Getting The Bookbug

I find we live in a world where it is all too easy to criticise.

Negativity shines through significantly more than its shinier opposite. Particularly on social media, but it’s gone way beyond even those borders now.

For my sins, I’m an optimist. And so I come to praise today.

Our son turned four months old this week. When he hit the three month mark, he was given a Bookbug pack by our Health Visitor.

For those who aren’t aware of Bookbug, it’s a Scottish Book Trust initiative designed to introduce children to the fun of stories, rhymes and song. By providing every child with the Bookbug bag, and through their free Bookbug sessions at libraries, children of all ages and backgrounds can take advantage of the benefits of the written, read and sung word.

Bookbug Bag.jpg

I’m a big advocate of that message. I grew up surrounded by books, a trend that continues to this day. I was one of those kids who used to get told off for reading at the table (no phones to play with then!), even if it was just reading the back of the cereal packet. As long as I was reading something, I was happy.

Which is why I’m so impressed with Bookbug. I’d heard of it, and knew what it was about. But seeing Zoe and Jacob reading the supplied books together, and singing along to the CD of rhymes provided, has been nothing short of magical.

They’ve only been along to a couple of Bookbug sessions so far at Fountainbridge Library, and in both cases, it’s been mobbed. Lines of prams near the library reception desk, all vying for a parking space so they can settle down and enjoy a sing-along.

It gives Zoe something new to go to as she explores what her new routine might be. Meanwhile Jacob meets other children and adults in a different environment, building his social awareness.

Sure he’s too young to be able to sing along. But it’s already clear that he loves music, based on that first sessions and his reaction when we have it on in the flat. He even puts up with my singing.

It’s a hugely valuable part of his development, and I have no doubts whatsover that he will benefit from it in the long run.

Programmes like the Scottish Government’s Baby Box initiative have met with criticism from some. In this era it’s hard not to think that it’s more politically motivated, than because they really have an issue with what the programme is trying to do. I have no idea whether Bookbug has met the same kind of criticism (although being from the Scottish Book Trust rather than being a Scottish Govt announced scheme, I’m presuming not), but I think praise and encouragement is required in both cases.

Each gives babies and young children access to the basic resources everyone should have at that age, no matter who they are or where they come from. It promotes a level of equality in an age where the gaps in society seem to be getting larger, not smaller. And that should not only be applauded loudly, but replicated wherever possible.

So I say all praise the Bookbug, and everything it sets out to do. I’m delighted you are in my son’s life, and the lives of children across Scotland, and hope you continue to go from strength to strength.

If you’d like to find out more about Bookbug, please visit

Happy reading/singing everyone!

Self-employment and Fatherhood - the perfect combination or oil and water?

A few days after my last blog, life changed.

On the 19th February, five minutes before the clock changed the date, our son Jacob decided to join us 12 days early. Many had told us that he would likely be on time or a bit late being a first baby. Jacob clearly had other plans.

So first off, I have a good excuse for not putting any new content out recently. My note from the teacher comes in the form of a small person who needs me way more than anyone ever has done.

But the main reason for writing this is to share my short experience of the continuous juggling of being a parent and being self-employed. I’ve written before about the benefits and challenges of working at home. The last nine weeks have shown that I knew nothing yet…

Making It Work

There are plenty of pros and cons to being self-employed and having a young baby. On the plus side, you’re home a lot more. You can manage more of your time to make sure you are there to change nappies, do feeds at all hours, and allow your other half the chance to do the basics like having a shower without it becoming a logistical pain in the ass.

You can work into the evening to give you time to be with your child and partner during the day. The later efforts are fuelled by more regular visits to coffee shops (always a good thing in my book!), sometimes to get your fix, others to get you all out for some fresh air. You can nip out to the shops to pick up things you suddenly realise that you need. Or don’t need but are willing to try just to see if it stops the crying. And you can truly be part of the whole process by being available for the important appointments with the likes of the doctor or the health visitor.

A regular working view for me these days. As one sleeps, another types…

A regular working view for me these days. As one sleeps, another types…

I’ve also discovered the value in doing things in the early hours, before the world has risen and the sky has any light in it. I’ve caught up on podcasts, articles I’ve been meaning to read, and cleared a fair bit of my Netflix queue as my son uses me as a human pillow in the dark. I’ve even come up and started developing some new work ideas in the wee hours.

Most important of all, you don’t feel like you are missing the golden moments of your child growing up. And there’s no price that can be put on that.

The New Pressures

But then there’s the flipside. For a start, you don’t get any paternity. The longer you are off, the less money you are earning to support your family. I had to cancel meetings and training sessions with Jacob arriving early, and thankfully we managed to get them rearranged. But if that hadn’t been possible, it was going to hit my wallet pretty hard for my monthly earnings. Being your own boss already comes with insecurities and imposter syndrome. Yet becoming a parents steps that up a gear. There’s a new reliance on my success.

And yes, being at home means we can spend quality time together. But it also means I have to step up the discipline to make sure I’m not going through to hang out with Jacob all the time. Which is far from easy, I can assure you.

Lastly there’s creativity. It doesn’t always flow when you’ve had an hour and a half worth of sleep. You need to force yourself to focus, and at times just getting the basics done feels like an achievement. The first four weeks were really tough on that front. I’m not sure if I’m now more hardy to the lack of recharging, or if I’m just getting better at resting at other points throughout the day, but things are definitely on the up there.

As I sit here, having just finished my third coffee of the day, it hits me how hard it’s been to reintroduce myself back into the working world since Jacob joined us. Making time to bond with my son, support my wife, keep my business going, get things done around the flat, plus everything else that needs done, has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve had. And likely will continue to have.

I wouldn’t change for the world.