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Last week, we heard from Ian Newbold, about life as a single parent dad as part of our #JoJoPapaBebe campaign. Today, we have a guest post from Alex from Daddacool. Here, he writes about the ups and downs of being a full time working dad and the challenges that come with spending less time with the kids.
Being a working dad has its ups and downs. On the up side (for me at least) I’m often accused of escaping to work when the children are over excited, fractious of simply just kicking off in the morning. This may or may not be true, I couldn’t possibly comment as I sit at my desk at work at 5:30am writing this.
When our 8 and a bit year old was more or less 8 years younger than he is now, the hardest thing I had to do as a working dad was return to work after a couple of weeks’ annual leave I took when he was born. (Normally I’d call it holiday but as a new parent it’s anything but a holiday as you both try to work out what to do with a new little life who won’t sleep after you’ve been up 36 hours straight during a fairly long labour.) When you’ve had your first baby, you have an initial flurry of visitors but in some sort of attempt at well-meaning empathy they soon leave you alone to “enjoy” your baby as parents, which means you spend an awful lot of time together in a short period with your baby, which is good but also can lead to a bit of stir craziness. The first couple of weeks are hard, and as a dad I found it doubly hard going back to work knowing that my wife would have to cope on her own. I had trouble enough coping with the lack of sleep and I had to make sure I had any work that was mentally challenging done in the morning, with more admin related work left until later. Nowadays with all three of our kids a bit older (8, 6 and 3) the most difficult thing is not being there to be involved in the day to day stuff- dealing with post school upsets, helping with homework, talking about the school day – by the time I’m home at 6ish, they kids all want to forget the day and focus on the evening.
The amount of time I took off work diminished with each child. With our first I took two weeks of annual leave, with our daughter I took 7 or 8 days over a two week period and with our littlest, about a week. Knowing what to expect and realising that it’s a month or so in, when sleep deprivation has ground down whatever adrenaline rush that sees you through the first few weeks, is the time that you really need to pull together, was the reason for the drop in initial leave. That and a fairly limited amount of holiday in the first place. I love all our children equally but there is something special about the time you have with your first and I certainly don’t regret using almost half my annual leave allowance when our first was born. It was a time I’ll never forget. In all three instances though I took annual leave rather than statutory paternity leave because financially it just wasn’t feasible to take the hit on not receiving my salary while I was off. At the time, two weeks of my take-home pay paid for the mortgage and all the bills, the remaining two weeks of every month’s pay paid for our living costs.
I don’t know if I ever get jealous about my wife’s relationship with any of our kids. I am aware that her relationship is inherently different than mine, after all she carried each of them in her body for 9 months and shares a level of intimacy with them that a man could never equal. Having said that, the majority of the discipline falls upon her as she is around when they misbehave – we believe that a telling off should happen immediate to the crime, otherwise it’s too easy to confuse the child involved – and this does lead to some occasional resentment from the kids. I discipline them when I have to but by and large they mostly behave when I’m around, so I’m seen more as the good guy a lot of the time. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the kids are generally exceptionally pleased to see me when I get home from work. I’m often flattened by an avalanche of kids before I’ve even managed to take my shoes off. Still, whenever they’re upset or hurt, all three kids really want their mummy and I think that’s lovely and don’t resent it at all.
Our littlest is 5 years younger than the eldest. In practical terms this means at 3 and a half he thinks he should have all the rights and privileges of someone over twice his age. A lot of people ask how hard it was getting used to the sleepless nights when we had Eddie but in truth it wasn’t something we had to deal with. Sam, our eldest, slept through from around 8 months and is still to this day the worlds deepest sleeper. Unfortunately our daughter didn’t start sleeping through until she was two and a half, and when she did we had an entire spring/summer where she woke up at about 4am and was bouncing off the walls wanting to play. If my maths is right, this basically meant we only had a few months of potential uninterrupted sleep before Eddie was born and we spent most of this getting out of the routine of waking up at around 2am for a feed. Adjusting back to nappies wasn’t much of an issue, in many ways it’s easy to deal with a baby in nappies that’s not on solids yet than it is dealing with an older child who’s more or less potty trained. Things only start to get properly interesting in terms of baby management when they start to crawl!