My wife started back at work this week, just over a year after our daughter was born. I’m now working 4 days a week, and my wife 2.5, which means that one day a week I will be staying at home and looking after our daughter alone. Yesterday was the first day and I was a little nervous beforehand. I’d looked after our daughter alone for the odd morning or afternoon, or large chunks of a day, but ten hours suddenly seemed like an awfully long time and I hoped I would be up to the task.
The day got off to an inauspicious start when our daughter decided that 5am was a suitable time to wake up, and could not be persuaded otherwise. So by the time my wife left for work at 8, I’d already been awake 3 hours and felt shattered before I even began. I’d also done my first stupid thing of the day, and on autopilot dressed in my work clothes. My wife commented that I was looking smart and it took me a moment to realise why she’d mentioned it.
Still from that point on the day went pretty well. There was fun (playing with her toys) there was despair (trying to get her to nap). There was laughter (stealing daddies glasses) and tears (from her, because I wasn’t making her dinner fast enough. From me, when she decided to start hitting me surprisingly hard on the knee with a toy hammer). There was also at least one moment where I was overcome by an overwhelming feeling of love for her, whilst I was watching her little brain trying to figure out the best way to eat a fruit pot. The answer is with a spoon as it turns out, not by turning it over and licking the bottom. There was also another moment of stupidity when I managed to leave the house without locking the front door (fortunately with no consequences).
As my wife had warned me, the end of the day was the toughest. The long dark teatime of the soul is a phrase Douglas Adams coined which seems apt to this situation (although I suspect he wasn’t talking about childcare in particular). Both parties are tired and cranky by this point, and awaiting the return home of mummy. I understand now why my wife finds it so hard on the days when I get late home from work. By 5pm I was in severe need of relief, and was delighted when my wife returned home a little later.
Most importantly though, my daughter made it through the day unscathed, as did I, so I think it qualifies as a success. I’m already looking forward to next Wednesday, and the three years between now and when she starts school already seems as if it will go too fast. I must make sure I enjoy this time while I can.