of us knew about the opportunities to look after our children, more of us would take them up. We need to show that there are many of us who are doing the best for our families – we put our children first. The more good dad role models in our community, the better. Inspiring the next generation of dads can only be done by leading by example.
For me, the time I spent looking after my son brought us closer as a family. I loved taking Zakariyya on the tube for the first time – we went to Oxford Street – and seeing his reaction to his first banana – he absolutely hated it! Most of all, I loved chatting to him and being ‘dad’.
Shared Parental Leave taught me how hard it is sometimes to be a parent. Looking after a baby can at times make training for the Olympics look easy! When I was training as an athlete, I controlled the things around me and put things in place that enabled me to succeed, but I can’t control whether Zakariyya will eat his breakfast or whether he’ll wake up in time for our play group or medical check-up.
One surprise for me was how much my mental health and physical fitness improved while I was on Shared Parental Leave. I have a good level of fitness, but carrying my son around helped my physical fitness and I think my resilience improved. I became more relaxed and reassessed my personal priorities. I made sure I was practising what I preached.
I’ve now retired from athletics and work for a leading financial services organisation It’s so important to me to know that I had that time on my own with my son. I learnt so much about him from seeing him take his first steps and going to sensory classes together. I’ll forever treasure those memories.
I know that it can be daunting to ask your boss – or your HR department – about taking time out to look after children. My employer was very supportive. I think you just have to have an open conversation with them and explain your rationale. Go for it! http://sharedparentalleave.campaign.gov.uk.
To celebrate Father’s Day we are launching our new #FatherhoodStories podcast. This is the space where we speak to inspiring men from the world of music, football and business about their career and fatherhood journey.
We’ve blessed you with an introductory episode and then followed it up with a conversation with Leon Mann. Leon has made films with Usain Bolt, is a broadcaster for BBC & ITV and he also runs a football management company which has taken him to the World Cup this year with his client Yaya Toure. But most importantly, Leon is a great father of 2. In this conversation we go deep into his career and fatherhood journey.
We are delighted to take this next step on our journey, enjoy the ride!
Episode 1 – The Intro
#FatherhoodStories Podcast - Episode 1 (the intro) - SoundCloud (352 secs long, 3 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Episode 2 – with Leon Mann
#FatherhoodStories Podcast - Episode 2 with Leon Mann - SoundCloud (3217 secs long, 1 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Let me just put this out there first. I don’t like the term ‘single parent’ or at least not in my circumstances. The term doesn’t sufficiently address the situation that I and many other fathers find ourselves in. As an only parent the challenges are different. I don’t have my boys just at weekends, holidays or the odd day during the week. I take care of them full time. There is no time off for me every other weekend where I can go and do as I please. There isn’t someone else to split doing the school run with, attend assemblies instead of me or go from one after school activity to the other. No one to help manage my diary and pencil in the never ending number of friends parties or other social events that my boys take part in. This is not a complaint, as those of you that have read other posts or interviews of mine, will realise that I completely embrace all of the above. This is just me giving a very brief insight into life as an only parent.
The point is that when it comes to Father’s Day as an only parent, myself and many other dads feel the enormity of our situation even more. It starts with when you’re driving along and you start to see the signs up for booking a Father’s Day lunch. It then continues when you walk into gift or card shops and all around you are reminders. The one day of the year that we would like to put our feet up, be brought breakfast in bed, get spoiled and not have to lift a finger, ends up just like every other day. Or at least it does when you have young children.
Most of the only parent dads that I know are widowers with dependent children and for us Father’s Day is another reminder of the loss that we have suffered. As the date gets ever closer I know the number of posts by members in our closed Facebook group will increase. Members will start to feel the pressure of the day and everything that is associated with it will really start to get to them. The first few Father’s Days after my wife died were very difficult indeed. 5 years in and the intensity has lessened but the awareness is still very much there. I have faired differently than some of my fellow group members, as I have at least had friends and family step up. My first Father’s Day was 3 months after my wife died. It was awful but a few days before the parents of a group of my eldest son’s friends had organised a whip round to get me a card, balloons and an adult scooter. My son loved his scooter and so they thought it was a good idea to get me one so that I could scoot with him in the park. It turned out to be a great idea and my boys and I scoot or ride our bikes together now as much as possible. Also the wife of my one of my cousin’s never forgets about me and the boys and she always organises us all going out for a lunch. I don’t need to do anything but get myself and the boys to wherever she has booked. Others have taken the boys shopping, helped them to make cards, prepared a breakfast and left it in the fridge so that the boys just have to bring it up to me first thing on Sunday morning. But many other dads don’t have this level of support. There are many different reasons why and the context of every situation is different. It’s not that the support will change things but that it’s nice to have others recognise how hard it is as a only parent dad regardless of individual circumstances.
So as we approach another Father’s Day, the next time you see a dad on his own with his kids just remember that behind the smiles, the laughter, the kicking a ball around and the chasing around the park, could be someone like many of us who are doing right by our kids in ways that you may not even understand.
Elliott Rae talks Music, Football & Fatherhood on the All Purpose Seasoning podcast
The All Purpose Seasoning podcast is a cool show hosted by four brothers who get introspective with a special guest each episode. Our founder Elliott Rae featured on there latest episode. It got deep as they spoke about family upbringing, the power of words, musical background, football and the making of MFF. This is not one to be missed!
Ep 07 - MusicFootballFatherhood with Elliott Rae - SoundCloud (4321 secs long, 25 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Nothing can prepare you for fatherhood. Especially when it catches you unexpectedly as a 22-year old boy-man still trying to figure out his way in the world. That was over 5 years ago, and we are both still alive, so I guess I must be doing something right. Jokes apart, sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. To think that I’ve been entrusted with the life of another human being is surreal. It has been a thrilling and sometimes exhausting journey.
For the vast majority of my time as a father I have been co-parenting, which comes with its own challenges. My daughter spends her time between two households, and her mother and me have the challenge of trying to make sure she has a somewhat consistent experience no matter where she is. (As I write this I am thinking of all the ways that I could do better.)
The truth with co-parenting is that both parents have to be focused on making life better for their child while pushing their differences to the side. I have a 9-5 and I’m also building a business on the side so often I’m very short on time, especially during the week. I often get asked how I manage to raise a child and have a life outside of it all. My usual response is something along the lines of “it’s because I have a child that I am so determined to work hard”, and there is truth in this, however it only tells half the story. The foundation of it is that her mother plays a part in my ability to do what I need to. She does the school runs, and endures a lot of tantrums so that I can focus. While I do have my daughter on weekends, go to teacher meetings and make sacrifices to share time with her, I am not unaware of how fortunate I am.
While I am still learning how to parent, I do feel that it is important to share my experience with other fathers who are also co-parenting. Here are some things that I do to help balance co-parenting with the rest of my life:
Expose my daughter to my work
My daughter always used to ask me “Daddy what do you do for work?” so recently I have started to bring her into that side of my life. We have gone out together to create content for my businesses social media (she now knows how to handle a DSLR) and recently I took her into my office during half term where she sat in on my meetings and spent time with my colleagues.
Whenever I have my daughter I do what I can so that it doesn’t feel like she is going into a different world. This is something I struggled with initially as I thought it was my role to be the ‘fun’ parent. She is a smart girl and would say things like “my mummy lets me do…” to try and get her way. Now the focus is firmly on sharing similar principles of love and discipline, which has helped to keep our daughter grounded.
Taking her education seriously
Sometimes when helping with your little one’s homework it can seem very tedious, and I know personally I have tried to push the task onto other family members in the past. Now I embrace it and make sure I sit with her and help her get through it. Outside of academia I have found that the weekends are an ideal opportunity to expose her to the world around her by doing things like taking her to museums, bringing her closer to nature, and cooking with her. All of which gives her more to talk about in school.
Create Great Memories
At the end of it all you want to make sure that you are creating memories with your little one. If you are in a similar situation to me where your child spends most of their time with the other parent, you want to do what you can to make sure that the moments spent together are good one’s. Try and do things that they are interested in, add some variety, take photos and videos, make sure the memories are worth keeping.
I remember going to a teachers meeting at my daughters school recently and her teacher showed me a drawing she had done about one of our weekends together. I was surprised that she had remembered it in such detail, but also humbled that she had chosen this as something worth drawing. In moments like those I know that I am doing something right.