Saturday, 1 October 2016

Stay-at-home dad life: The ups and downs

It is now around 10 months since I took over the reins and started looking after Oscar and Isabel full-time. While sleep deprivation and general exhaustion mean my recollections across this period are often sketchy to say the least, I do remember the first and second days very well. For very different reasons.

Prologue

Hang on! I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: ‘But surely you didn’t just jump straight out of a job and into looking after twins without any prep Rob?!?’

That’s a great question, reader (fan).

I didn’t. Ana and I were wise enough to make plans so that we would actually have a week at home together with the twins before she went back to work. As well as being quality family time, it meant we had a bit of a handover period.

It worked really well too, as it not only gave me an insight into how to she was running the show but also meant I had a chance to sample the things which were to become my daily life.

From the outset I’d always said that if I was doing this job, I’d do it right. This meant putting aside my general social ineptitude and throwing myself into going to groups, coffee mornings and all of the rest of it. They were key as it would give the kids interaction with others and Daddy some form of adult conversation (not that kind of adult, you weirdo).

So, I sampled the life and readied myself for what was to come. What could possible go wrong?

Day 1     
                                                                                                                 
Well, nothing actually. My first day as a proper stay-at-home dad was a breeze. Easy. No problems whatsoever. Smooth sailing.

They woke up, had breakfast, their morning bottles and then a play before a quick nap. Then I got them up, dressed and over to a neighbour’s place for a regular weekly playdate.

To explain, we’re very lucky to live on an estate with many other new parents. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, all of us keep in touch on a Facebook group and we take turns to host a little get-together on a Monday morning. It is still going relatively strong – which is brilliant.

Enjoying some sensory play on the afternoon.
Following that, it was time for the babies’ lunch and another bottle before a further nap. After that, I got creative by turning the living room into a little sensory play area. Nothing too fancy, just curtains closed, a few multi-coloured LED lights, some noisy toys and a bit of music. Then it was dinnertime and Ana walked through the door.

The twins with the returning hero.
I can only assume that I had prepared myself for the worst, which is why I was so delighted when everything went perfectly. I was genuinely proud and it felt like a real ‘I can do this’ moment. I had proven myself and was ready for anything.

Day 2

Ready for anything except Day 2.

One of the clearest indicators of how Day 2 went is to look at the pictures I took on my phone around this period. There are a good few from Day 1 and a couple from Day 3, but none from Day 2. Day 2 was terrible.

The overriding memory was Oscar being inconsolable the whole day. It was probably teething troubles, but deep down inside I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was actually him realising that I had taken over from Mummy at home. In my head I decided that Day 1 went so well because I was novelty (‘Daddy’s home!’), but on Day 2 I became significantly less exciting (‘...why is he still here?’).

With Oscar being grouchy and therefore neither of them napping well, I resorted to the tried and tested approach of taking them out for walks in order to get some respite. As you’d expect from the flow of this narrative, it was of course a very grey, rainy day to compound the misery.

And just to wrap things up, I also managed to hit my head on Isabel’s cot while trying to retrieve a dropped dummy which had left her crying and miserable too. You couldn’t make it up. When we went out for a walk in the afternoon I did what any self-respecting man would do, sat outside the Royal Armouries and called my Mum to tell her my woes.

All in all, if Day 1 had been an incredibly pleasant surprise, Day 2 was an absolute shock to the senses which snapped me out of any false sense of security that I had flirted with. It was the poor sequel – like Grease 2 or, God forbid, even Speed 2: Cruise Control.

Epilogue

The first two days were such polar opposites that they are unforgettable, but if truth be told they were a perfect introduction to what this life would be like.

Some days can be very easy and others are pretty hard – and I write this a day after the kids were climbing on the TV table, jumping up and down on the sofa, pouring soup on their heads and dropping wooden bricks on me.

But, honestly, most days never hit those extremes. Sure, there’ll be things that go wrong and rearrangements to be made, but the key has been to just to stay calm and go with it. There’s no hiding in this – if it’s 15 minutes until playgroup and Oscar decides that’s the time for a poo-nami which leaks out of the nappy onto his clothes you have to sort it. Then, if Isabel then decides to follow suit five minutes later, you again just have to sort it.


This is life now.

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