2nd Time Around

Posted by Matt

April 5th, 2012

It’s easier second time around.

As a first time parent, you worry about all sorts of things that, really, you don’t need to. You take too much to the birth (“Pillows! We need Pillows!”). You agonise over a birth plan (Really, a plan? What were you thinking?) You focus on the event and not the afterward. When they arrive, you hover over every one of your child’s moments as if it may be their last, (“is it breathing! Check! Just in case…”). You worry they might be ill, or be feeding too much or too little or the wrong kind or amount… You worry if you will identify with a child of the opposite gender. Your partner agonises over if they’ve breastfed long enough, after all there are STUDIES! You fall prone to the media scare story of the week. You panic at the onset of a sniffle or the sight of chicken pox. It’s all a great big unknown.

Second time round you know what works for you. Which bits of the mountain of contracdictory advice are laughable and which are key. You’re more confident in your parenting. Oh, and you have a toddler wandering round and demanding your attention, so you have less time to worry.

It’s best not to worry.

Second time round you find your grove quicker and just get on with it. What else can you do?

Wish I’d known how to do that first time round…

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A Cheap, Decent, Highchair

Posted by Matt

May 8th, 2011

Now our daughter is old enough to sit at a proper chair and eat, we’ve finally removed the highchair to storage. I thought I’d take a moment to recommend it. The IKEA Antilop is incredibly cheap at £11.22 (plus £4.09 for the tray) and has all the key features of a good high chair. It doesn’t take up too much space in a small kitchen, it’s easily wipe clean and it’s stable and secure. Really, at that price you can’t go wrong. It’s also portable, which is a real help if you travel about, with easily detachable legs.

For comparison, originally we had a more bulky model we inherited from a relative. While it looked the height of luxury with it’s padded seat, solid construction and so on, we found that really hard to clean (and one thing weening produces is a lot of mess) and took up a lot of space. So even if IKEA isn’t your thing, I’d err away from any model with padding or similar. More hassle than they’re worth.

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The 4 Day Week Dad

Posted by Matt

December 7th, 2010

Last year at around this time, as my wife ended her maternity leave and went back to work, I made a fairly big decision. I decided to reduce my working week to four days.

I made the decision for a variety of reasons. The first was an entirely selfish one. I didn’t want to be the dad who missed his daughter’s formative years due to work. I was strongly of the opinion that I didn’t want to get to old age and regret not spending more time with my children as they grew up.

The second reason was to avoid that horrible cliche of the woman going back to work part time and man being the “breadwinner”. Yuck! We wanted to share the childcare as equally as possible. So we decided to both go part time and see how it went.

I was fortunate in that my employers were very flexible. I was actually moving jobs at the time, and both old and new employer were very understanding of my wishes. So, I think my main message to other dads here is that employers are more amenable than you expect. To be in the position of being able to ask a potential new employer to work part time, when the job was not advertised as such and get the result you want is a great feeling. We’re maybe slightly worse off financially that we might have been, but it’s not impinging hugely as we still have two salaries.

It has certainly been an adjustment. The first few months took a fair bit of getting used to. My daughter was about 9 months old then, and I tended to stay at home and just enjoy spending time with her. It took a while to get into the habit of going out and about, and being more proactive doing things. But over time I’ve developed a repertoire of fun places to visit and activities to keep my daughter amused, from sock puppets to a trip to the local farm shop and restaurant.

Balancing work is a certain art. It’s very tempting to let it spill over into the 5th day or the odd bit of evening. So one of the skills to develop is an iron will to avoid opening work email, tricky when you’re somebody who takes their job seriously. Made harder for me as I chose Tuesday as my day with my daughter and so there’s a stop-start to the week that requires me to structure certain bits of work dependent on others more carefully.

Overall the experience of being a dad with some more time to spend with my daughter has been excellent and I don’t regret a moment of it!

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