My little boy, Will is now 8 months old, and I welcome this with mixed feelings.
There's a part of me that loves the fact that he's jabbering all sorts of nonsense now (his first sort of word was Dadada, much to the annoyance of his mother), he's sitting up and clapping (which means flapping his arms around a lot, he can't quite make his hands meet yet, rolling all over the place, laughing his head and reacting to things much more. In short, he's becoming more interesting and rewarding - even more amazing, even more fascinating. We just sit there and wonder how on earth we made him sometimes.
Then there's other side that knows he'll be a year old before we know it, that misses him being tiny enough to cradle in one arm, when he was so delicate and helpless. That time will never come again. I miss him being a 'baby' sometimes, he's an infant now.
In any case, I've lived with the idea of him being around for awhile now and can't quite form a solid picture of life without him. It's like that curious way the mind can't quite form a solid picture of your holiday once you get back, it immediately becomes a little dreamy and fuzzy - and amazingly, home seems like that when I'm away.
We're still learning of course, always will be, but that's one of the joys, it's not like anything else that fades away with time, it's always white hot within your consciousness, slowly enriched by time and more memories (or that's what I think it will be like, I may have very different when he's a teen or the first time he beats me at tennis). Anyway..
I feel I'm qualified to have a view on this article about Dad's feeling as stressed as Mums. I can't comment from the point of view as a single Dad, I certainly can't from the point of view of a woman, but I can as very lucky Dad with a loving wife and a decent income.
And I think that's my first point. Just as with Mum's it's really silly to generalise. How you feel as a father, or mother for that matter depend on your own upbringing, circumstances and the people you're surrounded by. Broad themes will be exactly that - generalisations with limited use. Especially when so much of how you feel about being a parent, your view of the role and attitude of Mum's and Dad's comes arises from personal experience. Take a look at this article and thread, you can imagine the experiences and backgrounds that have led to the VERY strong and diverse views.
So while I'd tend to agree that many Dad's feel stress around parenting but that won't be a universal. Just walk around any UK supermarket and watch the body language between Dad's, Mum's and kids. Some seem to behave as a close unit of three, but many tend to have Mum and child as a unit and Dad separate to that, largely being the traditional, hands off Dad of old.
Female economic independence and household with both parents working has had an impact of course, but the bulk of childcare is still done by the woman, as is household chores, despite claims from more men that they want to get more involved. So what's going on?
It's a social faux pas to admit you don't always enjoy being a parent, just as you have to show what hard work it all is. It wasn't always so for men, but middle class Dad's cannot openly admit to sometimes wishing they had their old life back. I can say I don't, I never want to go back, but that doesn't mean I don't sometimes wish he's just go to sleep so I can read the paper, or do something spontaneous. But you can't say that....you have to conform to social norms, just as you have to tell people you enjoyed your weekend whether you did or not. There's a conflict in there, between what some men actually feel and what they actually say. That can sometimes be stressful - you can moan about a job you love and no one looks funny, if you don't moan about the wife people look at you funny, but in cosseted middle class circles, moan about how much time kids suck up and people will look at you as if just said Sex and the City was rubbish.
I think it's become a social norm for men like me to claim they wish they could take a greater share of responsibility for childcare - of course it's mostly true, but I wonder how many men say that because theyr'e supposed to. It's a complex thing to delve into - you can want two things at the same time.
I miss my little boy terribly when I don't see him, right now he's 400 miles away at Mum and Dad's with Mrs Northern. For a whole week. It was nice for two days- Saturday was a long, painful bike ride in the sun, 5 hours of assorted sport on TV, the paper from cover to cover, a really good film with no interruptions, it was lovely for a while, now I just feel terribly lonely.
That's the contradiction at the heart of being a Dad for me. Nothing in my life is more important, nor will ever be again. Nothing has ever made me happier, but then there is the contradiction that I'm a person too, with my own desires and dreams, I miss time with Mrs Northern, I miss time for me, but I would not change a single thing. Not one.
So everyday is battle to get home in time to see him. Every morning I go swimming is playtime missed out on. But then sometimes you wish you could just read a book rather than rock him to sleep, or turn over and go back to sleep at 6am on a Saturday when he waked up wand wants to play.
I resent not having the time with him by the beach his Mum is having and feel guilty for not being there, but I've made the most of time alone. But on the whole I want to be a part of it and feel I can. But society gets in the way of doing this to the extent I would like.
Equal sharing of childcare isn't possible. I had no choice about taking more paternity leave, it's just assumed that Dad will go back to work.
Culturally, they look funny at you when you take your child to the weekly clinic, or patronise you horribly. During the scans and delivery, you're useless, but they do their best to make you feel like a spare part, at worst they make you feel like you're in the way.
Work gets in the way too - there are too many who just assume you'll be a traditional Dad and want to work all hours while Mum does the childcare. There's massive pressure every day to resolve this unresolvable conflict.
I guess I'm trying to say that a sweeping statement that Dad are as stressed as Mums doesn't work. It's too complicated within demographics, culture, background etc, but it's too complicated within the actual family, or the actual man.
From my own point of view, what's wrong with a bit if stress. As I finally grow up, I learn what really makes me happy - and mostly it's not doing stuff for me. I couldn't do without swimming, I love to cook, but all that's nothing next to him. It's hard sometimes, but that just makes it more rewarding.
I don't mind Shakira (for non-musical reasons) but as a tennis fan I love Nadal.
Two main reasons I love him are; the way he plays, total will to win, never gives up firstly. Secondly, he's such a nice bloke. He's down to earth, modest, still lives with his family in Majorca.
Buy then he goes and appears in this bloody Shakira with his clothes off.
What are you doing man? I just about forgive you, but I will always like you a little bit less and question your modest, nice guy image.
The only thing I can remember as embarrassing is Ben Affleck in this - but he was already classed as a first class tit, and there is no excuse for Jenny from the Block.
It doesn't matter if you're a celebrity brand, a consumer brand or a human at large - you can't say one thing and do another, we're all too connected and able to share information these days, you have to be consistent. Mr Nadal please take note.
Take this New York Times article with a pinch of salt.
It's certainly true to say that there's a bigger conflict now between Dad the worker and Dad the caring, involved parent, or at least amongst the Dad's I know (including me) - I'm not even going to go there on 'unappreciated Dad contributions' Mrs Northern reads this occasionally.
I'm reading Gladwell's What the Dog Saw, despite the fact I've alread read most of the articles and they're freely available online. There's just something about the collecting them in tactile object of a book that makes it more satisfying and concentrated - the comfort of a thing.
The stories of Shirley Polykoff, Ilon Specht tell us so much about cultural significance and understanding the role of product/brand in people's lives, and the heroism of those women who found their voice in world made by, and for, men.
Hello, I'm back. A little earlier than I thought I would, but that's the thing about holidays abroad; they're wonderful for a change, to dip into other cultures, suspension of reality etc, but they're also very good at making you appreciate the things you have and like doing.
There's that depressing feeling the day before you set off, when it's all coming to an end, but as soon as you start the journey home, you can't wait to be there and look forward to things you took for granted before.
Of course, the sheen soon wears off and we forget what makes us happy as it recedes back into the subconscious, but it's nice to miss home for short while and have it feel all new again.
Of course, the thing I look forward to most is a proper cup of tea, but that's one thing I never take for granted, it's always heavenly.
I'm missing my little boy after a week and half of him. By the way, his first word was Dada. There's no point describing what that felt like.
We've all done it. we've seen something amazing and thought, we could do that, without applying the rigour that goes with any communications planning - and even more to be honest. It's not enough to know you're specific audience will find you there (but it helps of course), you need to be asking if they expect or could be made to welcome you in the space you're planning to show up in. You need to be fully aware of the commitment you need to make, so many do something pretty good for a bit then lose interest or don't get that it takes constant effort, and you need a plan B, even more so than above the line ads, you don't know what will work...you need to have alternatives.
So yes, do something you think or your team thinks is cool.
2. Naturally then, second point is not to do core competent planning stuff
It's harder in new media, you have to get under the skin of it. No amount of data can help you 'get' how to utilise Twitter or Facebook, though it may tell you to consider it within the mix. You have to be in there doing it, understanding the grammar and unwritten rules of conduct. They are there, but just like you only pick up social skills by being around other people, well, you know where this going. And look at great popular culture successes - the Matrix, Cloverfield, Lost..all great social media successes. Study them, learn from them.
3. Listen to everybody
The demands of new media require a lot of experts - comms planners, creatives, techy experts, stakeholders from other media.It can get messy and too many opinions and, lets face it, agendas, can leave you paralysed by keeping everyone happy and the sheer weight of good advice. Involve enough people that will deliver the input needed, clarify roles for everyone, hold them accountable and never forget, the consumer doesn't care about anything online apart from doing what they want to do, they really couldn't give monkeys if 'flash' is best practice or not (unless they own an Ipad).
4. Don't bother with a business goal
Like any 'discipline' you need to know what you're working towards and how it will be measured. Getting Facebook fans for the sake it is a waste of time, getting. You're still contributing to penetration, brand salience, lead generation etc, usually amplifying something else, or being the beating heart of other stuff. If you can't prove your work is commercially beneficial, you will get found out. Role of communications matters even more here, where stuff is fluffier than any other medium right now.
5.Leave out the maths
Digital media is cheap right? Not if no one gets involved with your campaign. Cost per response still matters.
6. Don't pilot stuff
Social media can spread very quickly. If something backfires, it can backfire big time, before you can stop it. So test.
7. Spend your budget on one thing
You really do not know what will work. Test lots of small stuff, listen to what people are saying and what thy respond to - it's usually a surprise.
So just spend all your budget on one thing and watch it fail spectacularly
8. Make history
Most big budget ad campaigns didn't massively change people's lives and cement into popular culture, not even in the days of a few channels and no remote control. So be realistic about what you can achieve, take lots of small steps, never over promise. Digital does not have the reach of telly.
9. Don't worry after opt in
If you're lucky enough to do something that gets lots of fans, email details or whatever, don't just waste what you'v built by having not planned how to be continually useful and interesting. A pissed of, let down, web enabled fan is far worse than a disinterested one. Don't make any promises you can't keep.
10. Make it all about you
In any situation, talking about yourself all the time is a surefire way to be unpopular. So it is with social digital stuff. Make people feel special, look like you've made an effort, let them participate, make them feel this is genuinely two way. In short, if you want people to spend time with them, you have to offer them something in return. That mean forgetting messages and thinking about conversations and things to do. Like all social situations, listen, be respectful and learn to not just take criticism well, welcome it and learn from it. It's a lot cheaper than focus groups.
Oh, and finally, don't start now. Wait until things have settles down and you're sure how to approach it. Just doesn't work like that. Learn by doing, this medium lets you experiment as you go along. The longer you wait, the harder it will get.
The advertising world is festooned with cuddly characters, something I'm not against after growing up with the likes of Honey Monster and the Hoffmeister Bear.
Despite a personal relationship with Vinnie,
Chuck is my favourite (imagine the money they'll save on voiceover usage costs). The above execution is my favourite after coming accross idiots like this in my gym. Not to mention the pool - just because they have muscle they think they can swim fast. Brain dead rugby league players are the very worst. By the way, this work shows the value of playing up to stereotypes no?
So young William Hovells is nearly 7 months old and quite a few things have changed since he was born, but quite a few things have stayed the same.
What is a constant, at least for now is his total dependency on us. It is no exaggeration to say that he is the most important thing in our world, amongst other priorities and passions, nothing comes close. But from his point of view, we ARE his world. He's visibly happier when he's with both of us, in fact, according to some child psychologists, he hasn't made the distinction between him and us yet, we're one person. Anyway, there isn't a single thing he can do without us, and he wouldn't want it any other way, he loves us both, there is nothing else.
But one or two things are wildly different too. From his point of view, he's off milk and eating. He loves it, absolutely adores eating time. Lasagne, cheese sandwiches, peanut butter on toast, beef tagine, lentil bake, weetabix, he loves it all. And it's lovely cooking for him, or cooking for all of us and watching my ingredients to make sure it's edible for a little tummy.
He's constantly laughing, he watches everything now, gurgles gibberish, plays games and adores In the Night Garden - and I adore watching it with him.
The other big change is with us. When he was born he had a blood infection and spent the first two weeks in hospital. I only realise now how stressful all that was. It made us a little neurotic over his health and wellbeing for a while. We were never those nauseating over protective parents who believe the world should part like the red sea for their child, but we worried about his first chest infection and when he had a bout of stuff that had him in A&E for a bit, all those repressed feelings from those first two weeks came flooding back.
All that's gone now. Let's face it, during the first two weeks, you don't really know what you're doing, to be honest, after six months you don't either, but there's some semblance of routine and you become quite relaxed about it.
I'm so glad I changed work and life arrangements, every day I can't wait to get home to see him. But being a Dad can be contradictory. He's going away with his Mum for a week to see family this month. I'm looking for a week to myself, despite knowing how much I'll miss them. You sometimes find yourself wanting some time on your own, and feel guilty for it.
By the way, he seems to like swimming. Wonder how long it is until he beats Dad? Don't care if he hates swimming though, he can do ballet for all I care as long as it makes him happy.