I have traditionally taken a week off of work for the birth of each of my children. It has always been stressful; usually I end up being pissy and getting in fights; I don’t do anything useful and most of the time I just get in the way. The craziness of a newborn, plus an existing child (or children), lack of sleep, and zero personal time has led to disaster every time.
After that first week I always head straight back to work tired and stressed out, not having enjoyed my new baby or the time with my family like I should have. Then I launch into the following weeks already in a personal deficit. Suffice it to say, I was worried about how things were going to unfold.
This time around, though, things were completely different.
Zero to Hero
I don’t know exactly how I did it, but somehow I managed to go from doing the bare minimum1 to being pretty fucking amazing.
I have seriously played with Jameson every single day. Look, I made this awesome list of the fun shit we’ve been doing together; this is no ordinary list; it is a list of things that are actually enjoyable for both preschoolers and parents:
- Take a walk on foot (no wheels allowed)
- Take an extremely long walk on foot2
- Watch kid shows like Octonauts and World Girl
- Play with Lego Duplo blocks
- Play video games like SIMS and Snapshot
- Build a robot out of cardboard and paint it
- Go to the farmer’s market
On top of all that, I have cooked nearly three meals a day for the entire three weeks. And we’re not talking about some shitty half-assed freezer meals (though there were a couple of those). I did it up! We’re talking Kale and White Bean Soup with Tofu Chorizo, Summer Squash Casserole, my favorite Muffelettas, Miso Ramen with Bok Choy and Scallions, and Quinoa Street Tacos with Cucumbers and Spicy Remoulade. I even made and fermented some Kimchi, which by the way, turned out pretty damn good.
How did I do it?
I know, right about now this is starting to sound a little bit like an infomercial-slash-humble-brag, but I’m serious about this. It’s been totally different. So how did I do it? Not exactly sure, but here are a few observations.
Thanks to HelloWorld, I actually had paternity leave, which I don’t think I’ve ever had before. I usually have to use vacation time, so I decied to do that too, and take an additional week of vacation in addition to my paternity leave. Due to the way things worked out, though, I actually ended up starting my time off about a week prior to my paternity leave, and I got today off for Labor Day. That’s a grand total of about three weeks, and it’s been amazing.
For one, I knew going in that I would absolutely need to get sleep in order to function; maybe not a full seven hours, or whatever I need for maximum operating capacity, but enough to keep me from becoming a dick. So rather than feebly attempting to help out at night, all night long, every night, until I was sleep deprived… I slept. Heath gets up to feed the little one, but also sleeps whenever he does or any time she needs to. Come morning time when big brother comes prancing into the room at 5:30 A.M., it’s my time to shine.
Another thing: I knew I was going to need to personal time, even if it was just a couple hours a day, squeezed into whatever blocks of time I might have. This is super important to me. I need something to do with my brain when I’m not at work solving problems. So blogging it has been. Almost every day of my paternity leave I’ve written a new post. It’s been my own little haven; a veritable massage for my psyche; a blowjob for my brain. OK, I may have taken it a little too far there. Personal time was huge.
Whatever we did, the result has been incredible3. Now for the next adventure: parenting and work combined!
- I was doing everything I could, I really was; to the very best of my ability; it simply wasn’t enough to get past the bare minimum requirement for a spouse and parent. I just didn’t have the energy or motivation. [return]
- A mile might be too much for a preschooler, FYI. He was so happy on the walk, but as soon as we walked in the door it became clear that I absolutely destroyed this kid. He needed to go to bed right away he was so cranky. [return]
- There may be other aspects that were different too, like my age and maturity level, my partner, or the fact that it’s definitely going to be my last kid ever, so help me god. [return]