Rachel’s post is fascinating for a number of reasons. Let me ask you a question. How many of you know of a dad who has stayed home to raise a child? I only know of dads who stay at home one day a week. The system, as it is set up, doesn’t allow for much flexibility. But Rachel and O have made it work – and yet it hasn’t been easy - there have been judgement and assumptions to tackle. Over to you, Rachel:
As background I’m Rachel from mysparethoughts, my husband is referred to as O and we are parents to our daughter 1KB who was born at the beginning of January.
I was raised by a working Mum. It just so happened that her job was to look after me which she did from when I was 6 months to 8 years old. Her children were slightly older and at school while she cared for me to start, when school finished for the day she looked after her own children and my older sister and I.
Mum2, my child minder, is an amazing woman. A woman that flew back to the UK from Australia for our wedding, who phoned days after 1KB was born and who I begged to come and help me look after her – she is now in her seventies and cares for her grandchildren so unfortunately cannot come and help look after another generation of my family. My own parents, who both went out to work, of course also had a substantial part to play in raising me.
I fully expected that I would marry a man in a suit. My Dad wore a suit until he retired and I thought I would marry a business man like him. However I fell in love with a man who has no desire to wear a suit, who would go crazy working in an office, behind a computer or where he has to deal with members of the public. Despite his two degrees my husband is a gardener/handyman.
O and I discussed early on in our relationship how things might work. Practically, financially, I have to go to work. I earn the most money and we would be unable to pay our bills on a month-to-month basis if I stopped working or we would need to live a substantially different lifestyle.
Emotionally I predicted that I would want to go to work but had no idea how I would feel. I never imagined myself as a stay at home Mum. I don’t have the patience, imagination or creativity for such a job. We knew that with O’s low earning potential that most, if not all, of his wages would simply go out the door for childcare so why not have him stay at home? It was something he has always looked forward to.
1KB arrived and along with her noise, mess, fun and a lifetime of challenges. Thankfully (although that feels like the wrong word) I haven’t changed my mind and although I miss her like crazy I still think returning to work is the right decision.
O now only works two days a week. After a lot of discussion and some financial debating we have decided that 1KB will go into a nursery a day and a half a week with me picking up the extra half day of care by compressing my hours rather than reducing my pay. From very early on she has been fascinated by watching other children and we hope that nursery will help her socially. At the moment she is still settling in and trying to figure out this strange place she is left in.
There is no denying that O will find it more difficult to attend the groups that I have attended with 1KB. He’d be the only male voice among a crowd of women at the sing a long groups and he’d be inappropriately out of place at the breastfeeding group we attended. The only place there has ever been Dads is at swimming and the Mums are often there too. I think it must take an exceptionally brave Dad to break into these groups. Being at nursery will hopefully give her the other baby watching opportunities she might miss from not going to ALL the groups with me.
O is an amazing father and that he wants to spend his time with 1KB makes me very happy. We’re lucky that his work have been supportive and agreed that he can reduce his work pattern from full time to two days. However the all-male team that he works in cannot understand his decision. Despite the financial arguments against him working they still would not do it themselves. I have also had unusual reactions from the women that I’ve told including ‘REALLY?!’ or ‘He is in for a shock’ – mostly however they have been curious as to how we are going to make it work and what O will do with 1KB all day.
I’ve now been back at work for four weeks and I have to admit to missing her a lot. Missing out on the little developments she makes with her eating, playing or moving. O mentioned a while ago how much better 1KB is getting at drinking from her cup. That she had finally got it. It dawned on me that she’d been drinking really well for days. But I got to see her do that at three meals a day every day whereas O only saw her at one meal a day so it took a few days to realise that it isn’t a fluke and is actually a new skill. O is now teaching her to use the spoon for herself (with messy consequences) but it is his turn to advance her development. I was there when she started crawling backwards, then finally forwards and when she started pulling herself up on the sofa. But I will inevitably miss out on some of the next big milestones in terms of her development.
O is already learning that the days are very long without some sort of planned activity. He worries that he may find being at home without any colleagues three days a week lonely but we’ll need to cross that hurdle when and if we come to it. She still isn’t convinced about nursery but we’re hoping she will warm to it soon.