Fulltime equivalent

I woke this morning at 6.15am, when the little dude decided the day was going to begin. Groggy and keen on a few more minutes of horizontal repose, I bundled him into bed next to me to nurse. He fell back asleep. I lay there for a little while stroking his head and marveling at his perfect face, then transferred him to the cot and got up to have breakfast. Had a bit of time to spare so I put a load of washing on. 

Mr Daddy slept through this.

So, we ended up running late because we didn’t want to wake sleeping beauty who is still getting over his cold (this was a big mistake, I should have actually gotten us all up at 6.15 which is only half an hour before his regular wake up time). Mr Daddy didn’t come with us to creche because he had to be at work for a meeting, so he got the bus and I drove the little dude in, dropped him off, parked the car, walked to work from the carpark building, settled in to work by about 9am. Because of the late morning, I ate lunch at my desk so I could be out the door again at 4.15pm. At creche by 4.45pm, found that the staff there had decided not to put him down for an afternoon nap because his morning nap was so late in the day because of the late wake up (this is the point when I realised our sleep-in was a mistake). Called Mr Daddy to let him know that I’d have to put the little dude to bed early. 

Brought the little dude home, fed him dinner, short play, bath, pajamas, story, then as he was so exhausted he fell asleep seconds into his pre-bed breastfeed. Deep slumber. This gave me a great opportunity to trim his nails. 

Moved him into his cot, 6.20pm. It’s annoying when he falls asleep so deeply during a feed because I know it means he’ll wake confused and cry after only 45 minutes and I’ll need to resettle him (“what the hell am I doing in my cot?! Where’s the boob gone?! I WANT MY MUMMY!” that sort of cry). I went through to the kitchen to start making dinner and put on another load of washing because babies just create so much washing. Texted Mr Daddy to see when he was coming home. He said he’d do a bit more work, clear the decks, seeing as he’d missed bedtime anyway. Has to make up for the work that piled up last week when he was leaving at 6 on the dot while the little dude was sick. 

At about 7pm, I heard the cry over the drone of the washing machine and the frying pan sizzle, turned off the pan and went in to comfort a very befuddled and unhappy little dude who was sitting in his cot rubbing his eyes. It didn’t take long to get him back off to sleep, but then as soon as I left the room he started wailing. Repeat. 

7.15pm I return to the dinner-making task. Restart the frying pan. It’s just a frittata, but maybe even that is overambitious. Decided that while the oven is on I might as well get a head start and roast some vegetables for tomorrow night too. 

7.45pm I sit down to eat. Mr Daddy texts and says he’s at the bus stop. 

——————

Since returning to paid work (25 hours a week), it’s so blatantly apparent than my unpaid labour subsidises and supports his paid labour. We both work very hard, but only some of that work brings home the medium bucks. 

This prompts me to consider what we would need as a couple to support two jobs that were both as demanding as Mr Daddy’s. This is not a ridiculous hypothetical: I left big corporate law four years ago, and there are some families with two 50 hour a week jobs (*shudders at thought of this*). It is an illustrative thought experiment – we’d need at the very least a full-time nanny on top of part-time creche and a cleaner twice a week and also we’d probably eat takeaways for nearly every meal. The nanny would be the primary caregiver.

Conversely, what would we need to support two jobs that were both paid the same as mine and had the same hours? Or even slightly higher, if he did less paid work I could do a bit more. This is the more salient hypothetical: my husband’s career ambitions aren’t outlandish, he’d be keen to reduce his hours if there was still job security and the prospect of home-ownership in the next few years. First we’d need more jobs willing to employ people for family friendly working hours. That’s the biggest hurdle. Then also we would need childcare to be more heavily subsidised. Half my salary goes on childcare. So that’s a fairly major issue. Then also there are those pesky student loan repayments. The combination of childcare and student loan repayments is more than our rent. Speaking of rent, it’s not cheap either. We’d definitely need longer and better paid parental leave so that there wasn’t the future burden of supporting the whole family on a single part-time-reduced salary when the next baby happens. 

Actually, if childcare was free or heavily subsidised, as it is for three and four year olds, we would be absolutely fine on double my salary. And if parental leave was paid for longer and at a higher rate, we wouldn’t have to worry about using some of the money we’re currently earning to save for the next round of time off. If those two things were addressed, Mr Daddy could afford to prioritise family friendly working hours in his short-term career planning.  

That’s not the world we live in though. I still don’t fully understand why not. Like, who’s against better childcare subsidies and parental leave? Isn’t that a fairly good use of our taxes? Can’t we just get on with it already? 

At least he’s home now and doing the dishes while I write this. Long day all round. 

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The elusive perspective

Tomorrow, I become the mother of a one year old child. We’ve had a rough couple of weeks, everyone in the house has had a cold, and the little dude has responded by waking up a lot at night and not napping well at creche – so, tiredness and grumpiness all round. Looking back tonight at photos of those early days, I feel like it was a lifetime ago. Which it is, his lifetime. And re-reading my blog posts from last year, I think “if only I knew what I know now, it would all have been so much easier”. In another year, I’ll look back on this period in parenting and think the same thing. Then, when we have the next baby at some stage, the benefit of experience won’t come to much because we’ll be parenting two children for the first time. And so on. 

I’m finding that I like each phase more than the last. I go all warm and gooey inside when I look at a video clip of the tiny bubba we used to have, yet my big boy is waaaay more fun. Many people told me to treasure the first year; but other mothers more often asked me how I was holding up, a look in their eyes like they remember the long days home alone and the vague sense that maybe you should be doing something with this baby, but you weren’t sure what. Babies are nice in small quantities and especially when there are other people around, but that’s not what it’s like to be an at home mum most of the time. It wasn’t all hard slog, there were some lovely times, sitting in a park with another mum while your babies grab fistfuls of grass and babble, going for walks with the pushchair, watching you baby reach each new milestone, learning to know your baby so very well, sometimes it was all quite nice. I hope those memories get stronger with time. Most of it though, looking back, was me hanging out at home using the internet as a proxy for real social interaction while I thought about how to structure yet another day around the needs of a baby while also hopefully leaving the house and doing something. I read an article at some stage last year which included the fun fact that monkeys in isolation will press a lever for the reward of seeing a picture of another monkey. I thought first, wow that’s so sad, and then second oh that’s exactly what I do with facebook.  

So, at the cusp of the year I find myself feeling relief more than anything else, relief that we survived it. That we’ve made it through with our relationship still strong and that we’ve come to feel a comfortable fit with our new identities as parents, and that we must have done an ok job because the little dude is pretty awesome.