So last week saw my wife, Rachel, end her maternity leave and go back to work. We are now officially working parents! She started on an induction week where she was basically working 7-3, Monday to Friday. Meanwhile I was suddenly a Stay-at-Home dad for the week! Of course, that was just the first week where I used annual leave. But from here on out we’re going to find ourselves in the position of swapping shifts and working out childcare. Things are going to be very different.
Starting the Transition to Becoming Working Parents
Rachel is a nurse in A&E, and as such, she does 12.5 hour shifts. Throw in the travel time, and Rachel will basically be out of the house for 13.5 hours; or ALL DAY to keep it simple. If it wasn’t for the fact she has to use all her annual leave by April, she’d be doing this three times a week. But we’re very lucky in the sense that for the next few months we get to slowly transition into becoming proper working parents with her working just two days a week.
Since we largely want to be the ones who are looking after Isabelle, Rachel will be requesting to work my days off. This means that from here on out, my days off will mostly consist of being the main caregiver.
It also means that Our days off together are going to be much more precious
This means that when we do get time together, we’re going to be much more mindful of what we do with it. I know we’ve just had almost a year of time together, so this is going to be a difficult transition, but all that time has now gone. We just have to look forward. The only real time we’re going to be off together will either come from annual leave, or if she happens to get staffed on my working days, in which case we’ll be relying on some form of childcare.
Luckily though, I’m a postman. So quite often I’m home before 2pm every day anyway. Even when I’m in work, we still get time to do plenty of stuff and see each other. On quite a few occasions I’ve finished work rather early and we’ve been able to head straight to soft play. We easily manage to have a good hour there before we have to head home and start making food for the evening.
Becoming a Stay-at-Home Dad on my days off
For me personally, with Rachel going back to work it means I’m going to be a ‘stay-at-home’ dad far more often. I’m not sure if calling myself is technically correct as people tend to only count it if they do it as their ‘job’ so to speak. So I’m not technically a stay-at-home dad, but I’ll certainly be doing it as a part time thing.
Either way, as of this writing I’m a little bit apprehensive about it. Rachel still breastfeeds Isabelle, so she’s very much used to having boobs on demand, something I can’t provide. Can I provide milk from a cup? Absolutely. But we all know that’s not the same. Breastfeeding is about more than just the milk.
After Rachel’s introductory week last week, Isabelle was accustomed to Rachel being out of the house for most of the day. What she didn’t like was Rachel being out of the house when it was time to sleep for the night. I’ve now done a few of these full days that are going to become the norm. Instead of lovingly accepting the milk from a cup and drifting peacefully into a silent slumber, Isabelle instead invoked her inner demon spirit and tried to summon her much more likely father, Satan.
A Difficult transition for our baby, not just for us
She was, and I put this mildly, utterly inconsolable. If I put her down, she’d scream about it whilst trying to crawl back to me to be picked up. If I picked her up, she’d scream and cry in my face. And if I offered her milk, she’d either drink it and continue crying or push it away. I tried it all. But at this point I think she either wanted boob, or quite possibly, she just wanted her mum back.
Of course, I had a lot of my old postnatal depression feelings creep slightly back into view. The usual lovely emotions of disliking her, not really wanting her here, and all that stuff that you may have read about before. I did find myself say out loud “what am I even doing here?” but I knew that was said in a more rhetorical sense than a literal one. I’ve had much worse thoughts flood my head during my time with depression, and fortunately they held the same rhetorical nature.
Finding Ways to deal with the transition
Eventually I did what has seemed to help when she’s like this. I put headphones on and played music. This helped to drown out the screams and focused my attention on to something else. I put the babycarrier on and just walked around the house with her as she cried and cried for well over an hour. All I could do was try to empathise with her. She was upset that she didn’t have her mum, so I just comforted her the best I could and waited it out. There wasn’t much else I could do.
It’s at this point where you’d think I might be a little resentful of the fact that Rachel still breastfeeds, as I was assuming this was the main reason why she was crying. She even asked me this when she came home and later said “do you wish I hadn’t breastfed?” To which I simply said “I didn’t even think about it.” And in fairness, Isabelle only fed for a couple of minutes when Rachel did get in and straight after she was back to her normal self. Maybe it was just her mum she was missing, and not her boobs.
But out of all three of us this is probably a bigger transition for Isabelle than it is for us. She’d gone from having her mum there virtually 24/7 to having her out of the house for the entire day. It’s only natural that she finds this a little bit upsetting.
Being Working Parents is our life from here on out
I know this is just another stage in this parenting journey that we all have to get through. I know eventually that Isabelle will get used to Rachel coming home that little bit later. On one of the nights recently she was starting to cry herself into a sleepy state, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before she actually fell asleep had Rachel been home later. I know Rachel is going to have to do a shift where she’ll be home around 10pm, so that will be the next test before we eventually have to do the much more dreaded night shift. I’m already bricking it on that one.