Father's Day Special featuring tales from lockdown

And a chat with Tom Cox of Unlikely Dad

The past 13 weeks of lockdown have been somewhat of a mixed bag in our house. We’ve had good days filled with joy, followed by completely non-descript days and then those that were just plain horrible. On the second week of isolation, we had what I’ll call The Day of Complete Chaos.

My husband had a really important work call and I was also a little stressed, trying to meet a deadline while also entertaining my near two-year old son. I took my eyes off of him for roughly 30 seconds and BHAM! My son decided this was a great time to lock himself in the downstairs loo. With the light turned off, no less.

So, you can picture the scene: my husband is on Very Important Phone Call in the living room, my son is in the loo in floods of tears shouting ‘mama’ at the top of his voice, and I am freaking the f@£k out, panic shrieking at husband while trying to calm down aforementioned hysterical toddler through a door.

My husband, steaming at the ears and unable to do his usual over-reacting routine, muted the video call and turned off his laptop camera before running quickly down to the shed at the bottom of the garden. He returned with a drill (still muted on the call I should add) and swiftly took the door from its hinges. And, oh yes, there was our angelic-looking son. Sat on the floor, busy emptying my brand new bottle of Neal’s Yard hand wash, wrapped extravagantly in toilet roll – like some kind of over excited bride on a hen weekend.

And that was just week two.

For those of you with small children, I’m sure you have many similar stories to tell. Who hasn’t had a small person hijack a Zoom meeting by shouting for Peppa Pig at the top of their voice, or had a full cup of coffee spilt on them as they try to finish a deadline? There’s also been the re-evaluation of domestic life and the decision between couples of whose job is indeed more important than the others. You’re still arguing about that aren’t you? Yes, us too.

And, while this period of lockdown has been scary and devastating for many families who have lost livelihoods and loved ones, hopefully amidst the worry and sadness, there will be some funny memories too. Stories that we’ll continue to tell 40 years down the line when the mundanity and exhaustion is long forgotten, and lockdown is simply a topic resigned to history rather than a global nightmare that warrants a daily BBC update.

Got a funny lockdown tale to share? Leave a comment at the end. I could do with a laugh.


THE INTERVIEW: TOM COX FROM UNLIKELY DAD

As it was Father’s Day yesterday, I thought it might be nice to invite a dad into The Freelance Parent hot seat, and who better than the very lovely Tom Cox, creator of Unlikely Dad?  Tom and his husband Daniel adopted their son Kai in 2015 after a massive emotional journey, and Tom found social media a great place to find a community and support as a new dad. The downside was that it wasn’t that well represented by gay or adoptive parents. So, to fill the void, he created Unlikely Dad – an inclusive parenting blog that gives a glimpse into Tom’s everyday life. We had a quick chat earlier in the week to talk about everything from the challenges of lockdown, to how he’s turned his blog into a successful business alongside a full-time job.

First of all, how are you and how has lockdown been for you and your family?

“Hiya! I am finally feeling a little more relaxed and human. Lockdown wasn’t great for us. I think there were many reasons why. One being that we’re a family who clearly needs routine - we’re always out and about and live busy, full lives, I guess. It’s what we like. So to be told we had to stay at home without school or being able to see our family and friends, I knew it was going to be hard. Luckily, we had the amazing weather so we spent so much time in the garden and in the woods. But Kai is back at school now and our energy and stress levels have balanced out a little”.

How did you and your husband manage the childcare/work juggle?

“My husband works in a school and it shut completely so he was home thank God. My job only got busier so I was on a lot of calls during the day. I like to move around from sofa to sofa when I work from home, so it was easy to avoid the noise of the boys when I had meetings. My energy was also focused on Kai, making sure he was happy and trying the odd bit of home-schooling. It was hard. Kai just isn’t a kid to sit and craft for hours, you know?”

Has it made you think differently about anything and what might you change as we slowly go back to normality?

“I loved my life before all of this so I am keen to get back to some sort of normality. But it’s been lovely to not have to rush out of the door all of the time. Even now Kai is back at school, I am still working from home for the foreseeable which makes for a much smoother morning. Being home for meal times is also lovely. Usually I’d be on the commute when Kai is having his dinner, so it feels really nice. We’re keen to see everyone of course when we can, but I am enjoying not having any major plans too. I’d say I’ve chilled out a bit”.

You launched Unlikely Dad in 2016 as a side hustle to your full-time job. How did you make this work and how long did it take to build it to what it is now?

“I have NO idea how I make it work but I am definitely someone that loves to be busy. Unlikely Dad was initially an evening thing. I worked so hard at writing and networking and it all just grew from there. My Instagram following also grew and grew, and I have had the absolute pleasure of working with some huge brands along the way. I still pinch myself when I get a job offer. It has brought us so much as a family and given us so many experiences. But it hasn’t come for free and I think a lot of people that don’t get how it works would think that. Being an ‘influencer’ isn’t easy. There’s negotiating contracts, working with agencies, planning content, shooting it, editing videos, writing, invoicing, finances… but I LOVE it. It’s mine. My own little business and I feel so proud to be able to provide for my boys in a way that I love”.

What advice would you give someone who wants to start building a business on the side of their full-time job?

“Just be prepared to put in the work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t really get any easier as it grows. You just get better and more experienced at handling it”.

How do you keep your motivation? Has it been harder during lockdown?

“Oddly more work has been coming in. I could have a week or two without a collaboration and then I have three lined up for one week. I am very aware of my audience, we’re like friends, so I don’t want to bombard them. But I really do try and go to extra lengths to make my sponsored content engaging and fun. I’ve also had so much time at home to plan and shoot content”.

What mistakes have you made along the way?

“I have been really cautious when it comes to working with brands. I always check their credentials and make sure they have been supportive and inclusive of the LGBT community. But once I worked with M&S on a campaign that involved a big film shoot and a couple of Instagram posts and it got a lot of heat for the amount of plastic involved. That was an oversight on my part but I learnt from it. After that, I did a job with Costa Coffee and I made sure they have a good CSR scheme for the use of their takeaway cups and I was armed and ready with the relevant information if I was asked about it online”.

What do you have planned over the next few months for Unlikely Dad?

“There’s lots of fun things coming up and I have work booked for the next few months. I even have a couple of jobs ready for when the new kitchen is finished (it should be done by the end of July). Then hopefully I will get a couple of weeks off in the summer with the boys where I will plan no sponsored content. I like having down time and keeping things organic and quiet if I don’t have anything to say. So yes, lots on the horizon, as always… watch this space”.

What does being a parent mean to you?

“Being a parent means feeling a love that you never thought was possible. It’s a massive cliche. But it cant be explained, it's to be experienced”.

You can follow Tom on Instagram and check out the Unlikely Dad blog here.


Other freelancing and parenting news this week…

Jenny Stallard wrote a great piece for The Telegraph this week on how diversifying is key to surviving the pandemic as a freelancer, while the brilliant Anna Codrea-Rado of The Professional Freelancer has created an anonymous Freelancer Pay Gap form for journalists and writers. Enter your rates here to help make freelancing day rates more transparent and see how you fare against others in your sector. Finally, the baby loss counselling charity Petals has launched a new private Facebook group for men only, to offer them a place to chat with other people who have lost a child.

There’s also been some inspiring news from Peppa Pig’s pal, Miss Rabbit on how she’s had to adapt during lockdown. Apparently she’s making 5k a month after being furloughed from all of her regular jobs. You go girl.

Read the story here.

If you enjoyed this newsletter and found it helpful, please feel free to forward it or share on social media. You can also buy me a virtual coffee using this KoFi link. Thanks again, my founding subscribers, for all of your support so far.

Until next time…

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