Confessions of a working dad (or how I re-learned to live for the weekend)

imageTo say that my attitude towards work has changed somewhat since the arrival of my baby boy four months ago would be something of an understatement.

Before he was born, I would regularly be the first person there in the morning, and more often and not also be the last one out. I’ve worked hard to get into the position that I’m in – and am proud of myself for doing so.

However, now that my little man’s at home, things are a little different.

I’ve changed everything about my working day. Rather than getting up at eight and getting into the office at nine, my alarm wakes me at a quarter to five everyday and I’m at my desk by six. Yes, it’s tough going and no amount of tea in a morning ever really helps me recover, but its the smallest of prices to pay in order to leave work at a reasonable time and get home to my family.

My heart still breaks on a daily basis. To know that I’m leaving my little boy behind as I drag myself to the bus stop. To know that I’ll miss the huge grin that he flashes at whoever he first sees in a morning. To know that I won’t be there as he lays on my bed, ‘chatting’ in his unique way. To know that I won’t get to spend the day with my bright and happy little man who is growing up far too quickly as it is.

For any expectant dads reading this, colleagues will tell you that, by the end of your maternity leave, you’ll be happy to get back to work and escape middle of the night feeding and nappy changes. It’s rubbish. You won’t.

I was distraught in my first day back in the office. Combined with constant worries about how he was and how his mum was coping were feelings of extreme injustice. I found it hard to deal with the fact that I had to be in the office when my newborn son was at home. I felt like I was missing out, and its a feeling that hasn’t gone away three and a half months down the line. I realise that soon, I have to stop feeling sorry for myself. I have to grab the bull by the horns and throw myself back into work. I know that the better I do, the better life I can provide for him. But each and every time I decide I’ve reached a turning point, and that particular day is the one that I get my ‘work head’ on again, I spend most of the day looking at photos of him or thinking about all of the great times we have together.

I suppose, in some way, I was also jealous of his mum in those early days. I know that it was anything but a walk in the park for her at times, and it is exhausting looking after a baby that craves attention, but I wanted to be the one who was there with him. I’m happy to say I’m well past those feelings, though they resurface from time to time when he’s upset and I can do nothing to soothe him, though seconds in his mum’s arms have him fast asleep. I suppose, more than anything, it’s their bond that I wish I had, though I’m intelligent enough to also know that’s it’s not all about their time together, and is also about hormones and other sciency stuff.

When I was younger, I learned to live for the weekend. I had a succession of awful jobs that were made bearable by the thought of a blow out come Friday night – beers and friends were the order of the day – and it would often extend I to all day Saturday – with Sundays wasted laying around and feeling like death.

More than ever now, I feel like I’m living for the weekend. It’s 48 hours of uninterrupted family time, and I treasure it with every fibre of my being.

Thankfully for me, our little man comes alive more than ever when we are both there at the weekend. It was a Saturday when we heard him laugh for the first time – an amazing sound that I can still hear if I close my eyes. It’s Saturdays that we take him to swimming classes, despite him only being four months old, and it was this Saturday gone that he realised that he can roll over if he puts his mind to it.

I cherish each and every weekend now. Even though he’s delighted to see me each night when I get home, even though he smiles and giggles each and every time I take him to be changed, even though he laughs and waves his arms when we sing and dance in the kitchen, it’s the weekends, those glorious 48 hours when it’s just us, me him and his mum, that are so special. There’s no chance of me bringing my bad mood from work home, or being absolutely knackered due to the early starts. I can be sure that I’ll just be me, his daddy.

It’s just us, and there’s nothing in the world that I’d change that for.