It’s simple really. Keep them clean, full, rested, interested and entertained and the hours will tick by into days and flow into months and in no more than a “that went quickly. You were off for how long?” I’ll be able to look back on a home making job well done. I’ll have two well adjusted children and no anecdotes for the pub. And even on a tough day, childcare is done by around 8pm.
As you might have guessed, I’m back on home making duties after a whirlwind of a year that has seen three new jobs between us, a three month stint for me as a part time hard working single dad, two months for Shell as a part time home making single mum, and we’ve skipped on from Cameronshire to God’s own Yorkshire. And on top of that the second coming has joined the family. Our new and exciting addition. For this stint, while I’ve got two of them to deal with, as it approached, I could wrap myself in the comfort blanket of being an experienced home maker.
So, this is week 1 and like starting any new job I’m trying to feel my way into it. There are two main strategic challenges to the role. The first is to work out what I’m supposed to do, the second is to get into the slower rhythms of the home making day. You’ve got to get to grips with the pace of life. Managing little people is like a 5 day test compared to the 20-20 of work. Sure, there is high drama – mostly accompanied by tears – and there is great tension but it’s slower and gentler, although both need endless cups of tea.
In the last couple of weeks of work I was flat out with meetings, away days, telecons, forums, 10pm presentations, 1am website launches and then I shut down my email and triumphantly prodded the off switch on my computer. I was done. After a not very relaxing weekend I found myself on day 1 of paternity leave. By not even 9.30 the Precious one is doing his melt down boy thing, including landing a kick to the balls because I had to change his nappy. The second coming is screaming. I couldn’t work out why. If I get a tricky email first thing on a Monday morning I can go and make a brew, mull it over, ask my colleagues how their weekends where, have a coffee, write a to do list, return to it at leisure. I can’t ignore a kick to the balls and two screaming children. If I can’t get him to put trousers on I can’t get him to nursery. Then I’m really in trouble. At that point, not quite 2 hours in, 6 months feels like a long time.
I’d forgotten how draining it is. It drags your energy from your body because it’s so seemingly irrational, yet there has to be a way to unlock the puzzle. There is an answer to how we get out the front door or get through lunch. I have to find it. For my own sanity. When you’ve only got a day or two you can haphazard your way through knowing that soon enough you’ll return to the sanctuary of the office, I’ve got six months. So when the confrontations are over, when peace has descended, and I’m enjoying a hot cup of tea and 6 music, as I was by 10am, the sense of achievement is way above what it should be for getting someone to sleep and someone else to put trousers on. All is well. For now.
On day 2, my first with both of them, I cheated and retreated to my mum’s. Three hours of tying them in a car seat was preferable to managing them by myself. Day 3 had been sold to me as the easy day. “She’s simple on her own.” The second coming woke up at 3.30am with a nasty cough, she didn’t go back to sleep. Her routine thrown for the day, she doesn’t know what’s going on and isn’t happy with any of the options. I run through my check list of nappy, food, bored, over stimulated, under stimulated or hopefully tired. I like it when it’s tired. But her naps don’t last as she wakes herself with coughs and she doesn’t perk up. The day has gotten away from me. The more I try, the further from where I want to be I get. By 6pm as the tears flowed I was asking a two year old if he had any idea why his 6 month old sister was crying. The worst bit being, I genuinely hoped he’d have some insight.
Day 4 is the second day of dual management. It’s like guerrilla warfare. There was no major set piece battle but we skirmished throughout the day. “Your feet will get wet if you stand in puddles in just socks.” “You knocked the den over yourself.” “You can’t have it until it beeps.” “You shouldn’t have dropped your tea on the floor then.” Insert pretty much everything I say or ask him to do. Sure, my power is arbitrary and random but I am, as far as the authorities are concerned, in charge. He knows that so that’s why he waits in ambush whenever he gets a whiff that I want to make something happen. When we;re not laughing at each other it’s a disaster.
So my week of being induced has been tricky. The main issue seems to be that I don’t know what I’m doing. Women build up to their leave by getting rounder and more waddly. Me, I’m parachuted in like a supply teacher without a lesson plan. The class knows it can take the piss. But it’s only week 1 and as I adjust to the rhythms and they adjust to my disorgainsed non-list based regime we’ll muddle through. Today is day 5 and we’ve all slept better. We’re all happier. We’ll be reet, as we all slowly work out what’s going on.