Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

I interviewed full time daddy blogger Tom Briggs about his career, and why dads are seen as ‘second class parents’…

November 2016

How old are you?
I’m 36 years old.

Where do you live and with whom?
I live in East Sussex with my wife Kate and three children Dylan (6), Xander (4) and Amelie (10 months).

What led you to the world of blogging?
I started my blog a couple of months after Dylan was born in 2010. I wanted to keep a record of all the important milestones and also had a daft idea about writing a book about becoming a dad.

I saw Diary of the Dad as an opportunity to pilot content. I doubt I’ll ever write the book now as the blog has become much bigger than I ever imagined it would and I’ve got other long-term projects in mind.

What’s it like being a full time blogger dad? Pros and cons?
It’s a nice way to make a living as I’m around the family much more than I used to be. Within reason, I can write about what I want, there’s no commute and there’s never any issue with getting time off for things like school events.

It’s difficult to find any cons to be honest. The life I left behind was utterly miserable and I’ve eliminated all of the worst elements by going it alone. There’s the pressure to make enough each month as I’m the only earner, but I’m always confident. I suppose the only regular problem is having to chase payments. 90% are late.

At what point did you realise that your hobby could turn into a full time career, what was your occupation before?
I was a web content producer working with a quango. It was horrible. Meetings, red tape, passive aggression, the lot. I quickly realised that I didn’t belong there, but stuck it out for a year.

It probably wasn’t until after I’d quit my job that I realised the blog could become my nine to five! I was in a bad way and something had to give. I wasn’t going to let my job make me ill, so I handed in my notice with no real plan other than to get a bit of freelance work and supplement it with sponsored posts on my blog.

Within a month or two, my earnings from the blog massively outweighed the freelance income and that was that. I’ve always wanted to go pro, but it happened more by accident than design in the end! 

What did your wife, friends and family think?
Even though I was taking a massive risk which, in hindsight, could have really backfired I had everyone’s full support from the word go. They all knew how unhappy I was in my old job and also knew that I already made a small amount of money out of the blog, so the foundations were there. 

Why do you believe your blog has become as successful as it has, is it because men are often left out of the parenting sphere?
It’s certainly easier to stand out as a dad blogger as there are significantly fewer of us out there compared with the mums so that definitely helps. We have a much smaller natural audience though so it can be harder at times.

Dads are definitely still overlooked when it comes to parenting issues and, even though we’re at the start of a cultural shift, I think it’s going to take a long time for the myth about dads being second-class parents to die down.

Hopefully, those of us dads who write blogs can help things along by showing that we’re just as capable as mums and hopefully inspire others to speak up too.
 

What do you feel needs to be done in order to include more daddies in the parenting discussion?
I think that dads need to be treated as equals. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked whether it’s “Mum’s day off”. It’s a ridiculously out-of-date notion. Similarly, the media needs to accept that we’re not all like Homer Simpson or Daddy Pig! 

Some may say you’re a hands-on dad, what tips would you give to expectant dads?
The best advice I can offer is to be prepared to wing it! That isn’t to say expectant dads shouldn’t do anything to prepare – far from it. It’s essential to read up on what to expect in the delivery room and beyond, of course.

But babies don’t care about plans and will deviate from them from the first minute. A case in point: Amelie was supposed to have a nice, chilled-out home birth and we ended up having to go on a last-minute dash to the second nearest hospital when she decided she wanted to come out feet first.

Dads-to-be should make sure they know the basics and also be ready for anything and to learn from their mistakes. We’re all human after all.

You’re also involved in ‘Love All Dads’ Podcast, an award-winning weekly show in which you discuss parenting news stories and get other dad bloggers as guests. How did this come about?

I think it came about as a result of a conversation on Twitter. It was definitely someone else’s idea so I was just in the right place at the right time! It’s something we really enjoy doing and people seem to respond to the informal way we do it.

Where do you see yourself and career in five years?
Hopefully in a similar situation to the one I’m in now. I’m happy in what I do and, as long as it keeps paying the bills, that’ll do me.

In terms of specifics, I’m planning on doing more with video as that’s where the next generation of parents will look for content first so, all being well, I’ll be as successful in front of a camera as I am with a keyboard.

tom-briggs

Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

I interviewed the incredibly lovely Sandra Benitez (known as Miss Chachi on Instagram) about her fitness journey, and the pressure she feels being a Latina woman in her mid 30s without children (yet!)

November 2016

How old are you?

I am 33 years old. I turn 34 in December.

Who do you live with, what area, and what’s your occupation?

I live in New York City with my boyfriend, Richard and my Maltese, Diva. Currently work in Human Resources as a payroll coordinator for a local gourmet market.

Tell us more about your fitness journey, how did it start, at what point did you decide you wanted to make a change?

My fitness journey has been a long one. I always suffered with being an overweight child, and into adulthood.  I always felt I needed to do something about it. I’d start the gym, then quit. But foods that are marked “healthy” on the label but would get frustrated with the lack of progress. It wasn’t until I was a few months away from my 30thbirthday that I got serious and hired a personal trainer.

What role has fitness played in your life, we know that you regularly work out with your partner, was it instrumental in helping love to find you?

Throughout my journey I realized the importance of having a partner who understands the lifestyle, and supports my goals. So it was only natural for me to choose a man who compliments that, as well as a spiritual connection, which is priority for me. 

A lot of articles have depicted how women from ethnic minorities (as well as those who aren’t) feel a pressure to marry by the age of 30, as a Latina woman, is this something you’ve experienced?

 As a Latina, there’s definitely pressure to settle down and start a family.  I struggled with that a bit. For me, it was important to get myself healthy, and strong spiritually and mentally so I can be the wife and mother my family deserves. So, that took a little time lol.  But nothing comes before it’s time. 😉 

If yes, how have you dealt with the pressure? Through the love and support of your family, nieces and nephews?

 I’ve been blessed with an amazing and supportive family.  My mom has been wanting grandbabies for some time. She’s learning that patience is virtue lol.

Why do you feel there is pressure?

Pressure is definitely cultural. You’re “supposed” to marry and have children young. Funny, I didn’t choose the career path, I chose to find myself. 

Do you believe there is a right age that a woman should settle down, marry and have kids, or is it very individual? What factors do you feel affect when a woman settles down?

I don’t think there’s a right age for women to have a family. I do feel there is too young, but I’m no one to say what’s right for each individual woman. We’re all wired differently and have different purposes to fulfil.

What advice would you give to other women who may be dealing with such cultural and societal marital and childbearing pressures?

The best advice I can give is that do what feels right to you. No one should dictate that. Now I’m not talking about being reckless. But you can’t live your life following footsteps. Start a new path.

Is marriage and children on the cards for you?

Hmmmm…. Well, I am very happy with my relationship and there’s talks about the future. Children? I would love to be a mom.   So, I’d say it’s in the cards 🙂

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I see myself balancing life as a wife, mom, running a successful lifestyle brand with my family. 🙂

 

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Originally published in My Early Hour Magazine

Following a string of abusive relationships, an unresolved eating disorder and the lasting effects of childhood bullying, Esther Nagle became an alcoholic. It was her way of coping. The single mum of three boy tells us how yoga aided her recovery…

October 2016

How old are you?  

43

Where do you live and with whom?

Marcus, 6.  Liam (19) is at uni, and Josh (25) is a travelling carpenter currently in France.

How did you become a single mum?

By picking the wrong men – haha!!  The last time I was in a relationship it was very controlling, and took a massive toll on my mental health.  I knew from very early on that it was not a good relationship, had many warning signs and gut feelings but found myself pregnant just 5 months in, at 36.  I decided I had to end it when I saw a poster about domestic abuse and recognized so many of the signs (emotional rather than physical abuse, ‘gaslighting’), and noticed that I was becoming physically as well as mentally withdrawn from the world.  I ended the relationship in Nov 2011, he left the house in September 2012 – the controlling lasted a lot longer than the ‘happy family’ did!

What makes it difficult being a single mum? Parenting alone?

I have done it for a long time, and after my last experience of living with someone I prefer to be alone!  Having said that, I do sometimes feel that I would like to be with someone, but won’t let anyone assume the role of father in my children’s lives for a long time, got bitten by that last time!  Sometimes, it would be good to have someone to talk to about things more, to back me up with the kids, but my previous experience of that with past partners didn’t convince me that I would get that with them anyway.

Sometimes, I do get fed up of having to be the one who does the cooking, but I’m working on getting the little one competent in the kitchen soon 🙂

What are the advantages?

I get to do things my way; I am not good at being managed in any way so autonomy in my own home is important.  I am strongly independent and used to doing things my way.  I love being the one responsible for the kids.

How did you come across yoga and how did this help you to beat your alcoholism?

I started going to yoga when I was off work following an asthma attack, I thought it would be good to learn to breathe.  I didn’t really learn to breathe (not until much later) but I loved the yoga.  The classes were, I realised later, totally focused on the physical, and I loved the way it made my body feel.

Was there a trigger for your alcoholism?

Low self esteem from childhood, seeking oblivion after a devastating decision that altered the course of my life (I am not going to discuss this, it involves too many other people but I feel that undiagnosed mental health problems were a big cause), unresolved eating disorder (I was bulimic for a while, it was never properly dealt with, and I strongly think that this fed into the addiction that developed not long later) loneliness, no coping skills when faced with stress, feeling overwhelmed with life, no way to relax.

Do you feel that this made you more prone to developing an addiction?

Through the self-study I have done over the last couple of years, I can see that there are many patterns of behaviour I exhibited over the years.  The low self esteem left me wanting to hide from the world from a very young age.  Dr Gabor Mate talks about the effect of childhood trauma and links to addiction.  While I was not abused, I was definitely traumatised by bullying and singling out in school, struggles to fit in with my peers, and a feeling that I didn’t really fit anywhere.  I have written a blog post about the link between shame and addiction which will go some way to further answering this question too (http://soberistas.com/page/the-damaging-power-of-shame-by-esther-nagle) .

At what point did you realise you wanted to make a change?

I had a breakdown, changing wasn’t a choice, it was survival, if I hadn’t changed my life would have fallen apart completely.  I went into yoga teacher training because I knew that returning to 9-5 commuting/childcare/sitting at a desk all day was going to do my mental health no good, and I decided that I would take the breakdown as a sign that I needed to do something that enabled me to be more relaxed and present in my day to day life.  I had no idea when I started that it would change my life so much!

Please describe what your life (as well as you as a person) like before you found yoga? How it does it differ now?

I had practiced yoga for a number of years as a physical practice (an exercise class only) without it changing me.  I was angry, hyper, full of fear and fury at the world and myself.  I was riddled with self loathing, and projected that out into the world, finding fault with everyone and everything I could.

I had terrible trouble sleeping, having suffered from insomnia since childhood, when I developed a terrible fear that my family and I were all going to be murdered in our bed, and I was very scared of going to sleep.  The fears of night time murder abated when I grew up, to be replaced by something far worse – the inner critic, those voices in my head that would tell me repeatedly what a terrible person I was, reminding me of all the mistakes I had ever made in my life, and keeping me awake for hours.  Drinking ‘helped’ me with this insomnia, allowing me to pass out instead!  I would stay up till 1, 2 am drinking, then flaking out in bed or, often, on the sofa.

My days were always stressed, starting out badly as I was always late waking up, and always groggy and tired.  I got through the day with never ending cups of coffee (fuelling the next night of not sleeping!), and would sometimes get to the afternoon with very little recollection of the morning’s events.

Now, I have little trouble sleeping at night, and wake early.  I drink coffee sometimes because I enjoy it, not because I ‘need’ it.

A close friend has told me that I am a considerably nicer, gentler person than I used to be.  I can see that myself.  I see the way I react to situations, to people, to everything, completely differently.  I am far less prone to stress than I used to be, and find far more to be joyful about than ever before.

The biggest difference in my life is that I now like myself.  I am still a work in progress, there are still things I do that I wish I didn’t, and things that I want to improve on, but I no longer think I am a terrible person because of my weaknesses, I know that with the awareness I have of my weaknesses, I can find strategies to work with or around them to enable me to be the very best person I can be, knowing that I can always be better again.

Why is the power of gratitude so powerful?

I have written loads about the power of gratitude on my website.  This post I wrote this morning gives lots of information (http://balanceandbreathe.co.uk/glass-half-empty-worse-want-fill-try/), there is a webinar I did which covers loads, an hour’s worth of information in fact!

Tell us more about your book, what can other mummies and expectant mummies learn from it?

My book is about my journey from addiction, it isn’t really aimed at mummies.  I don’t really think I talk about the kids very much in it!  http://amzn.to/2cak5Qk

The book is one of my proudest achievements.  I wrote it from ‘terrible first draft’ to ‘ready to be edited’ in a week after being challenged to get it done by a fellow speaker at the Women Economic Forum in New Delhi, who really encouraged me to get it written to launch at the conference.  I did it, it was the most stressful thing I have done in a long time, but it was totally worth it.  I learned a lot about myself that week!!  I am now running a crowdfunding campaign to get it into print https://www.gofundme.com/BentBack

How do you maintain your personal life with mummy duties? How did you do this whilst fighting against alcoholism?

When I was in the throws of my addiction, I don’t think I was always a good mum.  I tried to be.  I was very present with my 19 year old, we had a really good time as he was growing up, although he does have more memories of me drunk than I would like, but we were very much a ‘team’ and we are very close.  With my youngest, I struggled a lot.  Being a new mum at 37, then a new single mum again at 38 (my decision and the best decision by far, but still scary) was not easy, particularly with a savage split from his father, and various other problems that came my way in 2013.

What role have your children played in your recovery?

They were a big part of my reasons for wanting to get well.  I LOVE that Marcus, my youngest, has no recollection of ever seeing me drunk, or smoking, and seems to find it very odd to think that I used to do either.  He is my mirror in life, I see how I am in him.  When he was small I thought he was really naughty, willful, hard to deal with and would make my life very difficult.  As soon as I started to calm down and be happier, he started to change, and is now a very sweet, loving, gentle little boy (still strong willed, but I like that now!).  It made me see just how much our children reflect us, and how important it is that we give them our best.  I know that had I carried on the way I was, I would have a very different child now.

My older boys have been hugely supportive and are now, I think, very proud of their mum.

You mentioned being new to homeschooling, tell us more, what led to this decision and how are you finding it so far? 

I think this probably covers this question pretty well!  https://passionatelycuriousliving.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/first-day-of-term-but-not-for-us/

What are the biggest challenges you face now, and how do you try to overcome them?

My biggest challenges are related to trying to be successful in business with an ENFP personality (https://www.16personalities.com/enfp-personality).  I am always coming up with new ideas, and wanting to try new things.  This makes focussing on business very difficult indeed.  I am still trying to work out what is my true calling.  In the meantime, I am just creating what I feel inspired to create at the time.

What advice would you give to single mums and those wanting to beat an addiction?

Well, for single mums I would say remember that you are doing a really bloody hard job, but know that your kids will know how hard you worked and how much you love them.

Remember to always make sure that you make time for fun, don’t get so bogged down in the minutiae of life to enjoy the fact that you can create all the rules, all the adventures and all the enjoyment of life.

Learn with and from your kids, enjoy all the hugs and kisses, and be proud of yourself and the way you are raising them.

Make sure that you take care of yourself, don’t devote yourself so much to the kids that you neglect your own needs, they will benefit immeasurably from you being well, happy, and prioritising your own self care.  If you have sons, you are teaching them how to respect women, if you have daughters you are teaching them how to respect themselves, so treat yourself well, and they will reap the benefits as well as you.

For people wanting to beat addiction there is so much I could say.  If forced to summarise, I would say talk about it.  Share your fears, your worries, your doubts.  Don’t hide it. I hid my addiction for years because I was scared of the potential consequences of admitting I had a problem, but in reality I was making the potential consequences far worse. Talk to someone you trust, who will accept what you say without judgement, so that you can break the shame that keeps you tied to your addiction.   You are not a bad person because you are an addict.  Addiction is a symptom of other problems. If you can get help to deal with those issues, you can beat the addiction.  You don’t have to face this alone, there are plenty of places you can get supportive, loving, non-judgmental help.  If you are newly in recovery, take each day at a time, focus on the positives, and never forget your ‘why’ – why are you really trying to beat the addiction, how your life is going to get better as a result.  Don’t beat yourself up for the addiction, start practicing self forgiveness.  Above all, make sure that you are supported through this in whatever way works best for you – for me it was yoga, finding new friends who didn’t drink and writing, there are many other ways that you can get support.

I can help through recovery coaching, visit http://esthernagle.com and let’s talk.  You can get a free eBook with tips to help you with your recovery on the site.

 

 

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