Seven months into maternity leave and finding my feet as a new mum, I am facing a role reversal. I have been fortunate enough to take the last 7 months “off work” to raise our tiny chick into the round-faced babbling baby we have today.
All of a sudden its Sunday night and tomorrow I have work. Work in the sense I will be paid for my labor in pounds and not poopy nappies!
My husband Ben has been holding the fort monetary wise while I have been living the dream of ladies what lunch and play groups. Now, with holidays he needs to take and my keeping in touch days to do, we are swapping roles for the week and he will be playing mum to our 7-month-old daughter Scarlett.
So we begin this adventure on Sunday night:
I feel like I’m on my holidays. Tonight I can go to bed and know when I here that inevitable squawk over the monitor I can roll over and give my partner and firm nudge in the side as he is off tomorrow so is responsible for the night time care. I cant help but smile in anticipation of the conversation that will come on Friday when he hands our beautiful daughter over with a wipe of his furrowed sweaty brow and says, That was HARD work!
After Scarlett has been put to bed for the night the first thing I do is unplug the charger for the baby monitor and casually move it to my partners side of the bed. Job done I turn my attention to opening a bottle of red wine whilst catching up on various texts, emails and social media whilst I race through the recorded x factor shows of the weekend, it’s the only way to watch it. A fine example of multi tasking.
I go to bed and think of how Ben will get on in the week ahead.
Will he know how to dress her? As stylish as my partner is I wouldn’t let him dress me. Any top I wear is called a dress and anything worn on the lower half of my body is a trouser, whether its a pair of tights or a pair of jeans. Unless it’s a skirt and that would come under the “dress” category! Ben has dressed Scarlett in a pajama top and a pair of tights before.
Have I reminded him to feed her? Not that I think he would intentionally starve our child but we are all new to the wonders of weaning and I often need to remind myself that solid foods are required along side milk!
Naps? Well his guess is as good as mine.
I push these thoughts to the back of my mind and relax into bed as tomorrow Im getting up only once, to go to work!
I give myself an hour to get ready. 20mins in and Im done. Washed, dressed and make up on. My brain and body have been in training for the last 7 months on the art of speed dressing. I don’t remember how to get ready in a leisurely manor.
I contemplate going into Scarlett’s room and choosing her some clothes for the day then think better of it. So her tights wont match her dress today whats the harm in that! I leave it to him.
Instead I put on some coffee. Ben kindly has a ritual of bringing me a lovely cup of coffee before he leaves for work each morning so I shall stick with tradition and return the favour. Experience tells me he wont get to drink it while its still hot.
I do the first nappy change of the morning as a gesture of goodwill and then leave amidst breakfast chaos. I dodge a porridge-laden spoon and a buttery hand and kiss my baby goodbye. As I walk out the door I push any fears aside as I remind myself what a wonderful father Ben is; he will always have our daughters best interests at heart.
Its astonishing how little luggage single me requires. All tucked away nicely in a tan leather satchel that hasn’t seen the light of day since the bean was born. It feels good not to have to wear a bag that is made of patterned wipe clean fabric.
Work is a pleasure. Catching up with friends and colleagues, lots of jobs to do but under my own steam and with little interruption they seem a breeze.
All is going well until I crack about 1:30 and call home to check everything is going okay. I get no answer, which I half expect. I never manage reach my phone in time anymore and what usually happens is I do a mass response to text messages and emails at the end of the day in bed just before lights out. So I go with the theory that no news is good news.
Around 3pm I get a call from the other half. They have been to soft play, ambitious for a first day. Im impressed. He tells me she is quite wingy as she is teething and I can here her crying in the background. The conversation is short due to the teething baby and Im left wanting to drop everything and race home to hold her in my arms. But work I must, so I solider on. Only 3 hours left!
Six o’clock comes and I race home, observing the speed limits of course. When I burst through the door I’m greeted with calm not chaos. He makes it look like Jo frost and one of the people from the show Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners has been and visited. The whirl of the washing machine was going, the floor had been swept and mopped and the baby was napping sweetly in the pram as he prepared dinner. Bonus points for the boy.
What a joy it was to spend the evening giving Scarlett her dinner and enjoying bath time rather than it being the final chore to a long day.
After she is put to bed Ben spends the rest of the evening under quiz fire where I ask him for details of when she pooped (an obsession with her bowl movements has stuck with me long after a bout of constipation) what she had eaten and if she had smiled in the ball pond at soft play. Had she been teething badly? Did he need to use Calpol or was it just teething rings? The questions went on until I had built a picture of the day Id missed. Satisfied I retired to bed myself.
I wake with what feel like bedsores. I cant remember the last time I spent 8 hours horizontal! I feel bad as I am aware that Ben had got up at least twice last night and I tell myself that tonight I will definitely do some of the night time care. I kind of miss it.
She makes us aware that she is also awake and I go and collect her from her cot for some of the sweetest cuddles of the day. This sets me up for another day at work. The weather is brisk and blustery as you’d expect for October and as I leave the house in barley any day light a part of me wants to stay in the warm cosy home with my two favourite people. Shitty nappies and all.
A proper coffee from our on site canteen eases the urge to dash home and the friendly banter from work colleagues has me relishing my adult life again.
By lunchtime on day two I have to call home to say I will be late. Typical in my line of work but this is the first time it really matters to me. Every extra minute in work is a minute taken from the precious little time I have before Scarlett goes to bed.
I get home one hour before bedtime and make the most of it by getting right up in her face and kissing those chubby cheeks! Ben gives me the highlights of the day. My favourite is the poo in the bath. Wow she has excelled herself! That is something even if haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing. The bath seat came off worst effected.
I send a text out to my nearest and dearest to see if anyone will take in a lost soul for dinner tonight. Ben is taking our baby down to London today to see his mum for a few days. I will join them after work on Friday. Not only is this the first time I have stayed in a different location to my child it will be for a total of 60 hours! Two and a half days! Hundreds of minutes! Not that Im counting.
Now as far as Daddy Day Care goes you could say that a trip to see your mum could be classed in some circumstances as reaching for a helping hand. Not I. Have you ever tried to pack for a child? The endless list of “what if” scenarios. What if its cold, she needs that special teddy, that colourful blanket, various carriers and chairs, eating equipment and a toiletries bag that would rival even the most pampered lady. Good luck with that one. Oh and have I mentioned that Scarlett hates her car seat?
They set off for the big smoke and I for the office.
So far I have had a fairly straightforward forward week of prop buying. However Wednesday throws me a curve ball that catches me in my coffee drinking, socialising stride. A simple can you get me 20 meters of 3 inch plastic hose by the end of the day turns into a manic hunt across Liverpool for the elusive hose. I had forgotten that feeling of rising panic as the time ticks on and your shopping list is growing by the minute. I ask myself if this is the better end of the work/child care deal?
Even in my sweaty, panic stricken shopping state I think I still get the better end of the deal. Ben’s normal 3 and a half hour journey home to the mother land takes him a total of 7 and a half hours. One massive traffic jam, two stops at service stations and three shitty nappies later and they arrive in London.
I was greatly appreciative that evening for the safe arrival of my husband and daughter, for the free dinner and glass of wine at my sisters house, and for the fact that Ben left the heating on as I didn’t feel cold and deserted when I crawled into bed. On my way to bed I checked her cot even though I knew she wasn’t in it.
I feel cheated. I have dreamt for the last 7 months, longer if you count the months of sleepless nights towards the end of pregnancy to get a full 8 hours sleep. So I get my wish for a full nights kip and I wake up feeling rubbish! I have one of those headaches that I have a vague recollection of getting when I was a teenager and could sleep in until gone 12pm.
The morning is busy and by 1:30 I am still suffering from my sleepy headache. I decide that a strong coffee and a bit of sugar might shift it so I head into Leaf on Bold Street, one of my favourite cafes in Liverpool. Whilst waiting for my order I spot a baby who is so like my daughter I cant take my eyes off her. She even has the same jumper. The mother looks fantastic, hair and makeup done, meeting and friend for lunch. I want to be her with my baby. I watch as she struggles to hold the child whilst removing her coat. All the while said “friend” just watches her struggle, obviously she hasn’t had any kids yet. The mother then does a sweep of the table moving all objects out of reach from the little grasping hands of her baby. I remember that lunch with a baby is not what its made out to be. I bet she orders something lovely to eat and barely touches it. I head back to the office to eat my lunch in relative peace while I type up my expenses.
Second night home alone I decide to treat myself to a bath and a glass of wine. Do I drink too much wine and coffee?? I guess that is another blog post all together. I try to relax and remember what I did with myself when I did’nt have a kid and chores to keep me busy.
I use the rest of the free time to clean the kitchen properly rather than the rushed daily effort it normally gets. I go to bed rather satisfied and realise I enjoyed sorting out the kitchen more then the bath. Amazing how your priorities change. At the beginning of the week I had planned to go out with friends, I heard Thursdays are the new Fridays, but I go to bed more content knowing the marmite finger prints have been removed from the kitchen cupboard handles.
I wake up excited to crack on with the day and get on that train to London and back to my baby. I sweep up all the loose ends in work before I wave goodbye to friends and colleagues for another couple of months. My work here is done for now, I will rejoin them in January when my maternity leave is well and truly over.
As the train whisks me away from Liverpool to London I reflect on the week I have had. I am thankful for the keeping in touch days, as am more confident than ever about my return to
work once my leave is up and the anxiousness about how I will do two jobs (earning money and looking after a child) are put to rest. I am also thankful for the opportunity Ben had to bond with his daughter and spend a very special week learning about how to handle a poo in a bath and nightmare car journeys. It’s what makes us stronger.
As for the debate on who works harder? I still think it’s the stay at home parent who bares the emotional and physical brunt of the workload. But we cant live off fresh air either! I think you just have to do what you need to do to get by and luckily we make a good team Ben and I.
I have to admit I am secretly happy that on Monday I am “off work” to look after Scarlett J
Ooops there’s the wine again…