It starts with the division of labour conversation. It makes sense that the person who can best earn the money earns the money and the person best equipped to stay at home and look after the baby does just that. Great if you can swap that around sometimes, but we, like a lot of people we know, sent me out to work and Mette to stay home and look after the baby.
It’s a big change for a new father. I do a whole day at work, very focused and busy, then once home, I jump (sometimes with a little push) straight into support person clearing and cooking, or father-mode. If my partner gets some time away from her primary care role, she doesn’t come and see me and see what work she can help me with. I think I need to spend more time in father-mode in these situations, not just support person. And I think I need to realise that she’s never coming to see me and see what work she can help me with, especially after a full-day of entertaining a two-year old.
I’m lucky enough to work from home. I produce visual communications – slides for presentations. I have established clients domestically and internationally and earn good money for the hours I work, but I charge an hourly-rate and so have to work those hours to earn that money. Therefore going from a double-income-no-kids situation to a single-earner supporting two and a new baby situation was a bit scary at first and continues to be a concern in the back of my mind somewhere a bit too often. We have a mortgage and a bank account that teeters about just around “well, we’re okay this month”.
I really like my office – I think it’s like a city space – think glass bricks and concrete – in the middle of a lush green paddock in rural Australia. I used to work in a tiny room next to the bedroom, but that’s now the nursery. I now have a big space downstairs – separated from the house by an outdoor staircase – so I can get things done (and occasionally watch English Premier League football live on the wall projector).
The routine was certainly much easier with only two of us. We could both do what ever we wanted when ever we wanted to. We had to work sometimes, and sleep sometimes but the rest was up to us – whatever we wanted.
Now, when I’m at home before work I’m doing what I can to help, then I go to work, then I come home and do what I can to help, then Zoe goes to bed. We have some time together and then we go to bed. Of course, there are good days, and weekends, where we have more time together and can watch Zoe discover something for the first time or develop a new word or skill. Me and Mette still have great evenings at home.
Worst work situation is when a screaming baby is handed to you while you are sitting at your computer and have important data that you’ve copied and not yet pasted – in limbo. “I have to do a load of washing, this is important; I can’t do it with her while she’s like this.”
We discussed pretending I worked on the Gold Coast, an hour and a half away, and was simply unavailable between 9 and 5. I could go for pretend walks on the beach at lunchtime. I got phoned on the intercom and asked whether I wanted some avocado on toast. I quickly came back from the Gold Coast.
The main disadvantage of working from home as a new father is that you don’t get a commute. You don’t get that 15 mins, or hour, of solitude to separate the work day from the home night. On a commute you have a chance to read a book, or listen to music, or learn a language for goodness sake. I think I’d just sit, or stand quietly.
Psychologically, I think it’s important to separate the two and to have a physical journey between them helps to know that you’ve left one place and you’re going to another.
I imagine one day I might put on jacket, go outside on the deck, sit on a chair (or in the corner of the garden somewhere) pretending I’m on a train for 30 minutes. I might take a book just in case I get bored. Then get up, go downstairs, take off my coat and say good morning to my computer.
The advantages of working from home are plenty for me. I get to hear little giggles from upstairs, and the patty of tiny feet rushing towards the next adventure. I get to be close to them if I can’t be with them.
We’ve settled into a good routine now. On a good day I get up and make breakfast with Zoe, go the office and check e-mails, come back up for breakfast, then go down to work. Work all day, sometimes join them for lunch, and sometimes avoid work until the evening so we can go on an outing together to the beach. I’m usually always around for reading, bath, bed routine and take we turns putting her down (although recently I’m way behind my turns). Some times I’d like to spend more time during the day with Zoe and perhaps have Mette work for a while –she’d be able to see her every evening, but that’s that division of labour conversation.
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