Everyone prepares you (or tries to) for the day your baby arrives. When you go home for the first time. The sleepless nights. The tiredness. The nappies. So many nappies. But what they don’t prepare you for, is the day you go back to work. I’m not talking about you mums out there. I can’t even begin to imagine what that feels likes after spending every day with your little one for months. I’m talking about us Dads who go back to work after paternity leave.
Before Pippa was born, someone at work joked that I’ll be ready to go back to work for a rest after paternity leave was over. It turns out that could not have been further from the truth.
Everyone’s paternity leave is different I’m sure. Some won’t get any. Some will have to pay for theirs, or take a cut in wages, while some will have the option to stay home for weeks or months. There is more and more “Shared Paternity Leave” coming into play now too.
I do consider myself quite lucky that I was given two weeks paternity leave. But I swear I’ve been for dumps that have felt like they’ve lasted longer than those two weeks.
An average two weeks in someone’s life can be pretty uneventful. But those first two weeks of being a daddy were the most incredible, terrifying, emotional and life affirming that I have ever experienced.
Just when we thought we were getting into a routine, it changed. Then changed again. In fact, it has continued to change whenever we dare tell someone that we are in fact in a routine.
There were so many “firsts” to be had during those two weeks. First journey in the car, first night at home, first messy poo, first visit from friends and family, first time feeding in public. That last one is mostly just for Jen and Pippa though. I feed in public all the time.
Two weeks later and the last thing I wanted to do was to go back to work.
It’s true. Not because of any negative feelings I have for my kind of work or just work in general, but because I enjoyed so much spending that time with Pippa and Jen. I loved the mornings, the cuddles, the picking of the outfits, the venturing out for the day. I just loved the routine, or the un-predictability when there was none.
Yet you go back into work two weeks later, and after the initial round of baby pics, work brings you back around with a slap. And it’s a big slap. One minute you’re all goo goo ga ga, and the next you’re all spreadsheets and meetings.
Some dad’s look at me like I’m on glue when I talk to them about this. In fact, so much so that it feels like it’s wrong for me to feel this way. That’s it’s not the proper way to be feeling about this situation. That I should be grateful to be able to get out the house each day. Be the bread winner. Put food on the table and clothes on our back. But that’s not how I feel at all.
It can be very challenging expressing these kinds of thoughts, because I 100% know that what Jen does every day is not easy. I know that looking after a baby who does not nap for more than 25 minutes at a time requires so much of your time and attention. It means that you don’t have time to do the kind of jobs you used to be able to do if you were at home during the day, and when 6.30pm comes and I walk through the door, you’re ready for a break.
Yet I still would rather deal with all of that stuff than not be a part of it. Rather than being someone who essentially clocks out at 8am and clocks back in at 6.30pm.
I might be in the minority, but I bet I’m not alone.
But this is just my role in all of this. And I accept that. What it does do though, is makes me treasure the time I do have with Pippa and Jen even more. You’ve got to live for the weekends.
One of the benefits of going to work in the morning, is that I’m the one who picks Pippa up out of her cot after she wakes up (let’s not pretend like that’s the first time she actually wakes up during the night!). Those smiles are the best smiles. It’s what fuels me in the mornings and keeps me going all day. Well, that and about 17 cups of coffee. This is tiring stuff you know!