Time For A Change

So now the adventure that I have been referring to over the last few months has been revealed (in my previous few social media posts) it’s about giving you all some background to how this all came about.  When I started parent blogging on IG nearly two years ago, I never would have said that it would have brought about a career change, but that’s exactly what has happened.   Early on I started to see a lot of posts about various mental health statistics, especially relating to men’s suicide.  I found when I was speaking to people in person; they were also talking about mental health-related topics, my IG timeline all of a sudden became a place where men especially, were opening up daily about their issues.  I remember thinking after reading one story in particular about an attempted suicide; I have to do something about this.

I started becoming interested in various related topics, and I would speak to people in the industry very openly about what they were doing and why they were passionate about it.  Having had the thought to do something I carried on in the same way for a while and I guess through day to day life it became suppressed, but it was still there inside me.  Unusually it surfaced when I went to Gurleen’s new school induction (Aug 18), parents were given several local leaflets about various services, and there was one for our local Mind for mental health so I thought I would contact them.  Having emailed I received a reply inviting me to visit their office, I turned up there, and they asked me if I would like to become a volunteer mentor?   Which they had a group training course for me there and then.  I had been told before that there were not many men in the industry, immediately that became evident as I was the only male present in training.

Once the mentor training was complete I had the chance to reflect on all the people I had met so far; they seemed so genuine and happy in what they were doing it was infectious.  I picked up on that positive energy straight away; I was around people who were passionate and content in doing what they loved.  I wanted to get involved immediately and was keen to showcase my skills, which led to fundraising and social media opportunities while I waited for my security clearance to go through.

Once my clearance had come through it was mid-December and there was little point starting until the New Year, so in Jan 2019 I was introduced to my first client on the mentoring programme.  Immediately it was something I knew I wanted to pursue, and I started talking to people that I had been inspired by; I felt that was a natural thing to do.  I had been saying to those people that all of a sudden something had overwhelmed me inside that I no longer wanted to work for just me and my family; I also wanted to work for others and make a difference in the world.   They were very supportive, and I felt encouraged to go out of my comfort zone and live the dream.  I was also told to do ardas (Sikh formal supplication), so I started including in my daily ardas (prayer) a small piece around wanting a job where I could make a difference in the world, it felt good as I had so much belief and felt the ambition, but I was relaxed enough not to expect anything.

I can’t quite remember how, but very soon after this, I had a call with Shuranjeet Singh from Taraki, I was asking him if one wanted to start a career in this industry what would you have to do?  I was thinking of long term study or courses, and we discussed a few career paths.  I felt quite good as a visual map was beginning to form.  Amazingly a few days later I found out about a job that had become available at the local mind where I had been volunteering.  It was for an Employment Adviser, coaching people with anxiety and depression back into work or to seek a new career.  The job looked perfect but initially I wasn’t sure if it was for me, that quickly changed when I spoke to close friends, they believed I had the qualities for the role, I was trying to talk myself out of it as I didn’t have any commercial experience, but I felt encouraged enough to go for it.  I believed I was in a win-win situation as I already had a good job, I was going to go for this job and knew that if I didn’t get it, I would go for another one later as I knew this was the industry for me.   Having completed the application form I was selected for the interview (Feb 2019), I prepared well and gave it my best; I had minimal regrets at how the interview had gone but was still unsure as I knew it was a big step for all concerned.  It turns out that they really took to me and believed in me enough to offer me the role.  I was delighted but it was very surreal as it had happened so much quicker than I would ever have imagined.

My decision to accept was an easy one, I had wanted to leave I.T. for a few years now (esp after my student loan was paid off), but I was comfortable, and even though there were some elements of my job that I did enjoy, it wasn’t something I really wanted to devote my time and future to in the long run.  I knew that I couldn’t just carry on earning wages to pay bills, there was so much more out there, and I had now experienced that, I thought I am in my mid-30s now is the perfect time to change my career.  I resigned from my job in the city of London a day later, never easy especially when you have been somewhere for eight years, I was a bit nervous but was overwhelmed by the reaction and encouragement I received from all staff and management once the shock had worn off.  Of course, the already arranged two months of paternity leave that was due to start in April was now void as I would be starting my new job by then.   I had known in the back of my mind that this could be a reality and I would have to sacrifice it, but the other benefits such as working 10 mins from home and not working late anymore would mean spending more time with my kids.

I started my new job last week, and it’s a lot more real for me now as opposed to just reading and researching about mental health, I am currently experiencing it daily.  So many people have asked me what happened to me and why I left an already comfortable and stable career for this new adventure.  In writing this, I hope you now have a bit more clarity and can understand why I have made the change.  The other factor for me writing this is that since I announced my decision I have spoken to many people who are not really happy in what they are doing either and they have felt that I am brave and courageous for following my heart and passion.  I merely told them, and I am telling you, that If I can do it, then so can you!  Inspiration is transferable; you can be inspired and then, in turn, inspire others, we all have that platform where we have an influence, we must use this for making a positive difference to our own lives and the lives of others.

Thanks to all of those that I have spoken to (you know who you are) I have seen you doing what you love, which made me think if you can, then why can’t I?  And if I can, then why can’t you??

It’s fitting that I leave you with an extract from my dear friend Jag Shoker’s book – You Will Thrive.  When I read this particular page it was like someone turned on the lights, it came just at the right time, and his words acted as a huge support to me.  Read the words for yourself…

You will know when the time has come for you to take that leap, for your heart will ask you to take a risk and step out into an unknown and uncertain future to do the Work that you love.

The Way always unfolds from right where you are.  Look for signs that point the Way to go.

Only the most courageous and passionate of people grasp this moment of destiny with both hands.  Only those who truly trust in their heat and intuition take this leap of faith.  Know that every leap of faith on the Way (and there will be many) is a decision you must make wholeheartedly.  Few of us are ever really prepared to do this.  As the author, Ordway Tead pointed out in his book The Art of Leadership (1929), “So many people are loath to make irrevocable decisions, are tepid in their enthusiams, timid in their faith in themselves and others, afraid of the burden of responsibility and undecided about their direction.”

If you are now facing your first big leap of faith, it is vital that you remain open to your intuition.  Something will nudge you forward and give you the belief that everything will work out if you have the courage to take this leap.  This nudge may come in many different guises.  As one esoteric saying hints at, “Angels often speak to us through the nearest available voice.”  It might be a book you read, a film you watch, or something that someone says to you that suddenly tips the balance in a positive direction and fills you full of hope that you will succeed in realising you dream if you commit to it with all your heart.

Pages 29 & 30 from “You Will Thrive” by Jag Shoker


Testing Times

You may be wondering why I haven’t written a piece in over a month?  Or you may just be happy to hear from me (I hope it’s the latter).  Social media activity has been minimal for the last month; this is due to the new adventure I mentioned last time out.  All I can reveal about the new adventure is that it has been successful, I had to dedicate most of my time to prepare for it as I wanted to give it my all and have no regrets!  I promise I will stop talking in a roundabout way very soon and reveal exactly what has been going on!

Ok, so what have we been up to?  Well, some of us Sikh Dads appeared on the time to change site https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/change-makers when we partook in the recent event.  What we do is either at dinner or before we sleep we reflect on our day as a family. We each have to say three things that we have done or felt in the day. We also have to ask one question to each person. We have done this for a while now, and it’s become apart of our family routine. It’s so important we talk and communicate with each other as we can easily take each other for granted!

We were inspired to join in by Taraki, who as you know I have mentioned before.  This month’s Chai in the City open forum I had the opportunity to be their “guest speaker”  It was a big honour for me to talk amongst my brothers about areas of my life that had shaped who I am today.  I was open and honest about mental health, marriage and family.  I was overwhelmed by the response from the attendees, and we delved quite deep into many community issues and expectations in the Q and A, I certainly left the session having learnt a lot about myself and the experiences of others.

Elsewhere MK has been upping her game in preparation for her 11 plus later this year, at the moment she has one tuition session a week, but as it was half term, there was a special 11 plus mock exam available.  We discussed it with her and all agreed it would be a great way to measure where she is at?  She had never sat for so long in an actual test environment so it was a win-win situation.  She prepared for it really well, and we were both proud of her effort, she also did a lot better than expected so we all have a lot to work on with her moving forward.  Anyone in a similar situation, please do reach out, I am sure we could learn a lot from each other’s experiences as it’s not easy!

My parents held a blessing programme for us at our local place of worship (Gurdwara); this is something they have regularly done in the past, however this time we were double booked with kids kickboxing gradings.  I’m sure you have all seen on IG they were successful in their grading’s, but that meant one of us going there and one of us staying at the Gurdwara, why am I telling you all this?  The reason is I stayed at the Gurdwara with Gobind Singh on my own for around 1.5hrs, I fed him, played with him and put him to sleep all in front of the watchful eyes of the congregation.  Now I know things are improving and many dads are already taking the lead, but in our places of worship, there is still that mentality of where is the mum?  Or are you ok with him?  Shall I take him? Can you manage? All in a nice way but in the past, I may have been inclined to others to help out with kids, but not now, I have developed this belief and confidence over the last few years that I can handle most situations as a father (He says).

A special mention has to also go to Gurleen’s class teddy “Cherry Bear” who blessed us with his presence over the half term week.  Usually, it’s normally a weekend stay, but I guess we hit the jackpot, she was over the moon.  We had spoken about this for a long time as she kept on mentioning that her turn was not coming, so I asked her what she needed to do to get the opportunity to host our furry friend (other than kidnap him) yes I am joking!  She said she needed to learn to write her name, do good listening and improve on her phonics, so that’s what we did.  I went to pick her up on the Friday before half term which I don’t normally do due to work commitments.  The Teacher called her name, and I was wondering what was taking her so long,  then all of a sudden she appeared shouting “Daddy Daddy I got cherry bear” I won’t ever forget that as we both laughed so loud other parents must have been wondering what had happened, but for us it was a great achievement. Since then we have spoken to the teacher who was looking for a good home for cherry bear throughout the half term; apparently, we fitted that description!  After an action-packed week, our furry friend is now safely back in the hands of the school.

Chickenpox was going around at school and as you would have seen Gurleen came into contact with it.  It didn’t last as long as we thought but she was very brave throughout and managed it really well, we were naturally nervous of Gobind Singh catching it from her and our fears where confirmed when his face was covered in them, yes he had it really bad the poor thing is only 8 months old, he struggled to eat, sleep etc. But he continued to smile, that’s something I have learnt from my kids to have no fear, be brave and continue to smile no matter what!

Podcast oh yes we have now published two episodes of the seek parenting show the first an introduction and the second about our marriage, we have been overwhelmed by your feedback, and we are glad you are enjoying our talk about the realities of life.  We will continue to do this and can only do so with your support if you haven’t had a chance to listen yet, then please do!  Oh and don’t forget all the usual subscribe, rate and comment on whatever platform you are hearing from (majority are iTunes)

Finally ending with some still or fizz?? Yes fizz free Feb was going great, it had been over 3 weeks of no fizzy sugar filled pop, there had been the odd days of cravings but I managed to stay strong that was until Sat 23rd when a late night drive to Cov from London required something that the Dr literally ordered, now I know what you are all thinking!  Yes, I can confirm it was a bottle of Dr Pepper that helped me keep awake and made sure I arrived safely at the hotel.  That was, of course, my fizz free Feb over, it was good while it lasted and I am sure I will do it again in the future, most probably when I require some still in my life but for now I will keep a bit of fizz!

New Adventures

This week started with a new adventure for me, something I have wanted to do for a while.  It may not have been presented to me in the format I was expecting, however, I trusted my instincts and went with it.  You are probably thinking “What is he on about?”  I’m afraid I can’t say any more on this at the moment, but you will be the first to know as I have been supported and inspired by so many of you.

One new adventure I can tell you about is my up and coming shared paternity leave, the forms have now been submitted!  I am looking at having anything between 2-3 months starting from April.  We have spoken to quite a few couples that have done this and they have all said its the best thing they ever did!  Of course, I know it will be a challenge, NK has already started preparing me with “What if” scenarios and as we know there will plenty of those with 3 kids to manage.  I am expecting the time to fly by as anyone who does a school drop off and pick up will know there are very few hours in between, which normally zoom by!  I will plan to make the most of the time that I do have and I am really looking forward to the challenge of being a full-time dad.  The options were not here four yrs ago when GK was born, more and more are taking the opportunity now, so why not??

This week also included attending a men’s only event hosted by Taraki http://www.taraki.uk

As a team, they are passionate about getting Punjabi/Sikh men to open up about anything ranging from everyday issues to mental health illnesses.  We all know that as a community we have been pretty bad at this over the years. Putting that to one side I am noticing a change that goes hand in hand with the rise of public awareness around mental health.  It was a really positive evening and I am sure we will see more of these pop up all over the country.  These guys are doing amazing work, I am honoured to be a part of this and urge you all to support them in any way that you can.

We all have a guvnor in our house, but now she officially has the title of school governor, yes NK has been successfully voted in as the new parent governor in the kid’s school.  I always knew she would get it, however, she was playing it down (I bet she hasn’t even told any of you yet?) well you all know now!  I am so proud of her and know she will be great, she has invested so much time in building a relationship with the school over the years that she deserves this opportunity, I know she will enjoy all the meetings as well!

Finally, those that would have seen my IG story from the other day will know about our boiler.  Our Sikh dad came to the rescue in the early hours of the morning It was my turn to ask dad “why do boilers always fail in the winter when you need them the most?” Dad replied “That is because in the winter they do the most work” I was reassured but cold, I thought about all those who literally sleep out in the cold night after night, it certainly makes you feel grateful for the things you normally take for granted.  Normal order has now been restored but its a hard financial hit during maternity leave, but o well, we all know things could be much worse!

I don’t have the time

Yes, that’s the title, as I am one of those guys that say it all the time!  In saying it, you begin to believe it and it becomes your mind-set, the comfortable excuse you tell yourself, “It’s ok you don’t have time for that”.  I am now trying to change that, it’s not easy and I don’t expect overnight results, I have to be realistic, take small steps and judge each scenario individually in order to make sure I make the right decision and not just fall back into that auto pilot excuse.

In changing that I am typing this blog piece out, something I wanted to do last year but kept putting off!  The time has not magically appeared (like I had previously hoped) I have had to make it and I intend to keep on doing that, making sacrifices for the things I want to achieve is definitely on my priority list.  So what’s been happening?  Well a lot as always, that is the reality with three children all at different stages of life.

Munsimar Kaur (MK) has started this year knowing she will be taking her 11 plus, she goes to tuition once a week, at the moment we are considering to up that to twice a week as well as studying at home.  She definitely is enjoying it but we always feel she has that little bit more and we don’t want her to have regrets, there comes that moment as a parent where you want to push them but need to strike the balance to make sure their well-being is the priority.  I will keep you posted on our progress, as this is new to us, those with more experience please do get in contact, support is always welcome.

Gurleen Kaur (GK) had a great week in reception and the highlight was being chosen as “star of the day”.  They find out in advance so she knew she would be the star for the following day, she was so excited.  We had a chat over dinner and she explained how it all happened.  She said, “Daddy I said in my mind that I was going to be the star of the day, then miss chose me”.  It was absolute magic listening to her, I told her it was because she believed in herself and wanted it to happen so much that it had to happen!  The next challenge she has set herself is to write her name fully without any mistakes, once she does that we get to take the class teddy called Cherry home for the weekend, that will be a lot of fun and I am so proud of her enthusiasm, she has progressed so much lately and we will keep on encouraging her.

Gobind Singh (GS) believe it or not is now seven months old, where the time has gone I don’t know!  He also has a tooth growing, very small at the moment but very sharp and jagged as his mum will tell you!  He is really enjoying his food at the moment, when I say that I mean all the sweet things of Ella’s kitchen range, other things are at the moment somewhat challenging, but we will keep trying!

In the world of Sikh Dads, we now have our first Whatsapp group, I was approached by a couple of dads a few months ago with the idea, I like most thought not another WhatsApp group!  However as the dads wanted it I was willing to give it a go,  I then thought as there was a need,  it was up to all of us to make it a purposeful group, I, therefore, invited all that I knew and had a great response.  I wasn’t in the best position to set it up straight away so thanks to all for being patient with me, I thought it was best to begin in the new year.  It is now one week old and we have over a 100 members worldwide, from Canada, India, USA, UK, Norway, Malaysia, Kenya (I hope I have named all the representations).  The chat is busy and has been very insightful, it’s amazing to see how many different skills and experiences we have collectively; I am passionate about connecting Sikh Dads from around the world who I will continue to serve, if you are a Sikh and passionate about parenting then do get in touch for the joining details, in the meantime keep up the good work dads you have been amazing so far!

Khalsa Family Retreat 2018

I had not been to a Sikh camp for over six years, so to say I was looking forward to the Khalsa Family retreat was an understatement! It was held during the Xmas holidays, beginning on Thu 27th Dec and running until Sun 30th Dec and our first ever camp together as a family. The campsite was in Yarnfield, which is a village in Staffordshire, with stops and all it took us about four hours from London. Upon arriving, we received our room keys and transferred our luggage in time for the introduction speeches.

Looking around at the time it was great to see some familiar faces but also plenty of new faces; I was keen to make new friends as those that I was familiar with were already my friends. After the entertaining intro speech, we had a tour of the site and all of the facilities available to us. The breakfast and lunch area was all very open and spacious, with our accommodation only a short walk away. Once completed we were ready to go into the Darbar (court) where we would meet Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji (living Guru of the Sikhs), and the retreat would officially begin! I had spoken to the kids before arriving about the most important part of the camp, that was the Sangat (company) of Guru ji, being in their presence for a few days non-stop is an amazing experience full of positive energy and blessings that I wanted us to take full advantage of.

That positive energy that I was referring to was most definitely felt during the evening programme that night; the kids were given full reign with adult supervision to run the show, at times it was raw, pure and full of innocence. Fellow parents were looking at each other with smiles on their faces as they were experiencing something special, it was amazing to see the confidence of the young kids, they were trying new things, some were naturally making small mistakes but were not phased and carried on trying. After Langar (food) was served there was time for a small family activity before lights out, each family sat on their own table and asked each other set questions, it turned out to be vital for us as MK (our eldest daughter) was able to open up about some of her feelings.

Like any other camp, the morning was dedicated to Vaheguru meditation and the Prakash (installation) of Guru Granth Sahib Ji, there was also a compulsory kid’s meditation that took place between 7 am, and 8 am. After breakfast it was time for the workshops to begin, this was the first time that there were no lectures, just workshops. Our group attended the following workshops throughout the retreat: The power of Gurbani, Spiritual Health Parenting in the 21st Century, The Gift of Love, Family routine and Teamwork makes Dreamwork. The group’s numbers were designed to be small and personal, and I feel like we went on a journey with our group, from the first workshop we were all open with each other, we shared experiences, highs and lows, by the end of it all we had all become pretty close. In my opinion, the workshop system worked as it created such an open and relaxed environment where we all became familiar with each other, the formal lecture would not have had the same effect. While parents were busy in the workshops, their kids were being looked after in the crèche along with various other group splits leading all the way up to teenage years.

For us, it was nice to be able to focus and contribute as much as possible knowing that our children were safe and also learning. We would meet them after our sessions, and they would be so excited, bubbling with things to tell us. They learnt about the Chaar Sahibzahdey (4 Sons of the 10th Guru), Sikh virtues and built lego using the darbar sahib and Akaal Takht kits. They also rehearsed a play that was a total surprise to us, considering such little preparation time, the kids performed on the last day in front of us parents. The performance was based on the battle that Sikhs faced in India when the Mughals were in power. It was narrated so well, and with all ages from teenage to toddler level participating, at a time when most of our children are performing in their school nativity plays, it was nice for them to get this unique opportunity to perform in one based on Sikh history.

Activities included the traditional bouncy castle; a great gatka demo and a fantastic animal show that I managed to go live on Instagram with! There was also some time to refresh and relax, generally catch up with people, that you usually only get to say hi and bye too. The organisers arranged a family photo shoot which was indeed well received; I have put up a separate post on my IG relating to this experience.

Before attending the retreat, I had thought four days was a long time, but it went so fast, I am sure I am not the only one that felt that the old saying time flies when you’re having fun comes to mind. The kids loved it and didn’t want to leave! One common thing I have been asked by people who have not attended these kinds of events before is “Would I fit in?”. I got the feeling from those people that they did really want to come but something was holding them back, the fear of the unknown. The reality is there are no unknown concerns these days as I pretty much filmed the whole thing on my IG story so all could see what was going on (still available as a highlight on my IG profile page). Everyone is there for the same reason, the benefit of their family, that’s why they have taken the time out to attend. We are all on a journey, some are at different stages but what was clear to me was, if you are looking to improve and to be inspired you will find that company you are searching for in the Guru and the Sangat.

Lastly, I would like to thank the whole team at Khalsa Foundation, as parents we know how difficult it is to manage our own children let alone children from multiple families, I think there were approximately 270 campers who attended. We all felt comfortable and relaxed in knowing our families were well looked after! Here is a link to the official photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/khalsacamp/sets/72157675156300347
I hope to see you all there next year!

The Early Days…

After all the Dad’s had created their introduction videos, it was time to start the first series.  I wanted to capture their early thoughts and memories about what it was to be a Father.  The idea of starting from the beginning was for us to follow their journeys right up until the present day.  At the moment we only have a few dad’s videos that are waiting to be uploaded to complete the series.  This series has been an exciting opportunity to learn lots of new things, gather different thoughts and then implement them.

Regarding video editing, this has been my first real experience, and I can tell you that I have enjoyed it.  I feel I am improving and learning new techniques all the time; I had never realised that it could be so much fun; however, it has been more time-consuming than I had estimated, but overall the satisfaction I get from completing a piece of work and getting such positive responses makes it all worthwhile.

There will be a lot more to come from all the dads and ideas for new content are already in progress, so thanks to all of you for your support so far, stay in touch as we travel this journey together.

The Journey so far…

Initially, I was asked what’s this all about?  Is this aimed at educating, creating awareness or just a bit of fun? The answer is yes education and awareness with a bit of fun along the way.  The first Ultimate Father and Why Sikh Dad?? Videos were created to set the scene for what I had hoped was the start of something special.  Thankfully about six months later I am now reflecting on an incredible journey so far.

I have learnt to do many things that I didn’t know how to do before and have spoken to some amazing people that are on similar journeys.  Their support and kind words have been a driving force, to improve my parenting techniques.  Learning about their journeys and what some go through day to day has been an eye opener I had not expected to come across such stories.  Each story is special and individual with a moral that we can all apply to our lives.  I am thankful for those that I have met or spoken to so far and look forward to meeting those who I have not been fortunate enough to meet as yet…