Interview with Annie and Richard Ridout, The Early Hour
While some people are up and about at 5am to voluntarily run, ride or to meditate before the sun comes up, it’s a time of day that evokes a sort-of groggy, jetlag-y malaise in the rest of us.
Of course, there are many of varied vocation – shift workers, bakers, garbos and the like – whose daybreak activities are ones of necessity… and then there’s new parents. Like Annie Ridout, mother of two and editor-founder of online lifestyle and culture magazine The Early Hour.
The idea for the site came to Annie while she was feeding her daughter, Joni, in the lonely, pre-dawn hours. Trawling her phone, she bemoaned the lack of a stimulating read at that time. An experienced journalist and blogger, she decided to create one.
Having hauled in husband Richard – a property developer and burgeoning filmmaker – to handle the visuals, and calling in favours from several friends in the design, IT, social media and journalistic worlds, the site launched with success: 10,000 views in the first week.
Now an established player in the parenting and lifestyle sphere, The Early Hour publishes articles and interviews daily at 5am. Its content is mostly geared towards parents, with smatterings of interesting, thought-provoking stuff for early risers of all persuasions.
The Dad Website caught up with Annie and Richard, who recently welcomed their second child – a boy, Bodhi – into the world. Here they share some insights on early hours, The Early Hour, dad-blogging and the changing face of fatherhood.
The Early Hour’s content mix.
Annie: I knew the content was for people who were up at the crack of dawn – and that it would mainly focus on parenting – but it’s definitely evolved over time. You look at what works and what doesn’t and plan accordingly. Now it’s about 80% new parents; the rest are people without kids who just happen to be up early – or find our stuff by searching or through social media.
The Early Hour’s future.
Annie: I’m in a transitional period right now. I wrote, commissioned, edited and scheduled about four months of content before having Bodhi. I wanted the option to take some maternity leave but instead, I’ve continued working. However, I’m not sure I can keep up the demand of an article a day, plus all the social, PR, marketing and networking while caring full-time for a newborn and nearly full-time for a toddler. So, the options are: 1. Reduce output. 2. Hire in more help. 3. Get a big investor and change the structure entirely. 4. Sell it. I love running The Early Hour but it was always about working towards the perfect work-life balance and family is absolutely my priority. I’m right in the thick of the newborn bubble/fog at the moment so anything could happen a few months down the line…
The rise of dad-blogging.
Annie: I think it’s great that dads are getting their parenting views out there. My husband is very involved with our two children, as was my own dad, so I’ve never experienced the absent or disinterested father (luckily). But with so many mummy-bloggers, and women discussing motherhood, it’s a nice addition to hear about it from ‘the other side’. I don’t read any dad-blogs regularly, but I love following dads on Instagram – like father_of_daughters, papa_pukka and London_dad.
Society’s perception of fatherhood.
Annie: There’s definitely still an “oh look, there’s a dad pushing a buggy / taking the kids to the park – isn’t he AMAZING” thing going on. Actually, he’s a parent as much as their mum is so why shouldn’t/wouldn’t he be doing that? It all needs to become normalised. In the same way that working mums should be able to continue their career without judgement, dads should be able to parent without it being a spectacle. That said, if positive feedback encourages more dads to take parental leave, or spend time at home with their children, great. This needs to happen for sexual equality.
Richard: I think there’s great pressure on men and women these days to balance work with looking after kids. I don’t think my granddad could make toast. My dad can make toast but my mum definitely did the lion’s share of the childcare. Now, certainly where we live, the roles are less defined and I think this can be great for the kids. Generally, men do more childcare than they used to so perhaps they have a better opportunity to bond with the kids.
The juggle of work, creativity and fatherhood.
Richard: One of my biggest fears of becoming a dad was not finding time to make my film [a near-finished documentary he’s been working on for five years]. Work would remain pretty much the same because it’s a necessity. I have discovered that although I have less time, I absolutely maximise the time that I do have. I have cut all the useless shit from my life. I never watch shit TV. I’m not on Facebook. When the kid is in bed, I work on my personal projects until I go to bed. I actually feel more productive now that I have a child. It’s also made me more determined. Spare time is so precious – I use it only for the things that really interest me.
You think you’re stuck at each stage forever, but you’re not.
Richard: The early months of the first baby, I found very hard. The lack of sleep. The crying. The sudden and complete change to your life. The strain on your relationship. Not every man finds this hard, much to my disbelief. It’s OK to admit it if you do. It’s OK to say “this is shit”. It doesn’t mean you love your child any less, although at times you might think you’ve made a terrible mistake. If you do find it hard, just keep reminding yourself that it gets better. It makes you stronger, and it’s probably the most amazing thing you’ll ever do.
Dads bring balance – and silliness.
Richard: I guess I’m there to offer some balance to the mum. We can introduce them to things that the mum might have no interest in. We’re there for support, contrast, security, love. I love being silly with Joni. Toddlers respond very well to silliness. It’s very important to introduce them to humour. I read books with silly voices before bed and she loves it. Seeing her enjoy herself makes me happy.
Richard: When our first was born I had this overwhelming feeling that we are all just animals; just part of nature on this strange planet. I had a period of calm existential reflection. Then after three days I started worrying about money again. I had to MOT the car! I think that having babies and toddlers is very hard work and it can be difficult to find that moment for reflection. Every now and then I think, “this is very fulfilling” and, “this is something that everyone should try”. Your perspective changes completely. Feelings of love like nothing before. I’d jump off a cliff to save my kids.