Written by David Freed | Dad’s Turn
When a baby’s on it’s way, the first big post-labour couple’s decision to make is how you’re going to split parenting responsibilities, at least in the first year. For many couples there isn’t really a choice about whether dad can take his fair share of parental leave, because it’s not financially possible. But even then, both parents will be home during the weekends, on holidays, and hopefully in the evenings too. So if you’re both really signed up to the parenting gig, it’s going to be a big decision how you share things.
Before Little Bear was born my wife and I both thought that the first year was going to be a little tough with some good upsides too (these turned out to be huge understatements!). So we agreed to share parental leave for the first year roughly 50:50. She would take the first half, recovering from labour, breastfeeding and all that. I would take the second half. The first six months she would happily nurse our contented bundle of joy around Greenwich seeing friends, then for the next six months I would travel around the country and a few European cities with my little more mobile buddy in tow… Turns out we naively underestimated the daunting nature of leaving the house.
We also decided to share the load of the stay-at-home parent. So during the weekends, early mornings and evenings that the ‘working parent’ was home, they would take the lead looking after him. So every morning before I would head off to work, I had 2 hours of Pappa-bebis tid (daddy-baby time), and now my wife takes her Mamma-bebis tid every morning instead. The working parent puts the Little Bear to bed and changes more nappies on the weekend. Well, in the first 3 weeks at home, I changed every single nappy (a drop in the ocean compared to labour I guess).
For sleeps, the working parent takes the nights they don’t work the next morning, giving the parental leave parent the other five nights. Since he’s still waking up a couple of times a night, I look forward to that night’s sleep a lot by Thursday.
There have been some downsides. We both have to learn everything about the Little Bear, even the one who’s working. Pappa had to learn Mamma was right we she said Little Bear will need a nap before noon. Pappa learnt this the hard way, not realising so much noise could come out of something so small just because he didn’t sleep. Mamma learnt that we can no longer relax when we put him on the floor to play on his back when he’s learnt to crawl. Mamma learnt this at the expense of one of her books and a couple of DVDs.
But this way of sharing the parenting has also had quite a few perks. Despite being a relatively energetic and wriggly little terrier, neither of us got or get too exhausted (first few weeks) and sick-baby days excluded of course!). Neither of us resent the other for not doing their fair share. But one of the benefits I’ve really loved, is just how close he is to both of us.
Getting home from work
Despite hanging around him the whole day, cleaning his poo-explosions, dealing with tantrums and his propensity to throw food on the floor and himself into danger at every opportunity, there is always something slightly irritating when the other parent gets home and he loses it to some sort of ecstatic frenzy.
‘Oh my God! Mamma’s home! Holly shit! Get out my way Pappa! I’m bored of you. The Goddess has arrived’. I now understand how my wife felt when I would arrive home after she told me he’d been really tough that day, and he would switch into some sort of giggling hysteria the moment I picked him up. I shamefully may have even said to my sleepy looking wife when I arrived home from work one day ‘he just wants to be a bit more active’ (*I’m sorry babe, I understand now he’s just fickle and unappreciative little poo).
During the day
It means as a dad, I don’t miss out, and I have a lot of fun with the little guy. I wouldn’t want to miss it, and they only way to feel a part of that for me has been to be a big part of Little Bear’s life.
Whilst typing this, I just watched my son scale a bookshelf, reach up to pull-down a new red toy parrot (that had been put supposedly out of his reach), spin to the floor and announce to me how please he is with himself for his ingenuity. Less than a year ago he was an immobile potato! Whenever he’s doing something new, he looks for me to get my reassurance to know it’s safe (although when he doesn’t get it, he tends to continue with the dangerous activity anyway). Oh, he now wants to help Pappa type again… You can’t describe what it’s like loving and being loved by such a clever tiny person. You both get to watch the little one grow and it’s great.
Special person – who’s the favourite
There are times when Pappa’s the favourite, and there are times when Mamma’s the favourite. But one thing that we can both happily rely on is that we are both the familiar favourites together miles ahead of anyone else in the world. When he’s hurt, sick or just sad, Little Bear can come to either of us equally and snuggle up (and screech if removed). When he spots us sneaking out of the door, he’ll lose it. His happiest times are when he gets to play with Pappa and Mamma together. Can’t beat it.
I’ve heard of dads who can’t spend a lot of time with their babies, and the little ones don’t treat them that differently from other relatives. I hope there are also lucky dads who leave most parenting to mum, but who get the levels of baby-love more active dads do. But I think the odds are against it, and I think the hours of us both holding Little Bear when he’s sick, sad or frightened have really paid off.
Of course it also makes using a crèche or nursery a little more tough on the heart, when he wont tolerate spotting me leaving the room with out bursting into tears calling ‘daddy’ (‘Pappa’ is saved for when he’s happy now apparently). [Going back to work in January will be really difficult]
It may not work for everyone, but for us, sharing parenting as equally as we could has so far turned out really great.
Follow Pappa’s time with Little Bear at www.Dads-Turn.co.uk
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