The Missing Months

For those eagle eyed readers out there, you will have noticed a gap
between the entry in March and the next one in July. Thank you to all
those concerned folks out there who messaged me with their concern
that my blog had gone quiet.
You may think the silence was due to problems and lack of time keeping
up with the blog, and that is only partly true – as a new parent you
never have time to do anything. There were no problems as such, just
life. As a writer, I know that most of the work you do happens before
you start typing – it is the process of collecting your thoughts.
This generally requires moments of quiet contemplation – if you are a
new parent and you can find a minute’s silence, tell me how you do it.
So what happened in those months?
Well the most important event was learning in April that the nursery
we had planned taking him to, did not have any available places. This
was a big blow, as the nursery was at my place of work, so it seemed
extremely convenient being in the same building as Theo. We had a
Plan B luckily, but it was at the more expensive nursery closer to our
home: the one with closed circuit cameras so parents could check in
on their babies during the day. At the same time we learned we had to
rethink our nursery plans, Willy had a difficult conversation with her
manager. Originally she was told that Willy’s new working hours would
be accommodated (we had wanted 3 days), however, her manager said she
could only have 2 and a half days or full time: no negotiating.
Bearing in mind Willy was still on maternity leave at this point and
was powerless to accept anything but what she was given. Obviously
full time was not an option, as Theo would have been in nursery for 4
days, so she accepted the 2 and a half days. This meant Theo would
only be in nursery for 1 and a half days, which would clearly reduce
the cost and give him a better balance of home and nursery. It also meant our income was reduced and we would have to tighten our belts in other areas.
With that bombshell ringing in our ears, we approached the nursery
that we had visited first to see whether they could take Theo – luckily they could and we all ready to start when Willy went back to work in July.
It is interesting to note now that there have been many news stories
of high profile mothers stating they were disadvantaged or side-lined
whilst on maternity leave and treated differently on their return.
This is Willy’s experience as well. The fact is that during maternity
leave, a mother’s coping skills are improved beyond anything they
would learn at work, and on their return to work should be considered
more valuable to a team than before. It is a typical short-sighted
view of a society that gives more kudos to business than to the business of being a human being.
In June I began my reduced hours, where I do not work on Mondays and
work 32 hours from Tuesday to Friday. As Willy was still not back in
work until July we managed to have a good family June together, even
incorporating a week away in Porthcawl: a proper holiday in a caravan by the sea. Theo had a bucketful of new experiences including the sea and sand, rain on a caravan roof, sleeping in a travel cot, ice cream,
and getting washed in a shower tray. Theo loved sand and was not
scared by the sea at all. We had a couple of sunny days and a couple
of rainy ones too, when we utilised the indoor pool and bought Theo an
inflatable ring to sit in.
It was a big hurdle for us as parents, as this was our first time away
from the safety of our own home. But despite not having everything
immediately to hand, we all had a great time.
These months definitely saw an improvement in our skill as parents and
Theo was clearly thriving. Me and Willy even managed to have a night
out together, alone, and we also had a couple of nights out separately
with our friends. We even were invited to a friend’s for a meal: all
three of us (they were the first of my circle of friends to have
children and their kids are now almost adults). We felt normal again,
and I felt guilty that I had shown no interest in their children all
those years ago and understood the loneliness of the parent, who
either never gets an invite out, or has to go alone.
In July, Willy went back to work and I experienced my first full day as a daddy daycare dad. I have been doing it over a month now and it is odd that each Monday has been different: the first two were easy and Theo was on form – a perfect child. This made me feel guilty as Willy came home and found me coping admirably, as if to rub it in when she was struggling on her own with him during her maternity leave.
The third Monday Theo was in a terrible mood all day and would not be
left for a second without crying. He wouldn’t sit in his high chair
for meals and screamed until taken out. It was a hard day and Willy
had a ‘I told you so’ look when she came in from work. The following
Monday he was excellent and the one after is documented in my previous
post when he fell and cracked his head on the floor, so I spent the
whole afternoon feeling guilty. You really do not know what to expect
each time and I guess that is part of the excitement.
I will add here a comment about the unpredictability of children’s
behaviour and use Theo’s bedtime routine as an example. For a number
of weeks Theo was put to bed at night at around 7:30 by either more or
Willy, he was read a story, given a cuddle and placed in his cot with
a music/light box on to gently get him to sleep. Without fail this
worked every night and he was no trouble. Suddenly, he started crying
when you put him in the cot, and then started screaming when you turned the light off or just left the room. So much so that you had to return to reassure him and often stay until he fell asleep. A nightmare for us, as we were given conflicting advice about letting them cry, or not letting them cry, making a rod for your own back or deserting your child when they need you etc. In the end, it was really just a phase and now he generally settles himself, with only the occasional short cry as you leave the room. What is odd though is that now he is crawling (oh did I forget to mention that, sorry), we often go in to his room in the morning to find him sitting up in his cot, waiting for us to come in. What a glorious sight he is!
Ah yes, I forgot to mention Theo started crawling just a few days before he was 11 months old. He had been pushing himself from his belly to a sitting position for a few weeks, but seemed to not have the coordination to crawl once on his hands and knees, however, out of nowhere, he started to move his legs whilst kneeling and soon after
understood he had to move his arms to. Now, just 10 days later and he is like greased lightening. Up and down the hall we go, a dozen times in the morning and again in the afternoon. We spent weeks and weeks wondering why he wasn’t crawling and then a week wishing he would stop. I am 44 years old and he is wearing me out! There are days I
think I should have done this years ago, when I had more energy and fewer creaking bones.

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