‘One of the biggest joys of blogging is that you don’t have to confine yourself to a specific niche,’ says Tim Liew, the blogger behind Slouching Towards Thatcham. Having written about sport and covered TV for the Metro, Tim is a master of many niches. What he’s focusing on at the moment? Keeping a complete record of his time as a father of three children.
How did you originally get started with writing about parenting?
I’d been writing a sports blog for a year, so starting another one to record my experiences as a first-time dad seemed like a natural progression. I drafted half a dozen posts but didn’t publish anything until nearly a year after Isaac was born. Oops.
Anyhow, 12 years later I’m still going and have an almost complete record of my time as a father of one, two and now three kids. I still kick myself for those missing ten months, though.
What’s your favourite thing to post about and why?
Anything and everything, as long as it’s something I’m passionate about. One of the biggest joys of blogging is that you don’t have to confine yourself to a specific niche. Over the years, I’ve written about much more than fatherhood. I’ve published and performed parody songs, and written about topics as diverse as politics, social media and TV (I wrote TV reviews for the Metro for three years).
I’m starting to dabble more in current affairs now. Not because I have anything unique to say – quite the opposite, in fact. I write from the standpoint of an ordinary dad, wondering how to make sense of the world for his children. Ever since I became a dad, my world-view has been skewed by thoughts of how what we do today will impact our children tomorrow.
How have you had to change your approach to blogging, or your content, during the COVID-19 crisis?
It’s been quite an organic change, in truth. Obviously, there have been fewer opportunities to write about things we’d normally be doing outside of the house. Instead, I’ve been writing a series of ‘Life Under Lockdown’ diary-style posts. This has been such a unique period in all our lives that I wanted to capture what it’s been like to live through it. How it’s felt to self-isolate. Our thoughts and fears. The adjustments we’ve had to make and the unexpected upsides.
History will record the major events of the pandemic for posterity; I wanted to capture our day-to-day reality. I hope that one day we will be able to re-read these posts and remember the minutiae of these times.
How will lockdown have changed the way those co-parenting view their family duties and how they share responsibilities? Will we see more men embracing being stay at home dads?
Maybe. Maybe not. If nothing else, the past three months have shown working dads like me that it’s possible to do things in a different way.
For me, lockdown has meant working at home in a house with five people all competing for the wifi. That has been … challenging. It has been harder on my wife, who works in the dining room while I’m closeted away in the study on video calls most of the day. Consequently, she’s the first person the kids turn to when they’re bored or need help with something.
It’s left me with this strange feeling of ‘working parent guilt’. My work day is essentially unchanged, just in a different location. But I also have a lot more opportunity to interact with my kids during the day. I didn’t have that before, and while I do what I can to help out, I know it’s neither enough nor as much as I’d like to. It gnaws at me.
What is definitely different is that I have more time with the kids outside of working hours, which has been wonderful. We eat dinner together on weeknights, which never used to happen. Now that lockdown has eased, they often join me on walks where we can share what we’ve been up to or what we have planned.
I feel like I’m a bigger part of their day by virtue of being at home more. And while I have no desire to swap being a working dad for being a stay-at-home dad, the last three months have cemented my desire to be more of a work-at-home dad, even after things have returned to normal.
How would you recommend parents currently struggling with working from home with their family duties deal with the difficulties?
Be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack. You can’t do everything and in this time of enormous change it’s okay to feel overwhelmed and a bit down from time to time.
What has worked for us as a family is an open acceptance that it’s okay to not be okay occasionally. We’ve all had our tired and grumpy days at some point; we’re only human. What we’ve reinforced with our kids is that we’re all in this together, as a family. So everyone has to play their role, whether it’s helping out with household chores or just biting their lip when someone’s having a bad day.
Best no-fuss stress-free family meal for busy times?
On a good day: a barbecue outside in the sun. Otherwise, we’ve made a virtue out of ‘leftover days’ where everyone chips in to prepare a big family fried rice.
How do you collaborate with brands and which kind of brands do you really like working with?
I’ve scaled back on brand work a lot over the past few years so I can afford to be selective. I work best with brands either I or the kids are genuinely passionate about. And the best brands to work with are the ones who are receptive to feedback and ideas rather than insisting that you stay ‘on brief’. Trust that an influencer knows their audience. Don’t stifle their creativity.
For PRs looking to work with you and your blog/website, how would you prefer they approach you and with what kind of content?
It’s simple; I don’t ask for much. Be respectful of my time and value, and do at least a modicum of homework. I don’t expect you to have committed my children’s life history to memory. But my youngest child is eight – it says so on my ‘about’ page – so don’t approach me with baby products. It’s just common courtesy, really.
What other blogs do you check out regularly (whether parenting-related or not)?
I read an eclectic mix of blogs covering everything from social media and business topics to sports and TV.
But in the parenting sphere, I’m drawn towards blogs with stories about experiences that are completely different to my own. So, a few in no particular order: Dad Blog UK (John is a former journalist and PR turned stay-at-home dad), Our Transitional Life (about Kelly, her transgender wife Zoey and their two kids), Daddy & Dad (two dads, two boys) and LesBeMums (two mums, one boy). I love the way each of these opens a window into a life that, ostensibly, is completely different to mine – and yet in many ways oh so familiar. In a world where we are too often encouraged to stay to the mainstream and fear ‘the other’, these are stories that matter.