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Power of the Parent 7: S3 Ep7: **BONUS** Elliott Rae – Music, Football, Fatherhood

Power of the Parent 7: S3 Ep7: **BONUS** Elliott Rae – Music, Football, Fatherhood

TW: in this episode Charlotte and Elliott discuss parental bereavement, mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. If this isn’t something you can listen to right now, why not check out some of our other episodes?I’m bringing the bonus today, with the one and only Elliott Rae. Founder of Music Football Fatherhood, author, co-founder of the working dads employer awards, equal parenting advocate and speaker.

You might also have caught him presenting the documentary ‘Becoming Dad’ on BBC1 earlier this year – he’s a busy fella so I was thrilled to bag a spot in his diary to pass the mic on some of the biggest topics facing dads in the workplace.

We covered how this all got started for Elliott, hopes for parents in the workplace, some of the legislative changes he’d love to see and boundaries when you’re working in a world that is full of emotion and feeling close to home. You can find out more about Elliott and his work through the MFF insta or website.

Episode Transcript

Charlotte Speak  0:00

Hi everyone, its Charlotte. I just wanted to let you know that in today’s episode when I’m talking to Elliot Rae from Music, Football and Fatherhood, we do cover off some of the themes that feature in his book DAD, and also his work more generally, which do include things like child bereavement, some mental health challenges and suicidal thoughts. If they are topics that you’re not up for hearing about today, then please do either have a scroll back through this series or go to a previous series of Power of the Parent podcast to find a different episode.

Hello, and welcome to Power of the Parent, the podcast. I’m your host Charlotte speak, I’m a level seven CMI accredited coach, a strength scope Master Practitioner, Mental Health First Aider and talent consultant. And I’m also the face behind Power of the Parent. In this podcast, I’ll be speaking to parents in the workplace. Some of them are in traditionally employed roles, others are running their own businesses. And we’re having conversations about life in general, insights about being a parent and having a career and exploring the strengths that parenting has awoken for people. We will talk about things like the value that they’re bringing to the workplace, as well as my guests very generously sharing their personal stories and anecdotes about everything can throw at us.

Hello, and welcome back to Power of the Parent, the podcast where today I am joined by the incredible Elliot Rae, I didn’t have enough paper to write down his entire introduction, so I’ve gone with bullet points because there was so much to say. You might know Elliot already, but he is the founder of musicfootballfatherhood.com, as well as being a parent, a speaker, co-founder of the working dads employer awards, a podcaster and author of the bestselling book: DAD, a documentary maker, and ultimately on a mission to work with organisations to be family friendly. In particular, focusing on the experience of dads, you might have caught some of his work through MFF, or the BBC News, Channel four and he’s even had an appearance on Loose Women. But today he’s chatting with me and recently, I did have the pleasure of meeting Elliot face to face, which was so incredible after just an amazing event. In fact, it was the first awards ceremony for the working dad’s employer awards, and it was just wonderful. So, thank you so much for joining me today, Elliot.

Elliott Rae  2:30

Thanks, Charlotte. That’s a lovely introduction. Thank you.

Charlotte Speak  2:33

Well, it’s all your stuff. I think it can sound different can’t it, sometimes when somebody says it to you. Have I missed anything off that list? As if it can be any longer.

Elliott Rae  2:42

Yeah, that’s enough. That’s enough. You’re making me blush already.

Charlotte Speak  2:48

So, when I kind of look at the work that you’re doing, obviously, a lot of it resonates with me with the mission of Power of the Parent as well. But something that, I think is a really important question that we kind of ask ourselves, particularly when we run our own businesses, what you do comes very much from the heart and very personal experiences and I just wondered, really, how do you go about protecting your boundaries and making sure that you kind of, you know, look after yourself in this, let’s face it, it’s a really emotive topic, isn’t it?

Elliott Rae  3:20

It is yeah, and it’s something that I’m always working on. To be honest, it’s something that I’ve thought a lot about recently. I mean, I left my full-time job a year ago. So, my last kind of corporate full-time role was as head of the liberty of treasury, and I left there at the end of May 2021. And that was difficult when I was kind of working full time and doing this work and being a parent and a husband and a human. That was, the balance was difficult to get right and doing emotive work in my day job, you know, going through the pandemic, then doing this work around fatherhood and mental health and masculinity. It was very challenging, very, very challenging and there have been times when I’ve had to really take a step back, I think, earlier last year, my father-in-law passed away on Valentine’s Day. So, my wife was spending a lot of time at her mum’s house. So, I was basically like, experiencing what it’s like to be a single parent, with my daughter, working in an extremely demanding job where I’ve never worked so hard, ever, it was so difficult. And then, you know, preparing the book, doing my talks, I was so exhausted, and so stressed. I don’t, I think that’s been in recent years, a very difficult part where the work you’re passionate about, and you want to do it, but just realising I’m just running on empty here, and there’s no time to exercise, to sleep, to replenish. So, I learned a lot from that experience. And when I left my job, one of the reasons I left was so I can do this work full-time and have more impact but also the other reason, which is a very close second was my own health and well-being and I promised myself that I’ll get fit, that I’ll lose a bit of weight, like I’m not a big person, but maybe weight in the wrong places, so lose a bit of weight, and feel strong again, because I felt like I hadn’t felt fit and strong for so long. And so now you know, I’m making sure I’m going to the gym, it’s eating better, I’m trying to go to bed on time, doesn’t always happen. Netflix is bad, but I’m trying to go to bed before midnight, to try and be bed by 11, which is good. And to just try and get a bit of balance in my life, you know, so it’s a continual thing. I find and I’m sure you’ll have the same in your work as well, similar kind of work with organisations, there’s busy times and there’s quiet times. So, July and August are generally quite quiet for me, and I can just chill out, you know, go on a holiday with family. December and January are often super quiet too. So, I can take December off, don’t have to worry about working over Christmas, then there’s busy times, you know, now is a really busy time, September to November is the busiest time of the year with Men’s Health Month, International Men’s Day, Black History Month, inclusion week. So, there’s loads of those different things, I’m realising the cycle and so for me, it’s about recognising when I can rest. And when it is quiet, taking the time to just chill out but yeah, some of them I’m continually thinking about and with the subject matter as well, that does make it more heavy. Because it is very personal and sometimes telling the story about my daughter’s birth can be quite difficult sometimes, and sometimes I’m just not in the mood. But I know it’s important and I know that it’s bigger than just me, so I can tell the story. But there are sometimes when I just don’t want to if I’m completely honest and it’s hard. It’s hard to go back into that space. Yeah.

Charlotte Speak  6:43

If anybody didn’t anticipate that, then they’re kind of not understanding the impact of trauma, are they? Like, it’s completely understandable that it must, like you say, there must be some days where it’s off limits, isn’t it? I suppose when I first came across you it was actually through our mutual connections at John Lewis and I went back into your podcast archives, like right back from episode one of MFF and I’ve got to know a lot more about what you’re doing, particularly with the in person events that you’re wanting to, I mean, it’s only growing, isn’t it? That’s a lot of energy. But that is such a game changer because the work that I do you know, it’s Power of the Parent, it’s not specific to mums, but quite honestly, that is generally where people will come and find me. It’s when they’re talking about women in the workplace, right. But the minute I say to organisations, because I name drop you quite a bit to people like, hmm what are you doing about dad’s here? Because, you know, ultimately, dads do want to see another man sometimes. And I totally get the people that do equivalent jobs to me who are women, it creates a different type of environment. But it’s like a resounding, oh my goodness, yeah, like, where do we find him? What’s the work all about? Like, how do you work with Elliott and the team? That it feels like this is an incredible time to be having some of these conversations that you might have to put yourself into a headspace sometimes that having to dig for an energy that just is sometimes deeply buried, isn’t it?

Elliott Rae  8:12

Yeah. Yeah. It is, I think it’s a hard one because yes, it can be hard and there is a lot of, you know, times when you have to draw on energy and have to choose, draw on kind of you know, your passion to get you through the day, like with any job, but with the additional kind of emotional elements that come into it. But on the flip side of it is that I feel so lucky and privileged to be doing this work, you know, and I wake up, I won’t say every day, most days, and literally have to pinch myself and be like, I get to do the work I’m passionate about every day. You know, I get to have conversations like this. I get to do super cool events with dads, whether that’s in collaboration with football clubs, I’m a big football fan so for me, walking around a football stadium, having conversations about mental health is like amazing, or Dads Do Hair that we did last week, or I get to do TV and media work speaking about the issues I care about, I get to work with the employers speaking about the stuff that I care about. I feel so lucky to be doing that, you know, and I’ve been thinking quite a lot about selfless acts recently. In terms of is any act completely selfless and for me, I do a lot of like social work and helping people. But I would never claim that it’s selfless because I get so much joy from it myself, like I love going into a company and speaking about men’s mental health. I love doing a podcast episode or I love getting dads together in our monthly The Launch sessions online on Zoom and like, I love that stuff, so I get a lot of joy from it as well and the satisfaction from the change. But, yeah, so I have to you know, I’m so appreciative. It’s like having the idea of this is the life I want to create, this is the work I want to do, and actually being able to do it, you know, it’s such a blessing, not everyone realises their dreams and, so I feel very lucky. But it does come with like self-care, self-care has to be so important. You know, it’s a couple of weeks ago, I had a very busy time, on the lead up to the awards, actually, when there was just 101 things to do and my inbox was a mess. And I was feeling quite stressed out, and I just cancelled my, there was nothing important, like, super important, but cancelled the meetings for the afternoon, I went to the gym, went to the jacuzzi, just lying in the jacuzzi for two hours. I was just like, I just need to chill out, because I’m doing too much this day. So, it does, there are days like that. But on the whole, you know, I feel so blessed, so, so blessed to have a platform and a voice, so lucky.

Charlotte Speak  10:47

If I were to take you back to a year ago, when you kind of waving goodbye to the world of employment. Has the last year been what you expected it to be?

Elliott Rae  10:56

Nah, not at all. No way. So, I’ve been doing MFF for five years. So, before I left my job, I was thinking five years, so you know, part time or whatnot. And at some points in my career, I did work part time and did MFF on the side. So, there was like elements of it, but I knew for me, you know, these issues around fatherhood and all the stuff I talk about. They have been important for many years, but the pandemic really amplified the importance. And for a lot of people, not just companies but individuals and families and dads, it became more of a priority. You know, so I think for dads themselves, they were thinking about how you know, I’ve gone through this pandemic, how do I be the best for my family? How do I work flexibly, so I can support my partner, they were thinking a lot more and I think we’ve become a lot more vulnerable, just as people and as a society. So, dads were ready for that. But when it comes to employers as well, they were definitely ready for that. So many companies starting staff employee networks, parenting networks, so many people were thinking about flexible working, hybrid working, family became a thing in the workplace. And, you know, maybe in 2018, 2017, when I started doing the corporate talks, it wasn’t necessarily so much of a priority for people it was maybe a nice to have, if that. And over the pandemic, it definitely became, you know, one of the top five priorities. So, for me, I knew when I left my job, you know, the book was coming out the next week, it’s kind of like, now or never, if I don’t believe in myself and believe the work, I’m doing is important and will be able to build a life for me basically be able to pay me, then it won’t happen. That was now or never, so left my job with the belief that the book was going to do well and open up opportunities. But I would never have imagined, you know, the call I got a few weeks later talking about do you want to present a BBC documentary, or some of the stuff I’ve done in terms of, especially broadcasting or the opportunities I’ve had in terms of speaking in parliament with John Lewis again, you know. The employer awards, that wasn’t an idea, then that came to me later on in the year. So yeah, I could never have imagined the year, never like it’s been a whole professional roller coaster and just such a blessing, you know, a real blessing. And I think it is the power of doing, well, taking a risk, doing the work that you want to do put yourself out there, being vulnerable, that can come with, you know, cool stuff and social change. So yeah, I couldn’t have imagined how that was going to happen, no way.

Charlotte Speak  13:29

I think one of the things that, I think, has become more prevalent in this area, in this topic, is the conversations, particularly with employers, where this isn’t just about a talk or a workshop or anything like that, it’s much more about strategic partnerships, isn’t it. And for me, that means being able to go under the skin of things with an organisation where you go and strip it right back to look at policies but remember that it isn’t all about policy. And let’s really understand how it aligns to your entire business lifecycle because you don’t stop being a parent in the workplace, no matter what stage your child is at, do you? And I think that’s the thing that kind of came to life very much with the employers that you were recognising at the awards a couple of weeks ago, that was, you know, front and centre of a lot of what they were doing in the case studies that I know you’re going to kind of go in and share, aren’t you but I think when people see those, I think that’s the kind of thing that we really need to understand and help employers see a lot more that a workshop can be great, but it’s very much in the moment or a guest speaker is great and can bring to life a story and it can begin to trigger some change but really the action comes after all of that, doesn’t it? It’s much deeper.

Elliott Rae  14:47

Yeah, definitely, the companies that I work with now and it sounds so weird me saying this going in as a speaker sometimes, is that I don’t want to be part of a performative event, you know, and the power of an event can be amazing, can capture a real moment in time, as you said, it can create momentum, it can create a space for new voices to come into play. So that can be really powerful. It can be a spark, if done right, for further activity. But with change that happens on a daily basis, that happens with the actions that you do every day when no one’s looking. It’s the risks you take in terms of where you’re going to put your money, in terms of policy change. It’s about how proactive you’re going to be, it’s about your vision for the future. And so, I always work with companies, trying to work in a consultative way about their whole holistic picture. And, you know, for the awards, the reason why we had those four categories in terms of flexible working, leadership and culture, parental leave policies and support for return to work, is that you need kind of all of those to create a real family friendly environment, and support working dads, support families and stuff like that. So, it is about looking at the overall kind of standard work practices. Sometimes we talk about mental health support, and it’s easy to think about employee assistance programmes, Mental Health First Aiders, you know, guest speaker events and stuff like that. But actually, if you have a fundamental work culture, that means your employees have to be in the office from this time to this time every day, where lunch breaks are not encouraged, where staff are overworked, where there’s stigma around taking parental leave or holidays, the fundamental of your business is not going to be family friendly. So those kinds of plasters on the top are not going to solve the fundamental issues. I think it is about saying, look, we need those moments in time, but we also need good flexible working policies, and making sure that there is no bias or reducing bias in terms of awarding and approving flexible working, in the community in 2018, they found that men are less likely to have flexible working requests approved. Again, that’s that entrenched bias around caring and who’s the breadwinner and stuff like that. They’re just human beings that are making these decisions, so when we’re looking at flexible working, making sure that’s real, when it comes to parental leave policies. I personally feel like shared parental leave is not the answer. We need ring fenced paternity leave, doesn’t have to be six months or four months, you know, not everyone can do that. But can we offer four weeks, six weeks paid to dads? You know, can we do that? I think that would make so much difference of families, supporting return to work buddying system, keeping in touch days, a good leadership, great culture that takes away the stigma around parenting, you know, those are things that we need in place and I think the companies that we are seeing, really being proactive in the in this area, they are taking a holistic approach, and trying to do things across all of those different areas. And I think, you know, as I was saying, with parental leave, we don’t, not saying we don’t, but I think it’s one thing to say this is the gold standard, this is perfect, but I think it’s also about rewarding progress as well. And so, what we tried to do for the awards was say, okay, not everyone is going to be a John Lewis, which is fantastic, but there’s some companies that are doing better than others and we need to recognise that as progress and support that and amplify that and encourage the others to do better too. So, there’s so much that can be done and so many reasons why we should do it and so many benefits for you know, for dads, mums, families, and more and more so for business for retention, for employer brand. So many reasons we should be doing this work.

Charlotte Speak  18:35

Absolutely. I keep seeing a headline coming up on our, we’ve got one of those Alexa things in the kitchen, and it keeps coming up with a headline that says, ‘employers braced for great resignation’ and it’s given me some inspiration, I’ve written a post that’s going to go live tomorrow about this whole great resignation thing. There’ll be some things that use the horse bolted door stable, all that kind of thing, but how much can you do then from an attraction perspective? We know we’ve got this humongous talent pool of people who happen to be parents that right now are struggling because of the cost of childcare. You don’t have to look too far, if you look at some of the narrative that Jolie and the Pregnant and Screwed team are sharing at the moment about how many people you’ve got leaving the workforce because of childcare responsibilities. There are so many things that we can do, seemingly outside of the box, to support one hell of a pool of people who, they’re going to come in with fresh ideas, they’re going to come in, because they see the world through a different pair of eyes with their kids and you become different. Obviously depending on the organisation you work for, you become a customer in a different way, don’t you when you’ve got children? And there’s so much, again this kind of negativity bias around, oh, it’s going to be terrible, everybody’s handing in their notice, companies are going to crumble. Actually, there’s literally hundreds of thousands of people out there that want a job and actually could be an incredible resource and incredible connection for organisations that, they’re just overlooked a lot of the time. And I do think that value that parents can bring is huge, but it can sometimes involve not thinking stereotypically, can’t it?

Elliott Rae  20:19

Yeah, 100%. I mean, as you were saying there, there’s a lot of employers that are going to lose out if they don’t evolve. Ultimately, you know, attitudes have changed massively, like people don’t want to be in the office five days a week, they just don’t. People expect to be able to work flexibly, hybrid working is a thing. Dad’s now, you know, a lot of my work is around fatherhood, so I’ll speak typically around dads, but dads now are wanting to spend time with their children, when they’re newborn babies, they’re expecting more than two weeks paternity leave, that’s just not good enough. They’re expecting to be able to attend the sports days and do the pickup and drop off. They just want to, more than ever before, be equal parents. We’re seeing more and more stay-at-home dads, more and more single dads. So, the world has fundamentally changed, this is the reality. And I think some people can deny that, or not want to accept it. But the pandemic, it was terrible, don’t get me wrong, it was horrible. There’s times I was going to go crazy in the house, like it was intense. But one of the good things I think has come is the evolution of work and the way we think about our careers, and our careers and our home life are a lot more intertwined now. And that’s just the future we’re going, and I think the organisations that recognise that and put the things in place that are going to support parents and carers are essentially going to be the ones that are going to attract the best talent, that are going to keep the best talent as well. They’re going to be places where people want to grow and stay in and be loyal to, you know, so I think it is for, you know, for smart employers now to think about what they can do policy wise, but culture wise as well, you know, what do they – what role do they play in society of changing the narrative around caring? How can they be a force to help to influence policy? How can they look across the world at some of the other countries that do things differently and better? And especially big business, I personally think this, big business has a massive responsibility here as well. You know, I always talk about change, when it comes to men and fatherhood and masculinity. We have different levels of organisations or institutions that have a responsibility. I think, fundamentally, there’s the ground level, like we all have a responsibility around, questioning our own biases, interrogating our own upbringing, thinking about how we’re speaking to and treating parents and dads around us, especially around those traditional ideas of masculinity and stuff like that, so I think we all have responsibility here. I think there’s definitely something for the NHS, when it comes to the, from the dad’s perspective, how do we engage dads in maternity, you know, we work with a lot of different trusts across the UK to talk to them about dads experiences and our book is fundamentally used in a lot of trusts around hearing from different dads and their experiences. But things that midwives can do, doctors in NICU, home visits, GPS, how can they engage dads in that process to help them be to be fully involved parents at the beginning, to support their partner, you know, all that sort of stuff. Government has a massive role to play here, obviously, in terms of legislation and policy, but employers as well, you know, all of those different groups of people or institutions have a role to play. I don’t think one is going to be enough, we’re going to need legislation change, we’re going to need employers to do better, the NHS to do a little bit more. But essentially, all of us as well, as society and people to change our views and experiences, a little bit more perspective. So yeah, I think when it comes to employers, I think there is so much and some of it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. You know, a lot of stuff can be done, not necessarily free but you know, for they don’t have to spend a lot of money basically to make change, especially when it comes to leadership and culture. And when it comes to role models, when it comes to supporting parenting networks, when it comes to supporting buddying systems, creative keeping in touch days, creative communications around how you support parents, you know, that stuff doesn’t cost a lot of money but they can make a lot of difference to people’s experiences, you know, and that is what’s going to make your business profitable in the future because you will keep and retain and attract the best people. But I think ultimately as well, what we’re seeing now is consumer spending and now we’re in a lot more of a conscious world where people are making decisions about where they spend their money based on brands and companies that align with their personal values. And I do see, what I think is going to happen now is that a lot of companies recognise that and recognise, they have to kind of attach themselves to something, you have to stand for something. And standing for equality and diversity, in all characteristics, in this case, we’re talking about families and parenting, for me is a very clever and smart thing to do. And we’re seeing some of the forward-thinking organisations, I think, adopting that and understanding that too.

Charlotte Speak  25:37

Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s a time for a lot of change isn’t it. And hopefully, the line that I associate you with is, you know, helping people to parent out loud. And I think that is so important and sums up so much of the mission that sits behind the work that you’re doing. And I think it’s, yeah, if there was one kind of line to sum it up, that’d be where I’d go, because I think that is part of it. Like being able to bring your whole self to the workplace is something that I say on repeat, to the point where I don’t really like the sound of my own voice. I say it that much, but it’s true. That’s surely what we’re aiming for and a lot of the topics that we cover, both you and I, some of them are not unique to parents, they are things that will impact lots of people, it just so happens that there are you know, there’s a niche market there and there are there are ways that you would deal with some of these topics, because you’re a parent, that perhaps don’t enter other people’s head because they don’t have parenting or caring responsibilities. But I think, you know, being able to have these conversations is incredibly powerful, and really does help equip people to think, yes, absolutely I still add value in the workplace and, yes, I deserve the time with my family, and it isn’t about kind of always seeking permission and, and that kind of side of things. So, Power of the Parent, for me was something that I set up because well, many different reasons but one of them was because I fundamentally believe that you don’t stop developing when you have a family, I think you continue to grow. And yes, the development looks very different or can look very different but fundamentally, you’re still a cracking person, despite what some of the narrative in workplaces might have you believe. So, I would be really interested to hear if there were any strengths, that parenting kind of awoke in you, or maybe kind of they were already there, but it stretched it a little bit. Is there anything that kind of springs to mind about that kind of transition to becoming a parent has done for you?

Elliott Rae  27:31

Yeah, loads and loads. I remember when I first kind of went into line management in a job and one of my first one of the first people that I line managed was a lady and, and she was actually diagnosed with cancer. And she was she was younger than me, I was maybe like 29/28, she was maybe 25 or so and we kind of, you know, we got on really well. And I knew she was having some medical issues, but I didn’t know exactly what and then one day, she kind of came in the office and we had a one to one and we’re in the canteen, and she told me, she had been diagnosed with cancer and she was crying. And I remember at that moment, like not knowing what to do, really. I didn’t know what to say, I felt so out of my depth. How was I, I don’t know how to deal with this situation, to be honest. And I think I kind of dealt with it more on a on a kind of friendship level. To be honest, it was more just the human level. I tried to do that. But feeling very out of my depth, if I’m completely honest, just not knowing what to say. I just didn’t know what to do, didn’t know what to do. And I think about that quite a lot because I think for me becoming a parent and especially the experience that we had as well. So, for the listeners, when my daughter was born, she had an infection called Group B strep, which meant we had a period in ICU and my wife has also lost a lot of blood, so she was being cared for. So, we were in hospital for a little while. And when we came out, my wife had postnatal anxiety. You know, we would be in the hospital every weekend. We’re super worried about my daughter’s health. She had a severe allergic reaction at seven months, another kind of emergency. And I suffered from undiagnosed PTSD, like I was having withdrawal, I was having insomnia, anxiety, crying randomly, anxious, you know, all those kinds of things. So, I have a period off work and that is part of, I didn’t know at the time, but that was the reason I started the blog. MFF was a blog at a time. That’s why I started kind of writing and sharing experiences as a kind of form of, I need an outlet, ultimately, I need something I can control. And I can control this little space on the internet. I can just write and then you know more and more dads got involved over the years and it’s grown into what it is now, with that example around not knowing what to say, I think my own experience, but also the work I’ve done now, and just the vulnerability that comes in with parenting, I feel like I’d be a lot better equipped for that conversation now, because I, myself, am so much more connected with my own vulnerability. But I think parenting just forces you in that way, you know, it kind of, it forces you to worry. It forces you to see the world outside of yourself, there’s a whole other life that you’re responsible for that you love so much. I mean, one day, one dad was explaining parenting as like a little part of your heart just running around, out there, you know. And that’s such a good way of putting it, it’s like a piece of your heart, it’s just there. And it’s out there in the world at school. [Yeah.] And you can’t always be there, that’s just reality, you can do what you can do, but you can’t protect them all the time, you can’t dictate what’s going to happen to them and who they’re going to be, you can’t do that. And so, it does bring up a level of vulnerability that I just wouldn’t, I just didn’t have before. But then in doing my work now, and you know, I’m looking at our book at the moment, we have 20 dads in there, who shared big stories, vulnerable stories, you know, and, and the conversations with those dads, speaking to Alec, who’s wife died during childbirth, or speaking to Jamie who went through a stillbirth, or Michael, who’s a gay dad and recounts him being bullied at school for being gay. And, you know, having those conversations with people and asking them to share their stories and asking them to trust me with their story, I think has taught me so much about emotional intelligence around empathy, around care, around sensitive conversations, difficult conversations about vulnerability, you know. That process was a real, kind of, challenge, was a real challenge, real challenge, not just a logistical nightmare of coordinating 20 men, which is difficult, if anyone’s organised a stag do, you’d know. But the depth of the story, you know, and asking people to share with me, things they haven’t told their wife or their partner, or their parents, you know, but the learning through that, I think that the amount I have learned around leadership, around vision, you know, around trust, so much. I’ve learned so much like I obviously I’m the same person I was years ago, but in terms of the way I see the world is so different, so different. Yeah, before I became a parent, I would look at kind of sometimes people who maybe had committed suicide, for example and I would think, like, how come? How come no one knew? Or like, how come no one around their friendship group saw a sign or anything like that? You know, I’d never go out and say, but I would think that. I would think like, how do we get to the point where we don’t even see any signs, you know, and it was completely naive of me, because when my daughter was born, I was going through my difficult period, like no one knew around me. And I never got to the point where I was suicidal, anything like that but I got to the point was having, I wasn’t feeling myself, I’ve had an out of body experiences, I was on trains just crying, like, but then go home, or go to a friend’s house and just act completely normal. You know, and me realising, through personal experience that as humans, like, we can put masks on very easily and we won’t really know what’s going on in someone’s life, unless they share with us, we won’t know. And so, for me learning more about that, and now seeing and talking to families who have lost people and having so much of a better understanding around that, and so much more understanding of like, I get it now, I didn’t get it before, that was my bad. That was my lack of experience, my naivety. Now I fully understand it, I fully understand how it happens and how it gets to that point. And, you know, a lot of my workers are men and masculinity, and talking a lot about the fact that three out of four suicides are men, you know, and suicide is the biggest killer of men under the under the age of 45, which is crazy when you think about it. That’s mad. And years ago, I might not have understood why, I might not have understood how does it get to that point? Or why don’t we seek help and support or what are the causes for that happening? Like now I fully understand it, you know, so yeah, I think for me, just as a parent and what comes with parenting, that’s changed me. But also, you know, I have personal experience and the work I do now. Yeah, I see the world in a completely different way, a very different way. And it’s weird sometimes, like, you know, we go through certain things at the time. Like, it’s hard to understand, why. But I see my experience as a blessing, to be honest. Like, I think it’s part of my part of my journey. I think, I’m a religious person, I think God has a plan for us. And yes, sometimes we don’t know at the time why, we don’t know why. But for me, I definitely feel like what we went through as a family was purposeful and I’m grateful for it. To be honest, I’m very grateful for it, like, very grateful for it.

Charlotte Speak  35:50

Thank you so much for sharing all of that, and a bit more about your story. I think it’s like, you’re the voice that so many people need to hear because it’s incredibly emotional listening to you. But I think that’s what we need, we need to understand, we need the MFF platform, and we need organisations to really understand that narrative facing fathers so much more, I think. I think you’re doing incredible work, so thank you for sharing all of that. Before we go, it would be great to hear a little bit, I mean, again, I’m guessing that there’s a gigantic list, but what’s on the horizon for you? What have you got coming up over the next couple of months?

Elliott Rae  36:35

Yeah, thanks for the platform. It was, I could feel myself getting emotional when I was talking about it to be honest. I wasn’t planning on going that deep. That’s yeah, just very good conversations, [it’s very welcomed.] Just very good conversations. But yeah, what’s next, so, just keep on doing like what we’re doing. There’s no like, actually, I’m lying there is big plans, of course, there’s big plans. But on a fundamental level, it’s just continuing to do the stuff that we do. So normally, my day is split, or my time is split between two kinds of like distinct areas. So MFF is essentially a platform for dads, and for you know, supporting dads and sharing content and community. It’s all about open conversations around fatherhood and we will touch on, general themes that we’ll touch on is like work life, balance, loss, mental health, co-parenting, race, so generally those are the kind of topics that we’ll kind of touch on. And we do that through our content. So, our podcasts and our blog, our social media, but also through community events, as well. So, we had Dads Do Hair a couple of weeks ago, where we got together to do a hair workshop, which is super cool. And we do a lot of partnerships with football clubs, we’ve got an event coming up on the 18th of June, Father’s Day weekend and Arsenal in the first week of August, date to be confirmed, but very excited about that. And so yeah, for me, it’s about carrying on that that work, you know, consistency. For me, it’s not about numbers, it’s about debt from quality. And so, we don’t count how people come to events or social, we don’t count stuff. It’s about the experience that people have when they’re there so that will carry on. And the book is part of the work that’s come out of that as well. So, half my time is spent doing that, but I have a team that helps me as well. So, we’ve got Matt, Matt Brown on social media magic, he’s just had twins as well, actually so he’s on paternity leave, so Matt, we have Anna, who does a lot of work on the website. And then there’s a team of kind of contributors that help with strategy and planning and co-host events and that sort of stuff. So, we have a whole group of people 20n people that that help with that. So that is kind of half of the stuff. I do, with employers, some consultancy, facilitating workshops, keynotes, that kind of stuff, and super busy working with some amazing companies. So super busy on that side of things and our work around that is helping to engage men in gender equality, helping organisations to think about masculinity now in 2022, what it means to be a man, how men can think about allyship how men can be part of the solution around inequality in the workplace, a lot around mental health, our men’s mental health and a lot of work around that, a lot of work around fatherhood and supporting working dads, why it’s so important how fatherhood has changed, amplifying voices from dads in the company helping to start things like dad networks, helping to review parental leave policies, all that sort of stuff as well. And then out of that has come the Working Dads Employer Awards. So, the first one was on 24th May in Parliament. So, it’s MFF and University of Birmingham with some partners like the CBI and Business Community and Working Families Harvard Institute. So, the next year we want to make that you know, bigger and better I think we need a bigger room, it was so packed. So, I think we need a bigger room. And this time, we’ll have more lead up time around comms as well so we just wanna make that even better, hoping to have even more nominations, even better-quality nominations, and do that work. So, I think yeah, for me, it’s just kind of getting better at what I do, you know, I think there’s so much to learn, you know, when you’re saying about learning as a parent, that’s so interesting and true. And for me, besides all the work I do, I’m just super geeky, about communication, especially like I do a lot of reading and watching around powerful communication and how to speak well, storytelling, emotional intelligence, how to facilitate a room, how to bring voices forward, how to create safe spaces. I’m super interested in that stuff. I tried to learn a lot. And so, for my personal development it’s about, you know, being the best that can be in that area. But yeah, I find, I think just doing more, just doing more, just doing, [more of the same,] more of the same basically.

Charlotte Speak  41:01

Hopefully squeeze in a few more Jacuzzi afternoons as well.

Elliott Rae  41:05

Yes, definitely.

Charlotte Speak  41:09

Well, thank you so much for joining me, where is the best place for people to come and find you and find out more about your work?

Elliott Rae  41:16

So yeah, couple of places, I’d say LinkedIn – Elliott Rae, so I try to be active on LinkedIn, I say, catch me on there, if you’re on LinkedIn, so that’s more for me. Or if you want the organisation and our events and everything that’s going on the go to musicfootballfatherhood.com and you’ll find links to the books, the podcasts, to our events, like everything is on there, so that’s our hub, that’s where you can find everything. So yeah, but thanks for the conversation. Thanks for the space. It was great to meet you last week, or two weeks ago. That was that was yeah, it was so good to meet in person.

Charlotte Speak  41:47

Honestly, if then if anybody’s listening and they get the chance to go next year that, I’m kind of, you know, hoping I’ll be invited back for the second. Honestly, it was so it was so fab and everything that Elliott’s just said there about his geekiness of kind of presenting and holding a room and you were absolutely like top billing. You were just ace at engaging everybody in there. Because it was it wasn’t a small room. I mean, it was compared to probably what you need and where you need to go but there was a lot of people in there from a lot of different organisations, and probably there with very different intent and it was just fab, there was something for everybody. And it was executed brilliantly and seamlessly, so if you were stressed, you were definitely managing it brilliantly.

Elliott Rae  42:32

It was so warm, wasn’t it? Like afterwards…

Charlotte Speak  42:33

It was a warm day.

Elliott Rae  42:37

It was a warm day but also just warm in the room. You know, it felt afterwards for me it felt like a social event. It’s like we’re just at a bar just chatting and it was so good. Because I think like in this work there are, it’s like an emerging kind of movement, right? And there’s people like Natalie Costa, she wasn’t there, but like Natalie or Ian Dwindi does Inspiring Dads, and there’s loads of people who are doing this work, and so for everyone to be in the same room and meeting and there’s a shared understanding of you know, where we’re trying to, what we’re trying to do and we’re trying to get to as, as people in this space, I think it was just so good. It was amazing. Like, it felt so warm. I felt so much love in the room and excitement and optimism and yeah, it was special was a really special day. Yeah, don’t get me wrong, I like sitting at home in my pyjamas, my slippers, a cup of tea. That’s good, yeah, but getting out every now and again and that human connection. You can’t really beat that.

Charlotte Speak  43:36

Yeah, absolutely. wholeheartedly agree. Nice mix of the two, probably slippers feature more than anything than me but a sprinkling of the events and getting out and about is yeah, just tops you up nicely.

Elliott Rae  43:51

It does, definitely, yeah.

Charlotte Speak  43:53

Thank you so much, Elliot. It’s been a blast talking to you and I can’t wait to see where else you go. Hopefully back on the BBC at some point.

Elliott Rae  44:01

Well, actually on Father’s Day, yeah, we’re doing a BBC special. So, I don’t know when this is coming out but if it’s before Father’s Day, then you’ll see it, I think it’s about 1:15 on BBC One. So, you’ll see us there as well.

Charlotte Speak  44:11

Amazing. And it I think this will be after Father’s Day but I’m betting it’s gonna be on some sort of iPlayer or go find it on catch up. And actually, your current documentary is still on there, isn’t it? So, if you haven’t watched that then go give it a watch, too. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much. Take care.

Elliott Rae  44:27

Thank you. Thanks so much.

Charlotte Speak  44:31

Bye, thanks very much for tuning in to Power of the Parent, the podcast. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please rate, review and subscribe. And if you could tell all your friends about the podcast that would be wonderful. If you’d like to get in touch, you can find me on Instagram. Just search Power of the Parent. See you next time.

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