Will TV give your kids square eyes?

There’s a moment, in practically every Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot TV series or film, where a maid discovers a dead body.

9 times out of 10 the servant in question will be tasked with delivering breakfast – on a silver tray, overflowing with Full-English goodies – to the bedroom of someone hideously wealthy (they’re usually hideous in other ways too).

The maid hums cheerfully as she climbs the stairs. She knocks smartly at the door, there’s no answer. Undeterred, she opens the door and walks in. There she discovers a scene of devastation – usually a toff murdered in some hopelessly impractical way, often involving an ancient druid dagger or cursed but priceless jewels.

It’s then that the maid must fulfill her function. There is only one thing she can do. Something she MUST do. Time and again, all maids in murder mysteries act in exactly the same way – it’s as if they’re contractually obliged.

The maid must:

  • Repeat the name of the master/mistress/annoying house guest.
  • Discover they are deceased.
  • Drop the silver tray, allowing it’s entire contents to smash dramatically onto the Axminster.
  • Clasp hands to their face and scream.
  • This scream must be in two parts, so as to allow the camera to dramatically reframe from a wide shot to a close up of the maid’s face, between exclamations.

If you imagine that scream – the two part, full-throat-ed, hands clasped to face, tonsils on display, monster – you’ll have a very near approximation of the reaction shared by siblings and I the day my parents decided to ban TV.

Around 30 years ago, my mum and dad got it into their heads that my family was consuming too much TV. As a result they decided, one memorable day, to completely ban the box.

To be fair to them, we probably did watch a little too much TV. The A-Team, Count Duckula, Knight Rider, Danger Mouse, Grange Hill and many other shows from the period were the soundtrack to much of my childhood – playing in the background as the milestones of life were passed. But was this a bad thing? I’m still not sure. I know what I thought at the time. Banning TV was like my parents had decided to ban fun, to ban laughter, to ban everything I enjoyed. Without TV I felt like my world had retreated to black and white. The colour I lapped up, the excitement, the scope, the catalysts that fired my imagination all came through the machine in the corner.

As a father, I now join many others in wondering how much TV my own son should be allowed to watch. Like my younger self, my little one would watch television all day if he we were allowed. He isn’t. But how much is too much? What type of an influence is TV upon children? Is it good or bad.

I remember his mother and I would discuss, in those oft-remembered (much missed) quiet relaxed evenings before our son was born, television’s role in our household. We’d pretty much decided that our offspring would never be sullied by exposure to the telly. Equally he’d never touch sugar, only eat organic and spend his life with well-thought through educationally relevant play.


Our level of naivety still amazes me. It’s amazing how pious prospective parents can be, before the reality of dealing with a little human actually hits. Today I’m sure that my son says ‘Teletubbies’(at least) as often as he says ‘Mummy’ and definitely more than he shouts ‘Daddy’.

Teletubbies, Hey Duggee, Peter Rabbit, Postman Pat, Postman Pat Special Delivery Service and RaaRaa: The Noisy Lion are all favourites in our household.

Are they an electronic babysitter?


Is that a bad thing? I’m not sure. But it’s a reality. You see the thing that I’ve realised is that nobody on this planet has the energy to be focused on the needs of a child, who will ask (at least) 20 questions in every 60 second time period, for 16 hours a day. Anyone who tells you that they have that ability is a liar. Don’t trust them. Don’t lend them money!

I love children’s TV. Why? Primarily because it gives me 15 minutes to recharge my batteries, before the relentlessness of life with a toddler continues.

It reminds me of boxing. Many say it’s a cruel sport, that may well be true. Yet, imagine how much crueler it would be if there weren’t breaks between the rounds, where the boxers can get themselves together and summon the energy to carry on. Kids TV is the parenting equivalent of sitting on a stool in the corner and spitting into a bucket – not a sentence I thought I’d ever write.

To be frank, I don’t feel TV did me any harm. My parents soon came to the same conclusion – rescinding their ban (I suspect to shut up our moaning). I probably watched more than would currently be recommended, but it fired my imagination. Something which has stayed with me for life. It gave me a strong shared cultural heritage with my peers – I still discuss shows I watched 30 years ago with my friends. It gave me ambition and the sense that anything was possible. In fact, I ended up working in children’s TV – but that’s another story.

One thing I’m very proud of is my son, as much as he loves to watch the telly, also loves books. He really can’t get enough of stories being read to him or studying the amazing pictures on the pages of his favourite titles.

It’s my hope, that in 40 years time, when he explains how maids’ discover bodies in murder mysteries, he’ll be telling the tale with detailed reference to the original Agatha Christie novels, not the TV adaptations.

There’s an ambition to be proud of…


For more on this, see my piece for Huff Post here.


5 (Useless) Skills I’ve Mastered Since Becoming a Parent – The Good Men Project

Pram Tetris

This is a (useless) skill that few will ever be better at. Essentially, I’m a king at shoving (yes, that’s the right word) stuff into the cavity beneath the seat in my son’s pram. I’m all about finding the right-sized gap in this under-pram game and plugging it with tins of beans, baguettes, and shampoo.

Once again, this sounds as though it might be a useful skill to have mastered. Wrong. It’s totally useless. Yes, I manage to fit an ungodly amount of stuff under the buggy due to my mastery of pram Tetris, but whatever I put under the pram never survives the game intact. Bread is bent and broken, cakes are crushed and shampoo is shot from the bottle.

via 5 (Useless) Skills I’ve Mastered Since Becoming a Parent – The Good Men Project

It’s amazing the number of totally useless skills I’ve learned since becoming a parent – take a look at the link above.


The Out Of Depth Dad

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How to eat out with a Baby

It used to be your favourite thing to do (well, one of your favourites at least) but now the mere mention of it sends shivers down your spine.

No, I’m not talking about going to see the latest Batman movie (who says I’m not topical?) – this is my Guide to Eating Out with a Baby.

Trust me, this will change your life *.

*It probably won’t.

There comes a time in every parent’s life when sitting in your nappy-scented home, for hour after hour, cleaning up sick, sterilizing bottles and watching Judge Rinder, is no longer is the fun it once was. It’s at this point that the idea of taking your child to eat in a restaurant first crosses your mind.

Yet you’re reticent, with good reason.

What will the baby do?

Will it scream?

Will it do an explosive poo?

Will it do both?

Will it stare (like a miniature psychopath) at a frail old lady – putting her off her soup?

And then there’s the other diners to think of…

Will they be friendly?

Will they glare?

Will they complain to the management because of the noise?

Will they form a mob to have you ejected?

All of this potential stress is often enough to stop parents from leaving the confines of their homes. Don’t let this happen to you!

Here’s my advice on how to Eat Out with a Baby.

1: Don’t be an arsehole

The arrival of a baby in a restaurant is never EVER EVER going to make its parents popular. We’ve all been there. You go out for a quiet meal, perhaps in the hope of it going so well that you skip dessert, and next thing you know a family who look like they’d struggle to fill out a Jeremy Kyle Show application form arrives at the next table with their screaming feral offspring. Your meal is ruined – you eat quickly and call for the bill. The family on the next table, however, are having a great time.

Don’t be that family. 

A little consideration for your fellow diners goes a long way. It’ll make your meal a lot more pleasant to know everyone else in the room isn’t hating your guts.

2: Don’t be too nice

Trying to be considerate to other diners is all very well – but don’t be crippled by it. Children make noise, it’s as simple as that. As long as you appear to be making attempts to minimize the chaos you’re doing your job. You’re not going to have a silent meal, it’s impossible. Don’t let your baby making normal baby sounds ruin your meal. You need a break too.

3: Be prepared

If you’re properly prepared then the whole ‘eating out’ experience will be infinitely easier. That said, for many new parents, leaving the house wearing two matching shoes can be a struggle, so let’s not set our sights too high here!

It’s totally possible to get through a meal with ease, by timing it to coincide with your baby’s naptime. Bring essentials like milk and their favourite toys to ease any transition periods. That said, even the most prepared person in the world might find themselves in a restaurant with a baby who suddenly refuses to play ball.

4: Lower your standards

Do you like eating out at nice restaurants? Sorry, but those days are over. From now on you’ll be dining in places that have ‘Happy’, ‘Big’ & ‘Wacky’ in their titles. The food is undeniably crap, the tables are sticky and there’s a constant whiff of vomit, but you’ll feel so much more relaxed in these places. Why? Well, for one thing, there’ll always be another kid doing exactly what you were dreading. So, if your child does melt down, it’s unlikely anyone will notice.

NB: A bit of advice, never eat from a buffet bar in one of these establishments. They are are at the perfect height for little (snotty) hands to reach and play with the food – before putting in back.

5: Go Early

Visiting a restaurant during peak times will put you in line for a whole heap of pain. Late food, loud customers, stroppy staff and over-crowded eating areas are no fun with a baby.

Perhaps consider going for your meal early or late? Dinner at 2 am is sure to leave you with the place to yourself. If this is too extreme find out when an establishment starts serving food and be there on the dot. A Sunday Roast at 1030 am may seem weird, but it’s far a more relaxed than eating it at 1 pm like everyone else.

6: Be ready with comebacks

Having a few witty retorts to use with the inevitable malcontents you’ll experience will make your trip much easier. When you find Clive and Norma moaning about the noise you’re making, glaring from behind their copies of The Mail On Sunday, be sure to respond appropriately. Loudly shouting phrases such as: “He may be still infectious, I’m not sure!” and “I’ll take him outside to change his nappy on the bonnet of that Lexus” will leave you feeling far more relaxed.

7: Other options

Perhaps, if you feel going out to eat with your baby is just too much stress, you could make a meal at home feel like you’re in a restaurant. Consider inviting some strangers into your home to glare in your direction, as you eat cold, substandard food. In many ways, with a bit of effort, eating in can be just as much ‘fun’ as eating out.


If you have any advice on Eating Out With a Baby, keep it to yourself. Nobody likes a know-it-all!

The Out Of Depth Dad



5 things every SAHD is sick of hearing!

Oh dear! The world, it would seem, isn’t quite ready for the concept of stay at home dads.

Many people I’ve met are totally shocked by the concept; holding the notion in the type of contempt usually reserved for door-to-door sales people and those who’ve decided to give up deodorant.

As a SAHD, I’m beginning to feel like a Betamax owner in a VHS world – ask your mum. To be fair, I do try to be quite ‘zen’ about the stupidity I encounter daily from members of the public. But there’s only so much idiocy one man can take…

Here’s 5 things EVERY SAHD is SICK of hearing…

1: “Are you Babysitting today?” 

Deep breath. Count to 10… Or maybe 100. Think of a pebble in a stream…

Ladies and gents, it’s not ‘Babysitting’… it’s PARENTING!!!

Why do people, when they see a man pushing a pram, assume he’s engaged in childcare at the same level of proficiency as the 16-year-old neighbour who occasionally comes round to sit in your front room (while the kids are asleep upstairs) so you can nip out for a curry with your other half?

‘Parenting’ is a demanding, committed and important activity.

‘Babysitting’ is being paid to watch ‘Take Me Out’ and eat Pringles.


For those of you who think I’m being extreme, why not think of it this way: next time you pass a building site, why not find the fore(person) – busily at work – and ask: “Are you doing a bit of DIY?” See what reaction you get.

2: “Taking the EASY option, are you?”

I’ve genuinely had people say this to me.

The presumption is that being a SAHD is the equivalent of being a minor member of the royal family or working in PR – in that it’s easy, merely a case of showing up and looking the part.

There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING, even remotely easy about looking after a child.

Childcare is nowhere near easy, it’s not even within a commutable distance of ‘easy’. Juggling chainsaws while attempting to train sheep to play the clarinet is ‘easy’ compared to parenting.

To say anything else is to show you have no idea what you’re talking about. I didn’t decide to become a SAHD in order to take it easy. I became a SAHD because it was (holistically) the best option for my family.

3: “Do you change nappies?”


What are they? (For our American cousins, ‘nappies’ are diapers.)

No, I don’t change nappies. I just let them become fuller and fuller until either

i) They explode

ii) I persuade a passing woman to do it for me.

Of course I change nappies.

How else can you look after a child without doing this simple task? I’ve changed thousands and it hasn’t turned me into a female yet.

Seriously people, how on earth has our society get this far while allowing it to be a common belief that men shouldn’t need to deal with baby poo? Men will proudly announce to me: “I had seven children, never changed a nappy in my life.” As if this is something to proud of. Pathetic. 

4: “You’re brave!*”

This is a surprisingly common (unwanted) commentary on my position. If nothing else, it shows a common misunderstanding of the notion of bravery. For me being brave is taking on a risk or discomfort that you didn’t cause or anticipate in order to put the needs of others first. The arrival of my son wasn’t a surprise to me, in fact I was very much part of his inception. Looking after my child is a VERY ordinary task – or at least it should be. So why am I considered brave? Is it because I appear happy to be involved in activities traditionally synonymous with women? Or is it that I’m willing to demonstrate in public that I’m prepared to parent my own child?

Parenting requires no bravery. There are brave parents out there, but that’s a different matter. Doing a basic duty to your offspring, no matter what your gender is, should be seen as run-of-the-mill.

I long for the day when this is the case.

5: “Oh…”

I get a lot of this. A funereal ‘Oh…’ The type of response that in other circumstances would be followed by: “I’m so sorry for your loss” or “He was never right for you.”

Essentially, people respond to my saying that I’m a SAHD with the same type of tone you’d give if on receipt of bad news. The assumption is that some kind of perfect storm of life has occurred leaving me in the utterly undesirable position of providing childcare. As a litmus test, I listened in on some female friends telling others they currently full time carers to their young children. In these cases smiles and congratulations are given.

Yet I get “Oh…” as if I’ve just announced to the neighbours I’m trading in the house cat for a tiger. People look concerned, then worried and then make excuses to get away.


So there are my 5. Some may think I’m being oversensitive. They’re entitled to their opinion.

Perhaps I am?

What I do know is that as our government pushes to make shared parental leave a ‘thing’, men won’t take up the role in any great numbers until real change to the way SAHD’s are viewed (finally) happens.

The Out Of Depth Dad

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Nobody mentions the ‘Poo Face’…

If you were so inclined, you could spend the entire 9 months between conception and birth reading book after book, each of which ‘guarantees’ to give you the authoritative and complete lowdown on the whole baby ‘experience’.

They are, I am sure, a positive thing – I’m not a fan of these manuals myself, but that’s just personal preference; I think there’s a point where preparation can teeter into obsession. That said, there’s a topic that none of these baby books devotes so much as a word to:


We all have a ‘Poo Face’.

Sorry, but it’s true; it’s the face we pull when we poo.

The thing is, before we become parents, most of us never see a ‘Poo Face’ in our day to to day lives.


In our society defecation is a solitary activity, so we don’t get to see others pulling their poo faces, and since we don’t, generally, poo in front of a mirror (if you do, you’re a bit weird) we don’t get to see our own either!

Essentially, we’re not familiar with ‘Poo Faces’ at all.

Where am I going with this?

Simply that parents are prepared for all aspects of life with their little one when it arrives, except for how to react to the ‘Poo Face’.

You’ll be eating dinner, with your extended family, making quiet conversation and agreeing that the baby does indeed look a lot like Great Uncle Arnold when suddenly, in your midst, you’ve got a gurning ‘Poo Face’ that would make Les Dawson proud.

What do you do?

What is the etiquette around the ‘Poo Face’?

Do you ignore it and carry on chatting?

Do you draw attention to it and turn the tide of conversation towards the uniformity of your child’s bowel movements?

Or do you laugh at it?

I must admit I fall into the latter category

I just can’t believe that our society, so heavy in its emphasis upon the hard work parents must endure, doesn’t say to prospective mums and dads:

“It’s all bloody hard work, but don’t worry you’ve still got the ‘Poo Faces’ to look forward to. They’re like a mini oasis of comedy dropping into the drudgery of parenting each and every day.”

OK, so some will say I’m puerile.

Perhaps I am. I do enjoy watching YouTube clips of people falling over – I’m not proud.

But I’m also proud of the laughter generated by the ‘Poo Faces’ I’ve experienced since becoming a dad!

It just surprises me that I’m the only one!

The Out Of Depth Dad

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