I remember the first time I met Tom. We were at a blogger event at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey and we chatted at lunch. It was a brilliant day racing Mercedes-Benz cars around the track and as we left the venue, we promised to 'keep in touch'. It was only recently I also realised that we had both been featured in issue 14 of Blogosphere under the 'spotlight' section.
Tom is one of my favourite people to follow on Instagram as he gives an honest and heartwarming peek into his life as a husband and a father. Tom is currently working with Google (fancy!) to launch their new Google Digital Garage that’s recently opened up in Edinburgh. He will be giving a talk on Wednesday 29th August 2018 on his digital journey so far. It is my pleasure to have Tom on my Inspiring Interviews - Series One.
1. Tom, can you start by telling us abit about yourself?
I’m Tom, the blogger behind UNLIKELY DAD, I am 34 and a father to my son and husband to my husband. I actually consider myself a really simple man in the sense I love to just be with my family, experience new places, eat food (lots of it) and I really just cherish the little things life brings.
2. Is your blog your full time career or do you juggle this around another job as well as the job as being a dad?
I often say I have three jobs. The blog, being a father and my full time 9-5. I work in digital marketing so social media, influencers and websites is my thing. It’s who I’ve always been so it felt really natural to start the blog. The blog has given me so many wonderful opportunities but yes, I have to work it around my family and that little thing called ‘work’.
3. I don’t know a lot about the adoption process other than knowing a few friends who have gone through this process. I know it can be hard and very lengthy! Could you tell us about your journey to adoption?
I can’t say having kids was always on the cards. We just loved our lives as they were. We were always off on city breaks and just being selfish really. We had that luxury. But as I approached thirty something definitely changed in me. I felt “is this it?” and from there, many conversations and plans were made and we decided we wanted to start a family. My husband was always ready, I think he was just waiting for me. We went through the process and I say it all the time but we were so lucky.
Nine months from our first meeting to Kai coming home. It was very fast in the world of adoption. The stars were all aligned, and everything just worked. Our social worker was fantastic and just got us as a couple and saw our potential as parents. After many meetings, assessments, panels and training we adopted Kai in 2015 and he came home to us, his forever family, when he was 14 months. Changing our lives instantly it was the most powerful thing I’d ever experienced, and I felt compelled to share the experience and start UNLIKELY DAD all because of him.
4. I read on your blog that LGBT people/couples could adopt in 2006 which is amazing. Therefore you’re journey through adoption should be treated no differently. Was your experience of adoption a good one and if you could give advice to a couple looking info adoption right now, what advice would you give them?
I think there are a few factors involved, mainly one being your team and social worker. They are your champions and contrary to what some believe they aren’t there to judge and grill you but to help you achieve your dream of a family. Our social worker was just wonderful, we owe her so much. We were told a lot that we’d never get a baby. We did want a child as young as possible but that blond hair, blue eyed newborn doesn’t really exist when it comes to adoption.
Children are rarely relinquished these days. There’s processes and it takes time (unfortunately). But we waited and we got our little boy. We actually were approved to be his daddies at ten months old… it just took forever for him to come home. But we did send him pictures of us with birthday cake singing him happy birthday on his 1st. it was just such an unbelievably emotional, crazy whirlwind of a time. My advice to anyone thinking about adopting is just go for it… ride the wave and know your family will be made in time. I have had so many messages from prospective adopters who now have their family and I have been on that journey with them. The power of social media is unreal.
5. I love your quote from your blog saying that you feel as though your son found us as much as you both found him. What’s been the best thing about having your son and creating your family unit?
It’s been an absolute joy. Yes, it’s hard bloody work, but it’s been magical. Maybe that’s the person I am? I see the beauty in these things. I don’t know… but the best thing is the feeling I guess. The love. Seeing him grow and change. Seeing him happy and smiling. It’s the best. At work my heart is always at home and I am longing to get home to my boys.
6. What’s the perfect date night for you and what would you recommend to couples in general to ensure they remember to take time out for their relationship as well as being a parent?
We were so bad at date nights in the beginning. I don’t think we resented it and we made time for one another at home but to get out of the house without your child/children will change everything. No nappy bags, no snack wrappers in your pockets, no dinner stains on your top… just you and your partner. Conversation. My ideal date night would be a spa night though. We did it a while ago and it beat a meal and movie hands down!
7. I noticed you recently worked with James Villas on a collaboration. It’s a brilliant moment when a blog leads into a complimentary holiday! They clearly saw you as a great brand ambassador. Congratulations! What can we hope to see next for The Unlikely Dad and is there any exciting projects in the pipeline?
Thank you! I was so shocked when they asked me! I started this blog because I didn’t feel represented. A 29 year old gay man wanting to adopt just wasn’t anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are so many amazing adoption/LGBT blogs which helped. But I wanted to be a voice for the younger gay parent. I have been so lucky to have my writing and Instagram get noticed and attend so many cool events and work with some awesome brands on collaborations.
It wasn’t necessarily the dream in the beginning but now monetising and making this my full time career is definitely in my plan. So yes from James Villas to Mercedes and many more… I feel incredibly lucky! And I have just announced on Instagram that I’ll be speaking at the Google Digital Garage in Edinburgh this August 29th. I’ll be talking all about my digital journey and what I originally wanted to achieve and what I am YET to achieve. I can’t wait to go and I also get to see Edinburgh courtesy of Google. Something I may not have experienced if it weren’t for the blog.
8. Would you consider writing a book about your journey to adoption? I think there would be plenty of people who would be interested in reading about your story!
Absolutely yes. It’s in the plan. I have a word doc on my Mac saved called ‘The book’. It’s currently blank but I fully believe in the power of manifestation. If you make room for it, it will come.
9. What’s your view on over-sharing? I never know if I’m doing the right thing and I do share photos of my children as I can’t be Guilty Mother...without kids. What’s your opinion Tom?
This is such a tricky one. Like you, I wouldn’t have UNLIKELY DAD if it weren’t for Kai. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Being adopted as well I think people are sometimes surprised I share his face so publicly but what I will always say is we know our situation. We met birth parents and know everything we need to know. I feel completely safe sharing him online. But I will also say if as an adoptive parent there is a 0.001% of risk… don’t do it.
As for ‘sharenting’ it’s something I am thinking about at the moment. I want to evolve my work to be more around myself as a dad and not just him and his life. As he gets older he won’t want to be featured (I assume) and I want to make room to evolve UNLIKELY DAD into a brand for dads, mums, anyone really… but being a dad will always be at the core of it all.
10. What does fatherhood mean to you in three words?
Patience, light, peace.
Thanks Tom for sharing your inspiring story.
You can follow Tom's UNLIKELY DAD Blog at www.theunlikelydad.com or on Instagram www.instagram.com/unlikelydad
Book to hear Tom speak at the Google Digital Garage workshop in Edinburgh on 29th August 2018 - click here (subject to availability)