Dad has a job and is the main earner for the family. Dad’s industry becomes ever more competitive and he has to make a greater effort to earn the same amount of money, while also balancing this with fatherhood. After a while, it becomes a bit much. What does he do?
This is the situation that award-winning journalist Stuart Hood found himself in. Stuart is the last of the dads to feature in my series of fathers who left the workplace because they couldn’t balance work and family life. His story is, however, atypical.
Why so? Well, Stuart has been a freelance journalist for a number of years so was already working for himself. As a dad, he finds himself unable to work until 2am meeting deadlines as he once did. Wanting to concentrate more on family life, his doctor wife has taken on the role of main earner and Stuart is transitioning from journalist to online content creator, primarily on his website Father-Hood.co.uk.
As a former journalist myself, I know for a fact this is no small move. Stuart was an Agony Uncle at the News of the World for several years and also wrote for The Telegraph, Men’s health, FHM and won the New Journalist of the Year Award in 2006. It’s quite a legacy to kiss goodbye.
As Stuart admits, this is more of a sideways move, but his reasons for doing so are very familiar. Stuart simply wants to be around more for his family. Here’s what he had to say.
First things first Stuart, please tell us about your family background
I’m a 38-year-old Scot who lives just outside of London with my wife and our two-year-old son, known as The Bubster. My wife is a doctor and I am a freelance journalist. We used to earn around the same amount, but, due to the downturn in the media industry, since the end of her maternity leave, my wife has become the main worker and I have taken on more of the childcare.
You’ve hinted at this already, but can you explain what it is you do for a living now?
I am about to quit life as a freelance journalist to work on my parenting brand Father-Hood full-time. Essentially, this involves me producing content for the website, YouTube channel and various social media feeds on a daily basis.
Can you expand on that? What sort of content are you producing on Father-Hood’s online channels?
The website’s strap line is ‘advice and entertainment’ for parents, so the majority of articles published either revolve around helping parents or making them laugh. I began the site, because I felt there was a gap in the market for a well-written parenting lifestyle website.
On top of this, I also run the brand’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) and have a YouTube series called Father-Hood & The Bubster Live From The Nursery Run. In the future, my aim is to make most of my revenue through on-site advertising, but I will also be branching out into sponsored content, eBooks, affiliate marketing, channel takeovers and so on.
What were you doing beforehand and what has persuaded you to change direction so radically?
From an editorial perspective, magazines and newspapers have been slashing their budgets for a long time. I have been able to ride the wave pretty well over the last few years, but since my son was born I have not been able to work the long hours that are required to make a decent living in this field.
My earnings have reduced and, aside from re-training in a different field, this left me with two options. I could try and get a full-time job or I could put all my efforts into attempting to monetise the parenting brand I have been toying around with for a couple of years. Due to the salaries currently on offer in the media, and the hours companies expect you to work I have no interest in going back to a full-time role, so I chose the parenting brand.
How does working for your own company give you the flexibility you need to balance work and family life?
My big issue with working for other people was that I had to march to the beat of their drum (or more accurately, deadlines). Add in the fact that work often came at short notice, and this meant it was hard for me to create a weekly routine. This resulted in my wife and I having issues around childcare and general planning. Focusing on my own business allows me to set the deadlines, meaning that we can sort out our week before it begins.
Do you know other fathers who are in your position (IE can’t balance work and family life so thinking of starting their own businesses)?
I know a few dad bloggers, but I don’t know anyone personally. In my local area/friendship group, there still seems to a theme of dads going out and earning the money and mums reducing their hours to look after the children. Hopefully this will evolve at some point.
In your opinion, is this method of working going to become more common as men try to share more equally parenting responsibilities with their kids’ mothers?
I hope so, but I think it will depend on the industry. For example, I think dads in struggling industries like mine (media) will be thinking about equal parenting more and more. Whereas dads who work in buoyant industries will just be focusing on making the money they need to make in order to live the family life they want to live.
Don’t you think, however, that the media and PR industries offer greater flexibility than, say, construction or retail where you have to be on site?
Absolutely. The media industry is very flexible in terms of hours and location. It sounds like a dream, and in some ways it is, but when you have a kid sometimes this lack of structure can be a nightmare, as your work can just slide and slide and slide.
Think back to when you were an employee. Would you have remained in he workforce if you thought you could have better balanced work and family life?
I haven’t been an employee for eight years, but I would be more likely consider going back if there was a possibility of balancing the role with my family life.
Let’s finish with something I know you wanted to talk about: Competition from colleagues. Here’s your chance. What’s on your mind?
I think one important thing to mention is competition. There is a lot of talk about mothers being unable to compete with younger colleagues, but I think it’s the same for dads. I mean, how are you supposed to perform to the peak of your ability when you have slept five hours less and got up three hours earlier than the person sitting next to you (who also happens to be 10 years younger and single).
When I was 25 and living in a shared flat, I could write until 2am to get a deadline done. Now, I need to help with dinner, bath time, wake-ups etc, so I simply don’t have the time or energy to do that. This, and the fact media companies are slashing word rates, makes my old job completely incompatible with family life (and perhaps explains why a lot of older freelancers are either single or divorced).
Putting this series to bed
On that note, I am putting this series to bed. I related to a great deal of what Stuart said. This is because of my background as a journalist. Unlike Stuart, however, I accidentally started a freelance career as a blogger and content career when I launched Dadbloguk.com whereas Stuart had a plan!
I may revive this series at some point. For now I’m taking a break.
I’d like to thank all of the guys who have volunteered their time and provided material over recent months. I was inspired to start this series after making a few inquiries and finding there were a huge number of dads out there who, like a lot of mums, couldn’t balance work and family life so set up their own businesses.
There were many humorous stories but also many involving stress-related illness, marital break-ups, burn out and so on. If you haven’t explored the stories, please do read Dan’s story where he promotes supportive, positive fatherhood alongside making a living or Martin’s tale, a man who recently set up his own PR agency, or about Tom and how he supports a family of five and here’s Mark’s tale, a man who decided to start his own business before having kids to ensure he could be around for them while Mike’s was the first I published. Please do also click on the links below to explore the others.