I wasn’t going to do a post tonight, I have the chance for a reasonably early night and I should be taking it, but something has got under my skin and if I don’t say something straight away and put my thoughts out there I will go mad, stew over it all night and not sleep anyway.
Let me explain, our baby was born 6 weeks ago and like many Dads I took the standard two weeks off of work to help with our new born. I say help because if you ever so much as suggest that you are doing your fair share it will be thrown back in your face that you haven’t been through labour or that you get the chance to escape to work. I hasten to add that this is not by the mother but the entourage around her.
I’ve yet to fathom out how work is an escape, maybe for some it is but personally I would much rather be at home watching my son develop and taking in his every action. It hurts enough knowing that I will probably miss his first words, his first steps, his first everything, so please don’t think that I escape to work and I’m sure this is the case for many new fathers. Walking out of the little bubble that we had created for ourselves was the hardest thing I have ever done.
I am aware that I was unable to go through childbirth, believe me I would if I could, watching my partner through her labour and not be able to do anything but hold her hand and encourage her made me feel useless and if there was a way that we could have swapped places then I would have been there before you could shout ‘push!’. But I fail to see why, because i couldn’t do it, this means I should ever lose my voice and the chance to express when I am finding things tough.
I went back to work 4 weeks ago and carried on with my routine as before, or that’s what I thought I would do and I’m sure what other people think.
See, my routine will never be the same as before, I never used to sit at work and wonder how my poorly boy was or how my partner was coping with the day. I never used to sit at work worrying about being the only earner in the house. I never used to wonder what I was missing at home. But I am still expected to function as usual despite this and politely keep quiet, because I am the Dad, I am expected to ‘man up!’, and could never have it as hard as the Mum!
But do you know what? I’m not sure that is the case. Before I spell out what I mean I am sorry if I offend anyone, especially Mothers. I know that what you do is phenomenal and irreplaceable and everyone’s situation is different but I can’t help feeling that there must also be a lot of Fathers like me, that are doing just as much as I am and yet it goes unnoticed. The point of this post is not to suggest that fathers do more than mothers, just that, in some cases, it is more equal than first perceived.
Regardless of whether I wanted children or not, parenthood was always going to be difficult. My partner gave up work to look after our child and does a fantastic job of it. However, she is not good at being on her own, I love my own company and on days off can happily potter about finding things to do, but she goes stir crazy if left to her own devices, so for the last 4 weeks has crammed her days with visiting both our families and friends as much as possible so that the solitude and depression don’t set in. I, on the other hand, haven’t seen a single friend since I have been back at work, I just don’t have the time. I’ve only really seen my own family when they come to visit the baby.
As the father I am not responsible just for my boy, I feel a strong responsibility to look after his mother too, my partner, the woman I love so much. She would probably say she doesn’t need it but it doesn’t stop me as I rush home from work after a long day and try to take over, whilst being diplomatic and making sure she knows I think she is doing a wonderful job, and give her a break. Apart from the feeding I will do everything else to give her some time out for a couple of hours.
But I get home at 8 from work, by the time I have got out of my suit, eaten dinner and then given her a break it is time to sleep, which at the moment is in the spare room so I can be ok for work the next day.
Then it starts all over the following day! This had been my routine for the last four weeks. I have no time to myself and very little relationship with my partner outside of parenting.
Today I have been off work and have bent over backwards to give my partner a break. She is now expressing so I have taken over the feeds, done the housework, looked after baby for a few hours so she can get out of the house, cooked dinner, pretty much everything I could.
Now,I don’t want any medals for this, it’s what I want to do, I’m happy to do it, I will do anything to make my baby’s and partner’s lives as comfortable as possible.
But the point that started this post, the bit that has got me fired up is the lack of people that have questioned my welfare and asked how I’m doing.
I’ve sat there and listened to health visitors asking her a list of questions about how she is, questions relating to both her physical and mental well being. Midwives visited in the early days and checked her over, warning her of peaks in her hormones etc. and telling her to look after herself and watch she doesn’t get low. All of this was fantastic support and we can’t praise the health authorities that surround us enough.
But what about me? And when I say me I’m talking here about hundreds and hundreds of Dads who do everything they possibly can whilst always feeling inadequate next to the Mums.
No one has given me a break, no one has made sure that I see family and friends and that I have the support around me! Even the family and friends that visit will often do so whilst I am at work so that they can give Mum a break too, and then go when I get home as Mum now had help.
I am not looking for sympathy, I just feel it’s time to recognise the effort that Dads put it, and when enquiring about Mum and baby’s welfare just check up on Dad too, he will thank you for it and just maybe feel like someone sees and appreciates what he is doing.