Comedian, TV presenter and co-author of the BLANK book Jim Daly tells about the inspirations behind his new book.
My name is Jim and I am a new parent. I am also shattered. All the time. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being a dad and everything that has come along with it; the cuddles, the bed time stories, the bags under the eyes, the dad bod. You name it, I’ve collected them all in the 18 months I’ve been a father. But it hasn’t been easy. I have learnt a lot through my journey. So much so that I have co-written a book. It’s called BLANK and this is how Dadvengers helped me learn to be a parent, and inspired my book!
The Hard Side of Being A Parent.
No-one said parenting was going to be easy. That’s the message you keep getting once you get pregnant from pretty much everyone. “Ooh it’s going to be tough”…”Just you wait”… And it’s hard not to fall into that trap once you are a parent. I’ve had to stop myself telling my brother how difficult it’s going to be with his newborn son. I’ve tried to amend my language. It’s not the time or place to be telling him that sort of thing.
Being a parent can throw up so many emotions; imposter syndrome, fear, embarrassment, feeling judged, tiredness, pain…and that’s just a normal Monday morning. I have an 18 month old daughter and she seems to be a happy person. That is really all I care about. But my wife and I are still dead on our feet come midday most days. I feel like I’ve played 90 minutes in a World Cup final by the time lunch roles around.
It’s undeniable how difficult being a parent is. Way more than I ever imagined it would be! And for me it’s meant a lot more of those “blank” moments happening. Those moments where things just go completely wrong, Those moments where you have no idea what you’re doing. Or those moments where you just want everything to stop or go away. Those happen most days being a parent.
BLANK Was Born!
Those blank moments form the basis of the BLANK podcast. I started it with my good friend Giles Paley-Phillips two and a half years ago. We are lucky enough to chat to well-known people about those difficult moments. In their professional and personal lives and it’s amazing how often parenting comes up. Isy Suttie spoke to us about trying to battle on with her kids with a serious lack of sleep.
Ellie Gibson from Scummy Mummies spoke to us about being terrified all. the. time. Dawn French spoke to us about trying to converse with her daughter through the night monitor… and her daughter thinking she was talking to the wall. Genuinely, true story.
All these celebrities have the same worries and concerns we do about parenting. It is strangely comforting knowing that you aren’t the only person tearing your hair out as a parent. In those moments when your little one won’t wash their hands. Or let you dress them. And when they won’t stop drawing all over the floor with crayons. That despite being “easy clean” are still ridiculously difficult to get off surfaces.
There’s something about human nature where we need confirmation from other people that we’re doing ok. I think that’s especially true in parenting. Which in itself can lead to a lot feelings of judgement and inadequacy. Something that really helped me a few months after the birth of my daughter was finding Dadvengers. As soon as my wife Miranda said “that guy you like from CBeebies has started a dad group on Instagram”. I was in! I dipped my toe into the Dad Chats and it’s been brilliant. Nigel invited me to go live the first time I was there. Obviously being a comedian I was secretly hoping I would be asked as I love being centre of attention!
I actually told myself I probably would avoid parenting groups when I became a dad; I’d stick to my close couple of mates who were dads. I think I assumed they’d all either be really cringeworthy, really laddy, really judgey or just a bit lame. But Dadvengers manages to somehow avoid all that. While offering genuine people the chance to share their stories and help each other. I’m not quite sure how Nigel has done it, but he has.
But it was really clear from early on that Nigel was creating something special. From the way he interacted with guests on the live chats, giving them a safe space to share their stories. The other dads in the chats were interacting and supporting each other, and more mums joined the gang. Everything about it felt… right. Like, this is how parenting is supposed to be? We’re supposed to be there for each other. Offer reassuring help when things going badly, offer advice on how we navigated through late nights, dirty nappies, child illnesses; never pressurising anyone, only offering help and support.
Blank Book and Dadvengers Helped Keep Me Sane!
This network has meant every hard day. Every blank moment. I’ve been able to dip into the Dadvengers community for support. I shared the story of when I let Maria (my daughter) roll off the changing table and face-plant the floor. That was met with loads of replies of “oh yeah I’ve done that and worse!”. Then there was the support received when I confessed how annoying I found Bing! Never judged. Just honest advice. It’s been, I’m a bit embarrassed to say, refreshing approach to parenting advice that I wasn’t sure existed.
Each time my daughter Maria had a sleep regression – which caused some serious “blank” moments for my wife and I! I reached out, and there were always some reassuring messages – and coffee emojis – in the Dadvengers WhatsApp group. There have been so many important moments shared on the Live Chats and in the WhatsApp group. Parents bravely sharing moments when things really went badly wrong. Whether that was relationships breaking down or having to rush their kid to hospital. All of it has added healthy levels of perspective for me. Not to mention some of the important topics that Nigel has covered in the Friday night Instagram Live chats; from mental health to Black Lives Matter, the chats and this community go far beyond just advice for changing nappies.
The Blank Book and Dadvengers Helped Me Grow.
Dadvengers made me try to be as helpful as possible to other people in my life who have kids; to try and listen and support. Whether that is actually offering advice if they want it. Or just being there for when those “blank” parenting moments arise. Which they continue to do most days by the way)!
We’ve now turned our podcast into a book: ‘Blank; Why it’s fine to falter and fail, and how to pick yourself up again‘. In the book we explore the themes that come up on the podcast each week. With the help of our celebrity guests we delve into what the BLANK moments mean to us. And what we’ve learned from the podcast. The parenting has input from Michael Rosen, Doc Brown, Rufus Hound and some very honest moments from Giles and me.
The book is part anecdotal, part explorative, part self-help. I really hope everyone that buys a copy finds it both entertaining and useful. Hopefully it will make us all realise we are doing great and we’re all more alike than we ever realise. And you lovely lot, I hope you enjoy the blank book and how Dadvengers helped it become a thing!
Some of The Best Parenting Advice I’ve Had.
I still think about what Ellie Gibson from Scummy Mummies Podcast told us way back in the summer of 2019. Remember those days? When we were actually able to go to people’s homes to chat? In person!!
Ellie said: “I think terrified is the best way to be,” she said. “The people I’ve seen come a cropper are the ones who think they know exactly what it’s going to be like and it’s all going to be lovely and jolly. It’s not Look Who’s Talking is it, your baby won’t sound like Bruce Willis, sorry.”
I’m constantly terrified. But knowing pretty much everyone else is too helps! Having communities like the Dadvengers lot to reach out to when needed is making the journey much easier.
Still shattered, though!