Earlier today, I got sucked in by a bit of clickbait. The article revolved around Liam Payne and Cheryl Cole’s new baby. It featured a lot of pictures, a big bundle of fluff and one minor bit of news. Namely: that the celebrity couple have called their first child Bear. Yes, Bear. Like Grylls, and, as the article was quick to point out, Paddington. This made me think about baby names, which got me thinking about the million or so lists of trending/extinct/cute/popular/unisex/controversial/British/eastern/celebrity/up-and-coming baby names that I’ve waded through in the last two years. This convinced me that there was a market in pushing out this kind of tripe, and this almost made me dedicate this week’s list to ‘The 19 Most Unusual Afro-Caribbean Baby Names That Are Due to Make a Comeback in Middle England in 2017’.
Then I realised that I know nothing about baby names and, more importantly, that you deserve better. Thus I swiftly made the right side of my brain redundant and moved onto a new list. Which was… ‘7 rounds of Parenting Would You Rather?’ I got quite into this, to be honest. Then, as I was about to hit publish, it dawned on me that it was essentially just an article that repeatedly asked you if you’d prefer to deal with a nappy blowout or be vomited on. Thus I quickly terminated that mess and moved onto my third, and final, list of the week. Intrigue, advice, humour, honesty, stating of the obvious… you name it, this list has it. So, ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats, assume your concentration face and slice your way through my list of 11 websites that make parenting easier.
1. NHS Choices
I’m not a doctor. And I’m not great at keeping calm in a crisis. So when my son develops a runny nose, sicks up a bit of his dinner or breaks out in spots I need a website to tell me that there is nothing to worry about and everything is going to be just fine. Google Images DOES NOT do this. But the brilliant, thorough and extremely easy to understand, NHS Choices does.
Whoever first said, “the journey is the reward” clearly didn’t have kids. As we all know, car journeys are a living, breathing, tantrum-provoking, argument-inducing, oh-crap-he-just-threw-a-tennis-ball-out-of-the-window nightmare. This site cannot change that. But it does make the final section of your drive a lot less painful by providing an in-depth overview of the on and off-street parking that’s situated near your destination.
“Next up, Father-Hood tells parents to look out for Pampers nappies.” Ouch, kitty bites. I know you’ve heard of this site. And I know you’ve probably been there, done that and got the T-shirt delivered in a ridiculously oversized box. But it’s made my list, because Prime’s next-day delivery feature continues to save my disorganised parental neck on a weekly basis. Amazon Music Unlimited continues to be the best way of entertaining my son during breakfast, lunch and dinner. And Prime Photos offers unlimited – yes, that does say unlimited – photo storage, so you never need to fret about losing that out of focus shot of your baby’s shoulder blade ever again. In other words, stop procrastinating. Upgrade to Prime and prepare to reap the benefits.
Newsflash: Barbies aren’t just for girls. Yorkies aren’t just for boys. And Mumsnet isn’t just a platform where opinionated mummies can have a go at each other for getting Prudence hooked on rosehip tea before the age of three. Okay, okay, so there is still a bit of that. But there’s also some great writing, loads of awesome advice and more soft play reviews than you can shake an Ella’s fruit pouch at.
Yes, it’s annoying that you have to pay a fee in order to access the majority of this site’s product tests. But it’s nowhere near as annoying as your dishwasher packing up when you’ve got the daily load to do or the washing machine springing a leak when the laundry basket is overflowing (genuine question: does anyone have any idea how one small child can produce so many dirty dishes and clothes in 24 hours?). Conclusion? Stump up for membership, read the mind-bogglingly lengthy reviews and add the ‘Best Buy’ with the cheapest price tag to your shopping list.
Buy, buy, buy. Sell, sell, sell. No, I’m not talking about the life and times of a city trader. I’m talking about what you should do on eBay before your first kid (buy, buy, buy) and after your last (sell, sell, sell). But, but… isn’t some of the stuff people put on their faulty? Yes, which is why you check the seller’s ratings and make sure they have a decent returns policy before parting with your cash. And, and… isn’t it a bit chavvy to buy second hand? You sound like my wife. Then she compared the prices on eBay to the prices on the John Lewis Nursery List and discovered that chavvy allowed us to go on an extra holiday each year.
This is the voucher system that helps us pay for childcare. It’s been easy-to-use and a fantastic tax break so far, but that’s not why I’m flagging it up. I’m flagging it up, because if haven’t bothered signing up for one of these schemes you are throwing money down the drain every single month. Well, what are you waiting for? Speak to your company’s HR department and get with the programme. Now.
It’s 2.43am and your baby has finally gone to sleep on your shoulder. You’re pinned to the couch and you know that the TV has a 80/20 chance of waking your kid up, so you reach for your phone and tap Facebook or Instagram icon. No, you fool. You tap the Twitter app. Why? Simple. Your forego Facebook, because your mates’ profiles will make you pine for the life you used to have. Your ignore Instagram, because the pics will make you pine for a life you’ve never had. And you choose Twitter, because its users and links help you appreciate the life you currently have. Plus, you know, it’s got loads of funny memes and jokes and that.
9. National Trust
When I was 23, my mum and stepdad got me a year’s membership of the National Trust for my birthday. I went to one National Trust property that year. It was around my next birthday, and somehow my mum and stepdad got talked into renewing my membership. I didn’t go to any ‘Trust’ places over the next 12 months. But I did forget to call up and cancel my direct debit for the next year. Thus my membership was automatically renewed for a further annum. I never made that mistake again, but by the time I eventually did manage to rid myself of this financial anchor, I had paid well over £200 for one hungover day trip to a castle. Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve been living with this pain for over a decade and figure it’s high time I ranted about it. And because I’ve recently discovered that my sister was right – if you have a kid, National Trust properties are far better stopping points than motorway service stations. So have I rejoined? No, the pain is still too fresh, but I probably should. Summer’s coming and I’d rather meet our friends with kids at a fun outdoor garden or play area than a sweltering indoor soft play.
10. The Dad Network
Before my son screamed his way into the world, I found it relatively straightforward to make and maintain friendships. Now, things are a… ah, why am I beating around the bush? In my experience, being a stay at home dad in a world full of stay at home mums is a frustrating and lonely business. So thank heavens for this site, which has both shown me that I’m not the only father feeling like this and connected me with other dads in my local area. And while I’d be lying if I told you that I’ve found a few lifelong friends and drinking companions. I have a contact with a dad who likes sarcasm and seems “all right”. Which is the blokey way of saying “Oh my God, I think he could be The One!!!!!!!!”
Hold on. Is he finishing this post with a cheap plug for his own site? You bet I am. But I’m not doing it, because I’m a fame hungry narcissist who wants to appear on Loose Women alongside Peter Andre and Janet Street-Porter. I’m doing it, because I genuinely believe that I have lots of really funny, perceptive and useful articles on here. So please take your shoes off, put your feet up and have a browse around some of my other content. Go on. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s certainly not going to be as bad an experience as this. Or indeed this.