Created by father of two boys and one girl, Tim Liew, Slouching Towards Thatcham is a light-hearted and informative blog which documents Tim’s experiences being a father. Set out like a diary, the blog features the best bits of parenthood including family trips, time at home, and general musings along the way. In this spotlight, Tim, who appears on our top ten daddy blogger ranking chats to us about what prompted him to start blogging, how he connects with his readers and how he balances fatherhood with his blogging career.
Tell us about your blog? Slouching towards Thatcham has been going in various guises since 2008. It started as an online journal to record my thoughts on the world at large but it has evolved into a blog focussing on fatherhood and family, with a dollop of nostalgia and the occasional musical parody thrown into the mix.
What prompted you to document your life as a father in a blog? So much of the early years of parenthood focusses on the big ‘firsts’: first word, first step, first day at school and so on. I also wanted to document all the little moments and observations that otherwise get lost in the mists of time. Bearing in mind this was back in 2008, it didn’t really occur to me at the time that parent blogging or dad blogging could become a ‘thing’. Now it definitely is!
How do you help your readers in their journey as a parent? I try to keep things authentic. I know, I know, that’s such a cliché. For me, that means striking a balance between sharing advice and my experiences with other parents while also being willing to poke fun at my own shortcomings. Hopefully, my readers can associate with both of those.
What is a typical day in the life of you as a dad? I’m not sure there is any such thing as a typical day!
Weekends are very much family time. We do stuff together but we also try to schedule things so that each of our three kids gets a little one-to-one attention too.
Weekdays are more compressed. I typically only see the kids briefly in the morning and then for maybe an hour in the evening but you never know what surprise is waiting around the corner. This week it was our nine-year-old son coming home from school with a long list of questions about how babies are made and what an erection is. That wasn’t quite what I was expecting at 7pm on a Wednesday …
How do you manage your blogging career and being a father? By not sleeping, mostly! In truth, it is a real challenge to keep being a blogger and being a dad separated. By my own admission, I am a social media and blogging junkie. There’s always Facebook updates to read, Twitter to check, a cute photo to take for Instagram, a funny incident to turn into a blog post.
I know it sounds terrible but I have to keep reminding myself to put my phone down and pay attention to the small matter of actually being an active member of the family rather than just writing about it. Blogging and social media is fun but family is life.
How has fatherhood changed you? What did you learn about yourself after becoming a parent? One of my biggest fears, when we were expecting for the first time, was the uncertainty. Would I remember all the things I was supposed to do? What if I couldn’t cope with screaming babies and sleepless nights? Would I actually be a good dad?
All I can say is that being a dad is almost exactly totally different from what I expected. Again, a bit of cliché, but having children has genuinely unlocked aspects of me that I didn’t previously know even existed. I had always been uncomfortable around babies in the past – I didn’t really know what to do with them – but I’ve been quite a hands-on dad from the beginning and loved all of it (okay, most of it). I’m shy and easily embarrassed so I never thought I’d be the sort of dad who would happily dance with his daughter in public, but I have.
I don’t think I ever really thought about how much becoming a parent would change me as a person but looking back 9½ years to who I was pre-kids, I’m not sure I would recognise that person anymore.
How do you like to work with PRs? And how can they improve their blogger outreach? I’m very selective about who I work with due to limitations of time and a desire to focus more on writing about my family more than products or events. So the kind of PRs I like to work with are ones who make it personal and who make it easy to work with them.
Addressing me by name and taking the time to mention posts I have written or my kids’ names is a good start. And I always appreciate it when a PR goes to the effort of putting together an attractive package (it’s not all about the money!) and generally provides a smooth experience. The really good ones make it feel less like a transaction and more like the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship.
What are the main challenges that fathers face? Mums have had it hard for decades – and in many cases still do – but to a certain extent, the shoe’s on the other foot now. Antiquated jokes about fathers being ‘babysitters’. Advertising campaigns that paint dads as useless buffoons who make Homer Simpson look like Father of the Year. Cue sense of humour failure.
No one’s asking for dads to be singled out for special recognition or to be given a medal for changing a nappy. But society still has some way to go before a dad’s changing role in a modern family is recognised. How many workplaces still treat mums and dads differently when it comes to flexible working arrangements or leaving the office early to attend a child’s nativity play? All most dads really want is to be seen as ‘parents’ – no more, no less.
What advice would you give to a new dad or dad-to-be? Read all the books. Attend all the classes. Then set all that learning to one side and don’t get hung up on it. If your child doesn’t hit the right milestones at the prescribed times, so what? Growing up is not a tick-list. Your baby will do things when they are ready, not just because Gina Ford has decreed that they should. (Have you ever seen a baby reading a parenting manual? Exactly.)
Similarly, find your own way to be a good dad. There is no one right way. If what you’re doing works 90% of the time and you’re comfortable with it, you’re doing a good job, regardless of what the manuals say. (Maybe don’t take your three-month-old bungee-jumping, though.)
What’s your secret tool; what is it that helps you to cope when the going gets tough? Music. I listen to relax or calm down when I’m feeling stressed or have a problem I want to mull over in my subconscious. I also write parodies. I try to do one a month, which I record and publish on the blog, even though I can’t actually sing. I love the challenge of stretching my writing skills in a different direction, although there’s no chance of me replacing James Corden on Carpool Karaoke anytime soon.