I’ve been back at work for two weeks now after two weeks off for the birth, hospital stay and first few days of Abigail’s life at home. Here’s how I put it in an email to a friend who has three kids, two of whom are newborn twins:
Being back at work is weird. I’m glad to be doing something other than facilitating the feeding, changing, and sleeping of our child and glad to not be worrying about my wife in the process (actively, anyway, it’s always passively in the back of my mind) but feel guilty for feeling that way. On the other hand, work has taken on more importance. Being good at my job now equals being a good provider which means being a good Dad.
To which he replied “You’ve hit on one of the big cosmic conflicts of new fatherhood. Didn’t even take you two weeks.”
I’m leaving that second sentence as I typed it because I was being honest then and I’m endeavoring to be honest here. Were I writing that sentence first for publication to a wider audience I’d have said:
Being back at work is weird. It’s a nice chance of pace to be doing something other than facilitating the feeding, changing, and sleeping of our child and a relief to spend a few hours not preoccupied with the stress my wife’s dealing with right now (though it’s always in the back of my mind). Doing anything for two weeks nonstop is a drain and it’ll be great to go home refreshed and ready to have at it again. Still, I feel guilty for feeling that way.
When I went home that first Monday night I did feel refreshed and ready to dive back into the fray. I changed clothes, scooped Abigail out of Erin’s arms and spent the next few hours feeding, burping, changing and soothing her. And it felt great. In fact, each night I can’t wait to get home and tend to her.
And truth be told, Erin doesn’t need me worrying about her. But for all the reasons I’ve discussed before, I know parenting is harder on her than it is me. And now on top of that she’s managing child care alone until 6:30 rolls around.
As much as some people have the temperament and/or will to be good parents – in our better moments, I think Erin and I are those people – the first few weeks found us occasionally questioning whether we are or not. I know everyone goes through this. Doesn’t change the fact that it was nice to get back to the office and spend some time on things I’m demonstrably good at doing.
Every time I start a new job I get frustrated because I’m not as knowledgeable about the environment as I’d like to be and accomplishing something takes longer due to the learning curve. Parenthood has been no different. Each week it seems as if we’re trying some new (to us) child-rearing theory to get Abigail to sleep longer, feed better or be happier. We’re still trying to shake off the notion there’s some pre-determined way to raise our kid and instead just listen and observe the way the kid’s behaving and act accordingly. We know this is the way we’re supposed to do it but it still annoys us that Amazon doesn’t sell The Guide To Abigail Grace Smith’s First Year.
My big worry was I’d arrive back at work and not give a shit about my job anymore. Who cares about the Internet?!? There’s a new human being in my house who needs me! Instead, it’s the opposite. The better I am at my job, the better I take care of those who depend on me. While Abigail’s not even old enough to recognize my face yet, it’s important to me that she has a father who works hard. At the very least I want her to think I work as hard at my morning job as I do my evening job.
I’ve been working on this post for the past couple weeks – I started it the day I went back to work. Each time I read through it I find I’m unable to thread it all together. There’s a couple of good bits but nothng overall to say. Maybe it’s because I’m striving to describe a “new normal” when I haven’t figured out what that is yet.