April 15, 2013
When Beatie was born Rob was able to take 2 weeks paternity leave from work to be with our family and bond with our newborn. The last time Rob took more than 3 days in a row off work was sometime around when Violet (who is 23 months) was 4 months old. He took 2 weeks off between leaving his last job and starting his current one and to be honest it didn't even feel like much of a holiday. A lot of it was spent meeting with his new boss, organising his clientele to start the job and we spent a week of it with my parents at their house. To say we were both looking forward to it could possibly be the understatement of our year. Thanks to an amazing birth experience I felt pretty ready to NOT rest. I mean, we stopped by Rob's work on the way home from the hospital to introduce Beatie to his colleagues. We spent most of the rest of the break making up for the month I felt trapped at home due to heat and pregnancy and exhaustion.
Having Daddy home every day pretty much made Violet's lifetime to date. Imagine being not-quite-2 and Mummy is too big, hot and tired to play, she's too vague to drive so you don't really leave the house and she's too short on patience to give you the time you need. Then imagine that Daddy the hero sweeps in to save day by wrestling you around the house and all over Melbourne for 2 fun filled weeks. I think her smile was pretty permanant until the day he had to go back. These pictures were from a couple of days after we got home from the hospital. Beatie was 5 days old and we decided to visit the Melbourne Museum. They've got a really great kids section with indoor and outdoor activities as well as a rainforest walk. I can't remember what the event was but once when I took baby Violet there they had turtles for the children to pet and hold. Plus it's air conditioned which is fantastic on days where it's too hot for the park! Rob and Violet chased each other all over the place while Beatie and I followed at a much slower postpartum appropriate pace. Violet became obsessed with collecting the hula hoops in the outdoor area, not to hula hoop with but to wear around her neck. Her record was 4 at one time!
The other interesting thing about paternity leave, aside from all the fun we had, was that it gave Rob a chance to see what it's like to stay home every day. This is a topic that has come up regularly enough in conversation for us recently. I know I may never get the chance to see how it is for him to leave every day and I know I definitely won't get the chance to see how hard it is for him to work as hard as he does because I don't know anyone who works the way he does. He pushes himself beyond most people's physical and probably emotional limits -he often has 4 or 5 clients on the go at once and still has to manage the salon. Regardless of the likelihood of me seeing what his day is like, it was so validating for me to hear him acknowledge that staying at home isn't kittens and rainbows every minute of every day. I think it's really hard for anyone who isn't a stay at home parent to get their heads around just home simultaneously monotonous and draining it sometimes is. It's not really ok to talk about or complain about either because it's something that so many mothers would love to do but don't have the luxury of choice in. I think the fact that staying home is not rewarded as a job with a paycheck and is often viewed as having "given up" your career means that having any complaint leads people to question why you just don't go back to work if you don't like it.
Almost 2 is a really hard age to be and it's a really hard age to parent. The frustration Violet feels regularly in trying and failing to communicate her wants is visible on her face. That's before the confusion of being explained to concepts like why you can't have 3 honey sandwiches and 5 bananas in one day even though you really, really want them and you said please even though you don't know what please means, other than that you're more likely to get things when you say it. Everything at this age is about want and there's no understanding of limits (though we're introducing those limits to her, of course). If you want to hear twinkle twinkle little star 5 hundred thousand times in a row because that makes you feel awesome then why would Mummy say "no more"? Violet loves hearing twinkle twinkle so why wouldn't Mummy love singing it..5 hundred thousand times in a row? I hate to see her sad, it makes me mad to see her throw a tantrum and it makes me feel like an a-hole to give time out after time out when she's really acting up. Occasionally, when we've been stuck inside due to weather or illness I can't think of a single thing we actually really did in our day because on those days I feel the most drained. Staying home with the kids is the only job I want to do, my best job, but it's pretty hard. I think the positive of getting a taste of how the other one lives is that you can cut them some more slack when you go back to you own thing. I haven't heard a word of frustration when it's been one of those days and not only have I not gotten a chance to pick up the toys yet when Rob gets home but damn it, I don't want to. We're way more on the same page when it comes to things like sugar consumption and discipline because he's had a chance to experience what happens as a result of yes to the first and not really to the second. In turn that's giving me the confidence and support to be consistent which is giving Violet the stability she needs to know what we expect of her. She's a kid who loves to be praised and to please, a real sweetheart. It's safe to say paternity leave was a super fun time full of adventures but also gave us a chance to lay the foundations for our family, who don't get to spend a whole heap of time together, to move into the next phase of juggling a newborn and a not-so-often-terrible two year old. I'm feeling a lot of extra love for Rob right now and please, tell me that little girls' smile isn't the most beautiful thing ever?