If you were to read the job description for being a parent, how quickly would you apply?
“This role requires you to work 7 days a week, regular overtime and weekend work with no salary. You will need a basic understanding of medicine, psychology, catering, accounting and the ability to manage multiple tasks at once. The environment you work in can be highly demanding and stressful, with customers often highly demanding and unforgiving. The intangible benefits are rewarding.”
My fiancée and I both landed this role at 5:25am on the 11th June 2017. I have to say Meg worked a hell of a lot harder to be in the role than I did, but we’ve been in it together ever since.
So much action. Such little time.
To summarise a year of parenthood is difficult, so much happens in a very short period of time. It’s stressful, tiring and demanding but it’s also rewarding, exciting and totally incredible. You spend the majority of your early days in a state of feeling like you finally know what you’re doing yet still teetering on the edge of losing your shit. As a couple, we sort of just co existed in our house for the first month or so, as two very tired factory line workers with a production line of bottles, dirty nappies, washing, night feeds and domestic chores, all under the watchful eye of our boss who was about a foot long head to toe and many years our junior. We’d do our 12 hour day shift then slump into bed at night only to be woken every couple of hours. Sound horrendous? Welcome to early days of parenthood (the job description is starting to sound pretty bang on isn’t it.)
How are we going to do this?
I’m not trying to put such a dampener on early parenthood though. Life became an incredible thing when Ivy arrived. She was like a new lens over my eyes that gave me an outlook I didn’t think I had in me, and certainly opened my eyes to what Meg and I are capable of achieving and overcoming as a couple. We spent a lot of the time thinking “oh shit how are we going to do this?!” Anyone that says they haven’t thought that is most probably lying. But somehow we adapted to a new way of life, we learnt, we had (lots of) help and advice at times and we overcame the moments that seemed so impossible.
I remember around the end of the first week that Ivy was born, I had my first minor meltdown. I took night shifts for the duration of my paternity leave, therefore a combination of cabin fever, lack of sleep, an average heat of about 28 degrees in England that week and admittedly a bit of hanger and I became, for a few hours, a horrible person to be around. Momentarily the monumental stress of the first two weeks overshadowed the beauty of having our daughter in our life, but I realised it was completely normal, and over this year we have both experienced these stresses at different times. Nobody’s perfect, people and being a parent is testing.
Someone hit the brakes!
For a long time, Ivy remained this gorgeous little dot that ate, slept, burped, threw up and made grunts and groans like a little puppy. Don’t get me wrong, for someone that did very little she kept us engrossed every second of the day, but she didn’t seem to change a huge amount. Roll on to the 4/6 month mark and out of nowhere someone put their foot on the accelerator and life became a whirlwind of weaning, crawling, trying to walk, trying to talk, laughs and a trail of destruction you cannot believe possible for a small child.
Every stage of life teaches you something about a person and I feel like the last 6 months have done that the most as Ivy has shown her personality, engages with us and despite her limited vocabulary finds a way to entertain a room. Long gone are days where we could put her down and she’d be in the same place when we turned around, now it’s a case of moving anything remotely fragile away from low counter tops and watching her like a hawk to keep her away from the stairs (one of her favourite games now).
The job description for parenthood might sound daunting and demanding, but it’s accurate. Your ability to become an accountant simply has to happen. The cost of a baby over the lifetime isn’t even worth thinking about but there are ways to keep costs down, we haven’t quite mastered that yet. Then there’s the skills of a doctor. whether you experience the first cold, conjunctivitis or worse, a virus causing Mount Vesuvius in the nappy department, you become a dab hand at reading the signs your little one isn’t “quite right”. The biggest lesson I’ve learnt is don’t be typically British and be afraid to ask for help or go to the doctors no matter how small the issue, they are there to help, and let’s face it our skills only stretch so far. Becoming a wizz in the kitchen isn’t essential and 90% of the time anything home made meals have been scraped off the tongue and thrown on the floor (unforgiving customer?) – which probably says something about my cooking, so buying stuff in is sometimes the winner. It’s become very clear that parenting requires you to pull on various skills, often when they are least expected, usually resulting in getting sucker punched, like a pooplosion whilst out for lunch on the one day you completely forgot a change of clothes. The aim is to be as prepared as humanly possible. We’re still working on it.
A year as a dad has taught me a lot about myself, my wife to be and my daughter. Right now, I’m living in the constant battle between excitement to see what’s round the corner for us as a family and how Ivy will be tomorrow, all whilst wanting to keep her the same forever. I don’t think that will ever change.
So, although the job description for parenthood might be true, it’s quite literally the best job in the world.