Friday, July 29, 2011

The sleep of the just

Let's have a go at writing a blog post without sarcasm in it. Have some faith. I can do it.

As this is posted, I am mere hours from the end of the most difficult, yet enjoyable, time of my life. Today is my wife Shazia's last day at work.

You're my wife now.

For five years (except Shaz's last maternity leave), I've worked at night and looked after the children on my own during the day, but that ends today. We have finally admitted defeat and, with an offer of redundancy accepted, the children will have their mum at home during the day.

The decision was made for a variety of reasons, chief among them being we'll never have this time again. Rose is about to start school and Max is nearly two, so it's a magical time to be around them. With the option available, it was hard for Shaz to say no.

If we're honest, fuel prices played a big part in the decision, too. We did the arithmetic and realised Shaz was working full time for not very much money, because the commuting costs were crazy. Also, there is our own relationship to consider. We were starting to forget what it was like to spend time together.

Of course, sooner or later Shaz will need to find work again. In fact, if an opportunity was to come along now we would grab it. But there's no hurry.

Be careful what you wish for

As for me, it's a strange feeling. This may sound insane to any normal person, but I'm going to find it difficult to adjust to a full night's sleep again. It's amazing how much can be achieved in a 19-hour day and amazing how much time we waste sleeping. I suspect I will be a little frustrated about it for a while.

We'll also have to readjust to being around one another. I'm so used to being the only parent around the house, and having all the responsibility, that even at weekends I find myself taking over, automatically. I have to let go and learn to be patient.

It's been a tough five years. One moment I keep remembering is when I was feeding Rose, then just a baby, in her high chair. I was very tired, and suddenly I was overcome with a huge desire to go to sleep. I started fantasising about lying down on the kitchen floor and closing my eyes, and I knew - with absolute certainty - that I would fall into a deep sleep immediately. I sort of shook myself and put the thought aside, but that moment, more than any other, is my reminder of the challenge involved in balancing full-time childcare and a full-time job.

At the same time, I'm aware that I've been given an incredible opportunity. Few fathers can spend so much time with their children, or have so much fun with them. We've done so many things and had so many laughs. Nobody knows these beautiful children better than I do.

Of course, lots of people do what I do. Every parent has a difficult task, and every parent does their best to get through it. We've all been exhausted, covered in unspeakable substances and at the end of our tether. It's part of the job.

So, as I prepare for a new stage of my life with my family, and wonder if I will be any less grumpy and difficult when I get enough sleep, I offer a little advice. It's the best childcare advice I've ever heard, and I dish it out all the time. I won't say who provided it, but he was right.

Just get on with it. That's it: just get on with it. Shut your whiny face and be a dad, or a mum, or a grandparent or any other sort of carer. A child is relying on you. Get it done.

Hey, I did it! Absolute sincerity all the way. I even used the word "relationship". I promise to be especially snide next time.

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