Er, yes, so I’ve been a bit slack with this recently. It feels like last week was March – time is playing tricks with me, the bastard. But I guess the thing is that since I started back at work, my days were following roughly this pattern:
Wake up at 3am to feed Felix; wake up at 5am to feed Felix; wake up at 7am to feed Felix, and Teddy and me, go to work; work; run to nursery at 5.30pm; feed Felix and Teddy; put them to bed over a protracted time; eat food; freelance; feed Felix at 10pm; bed…
… and so it went on. The bit that changed was that eventually the people that were hiring me to do freelance possibly saw through my paper-thin facade: “Oh no, it’s FINE! I can work whenever you need me to! I’m enjoying this! I will make it work!” and dumped me. And suddenly I am able to cope. I’m also suddenly unable to afford to get my eyebrows tinted quite as often as I’d like and am therefore looking a little Tilda Swinton, but who doesn’t love a bit of Tilda?
So yes, I’m back at work. Actual work. And – incredibly – I’m loving it. I don’t resent it, I don’t feel pushed into it (see previous career); I don’t feel like someone wants to push me out of it (also see previous career); I feel (whisper it) valued. And – also incredibly – one of the main reasons why I’m enjoying it so much is (agh oh god, what the hell am I saying?) Dave. Dave! I know!
So, the thing is, we decided just before I went back to work that Felix was just too young to start nursery, and it was going to be just too bloody expensive. And I say ‘we’, but to be honest, it was actually more Dave’s thing than mine. But he was right. (By the way, whenever I say things like, “Dave was right” or anything else that paints him in some kind of vaguely positive light, could you not pass it on to him, please? Ta.) This meant that Dave was going to be looking after Felix full-time four days a week, and Teddy part-time (Teddy swans off to nursery whenever he can be bothered).
The first day I went to work, I was nervous as hell (and had knockers like lead balloons, thanks to Felix suddenly going on strike – thanks for that, missus). But my nerves were nothing on Dave’s. He looked green by the time I walked down the road. He was holding fat Felix in one hand, and trying to prevent Teddy from running after the recycling truck like a rabid dog with the other. And he just looked terrified.
The terror has largely gone, but only to be replaced with a weary, greyish look. Felix is sleeping better these days, but she has an unfortunate habit of launching into the day at 5.13am with a poo in her nappy the size of her head to contend with. Morning! We take it in turns to get up with her. Each time I get a “lie-in”, I feel so guilty: I get to sleep until 7am, and then all I have to do is go to work. He has to look after TWO babies. And one of them is a massive pain in the arse.
And he’s doing a brilliant job – he takes them to the park (I wouldn’t leave the house!), he feeds them actual food (not just packets of things that say ‘organic’ on them in really small writing with a footnote beneath that says something like, “we only said ‘organic’ to prey on your weak mothering ‘skills’ – if you think for one minute that Hugh F-W fed his kids any of this rubbish, you are very much mistaken. Still, it doesn’t have any sugar in it. OH I’M SORRY YES, IT DOES, IT’S RAMMED WITH THE STUFF! Oh, and don’t forget the trans-fatty acids, a touch of palm oil, and a dead dolphin. But look how cute our sales pitch is! We use a font that looks like a crayon! Seeya!”), and at the end of every day, he tells me a) how much they’ve pooed and eaten, and b) that he loves them more than me.
Can I just point out that I was looking after these two small people for five months, and it was HELL. HELL. I wouldn’t go back to that if you made me with pointy sticks. It was utterly diabolical. For a couple of months at least, Teddy was going through some awful older sibling thing; he hated me because I’d bought Felix to terrorise him – he raged against me, bedtimes were horrific and screamy and lengthy and awful. And then suddenly they weren’t, and suddenly I was back at work, and suddenly I love them with that big, huge, heavy heartedness that Dave has always talked about. Annoyingly he still feels like that after spending all day with them. I only feel it now that I have seven hours a day to dick about on Facebook.
So this is a plea, really. All you cretins (I wanted to type ‘blokes’ there and didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t largely mean that) that are going out to some cushy job leaving your partners at home to look after the kids; you arseholes that return home and curl your lip at some piece of untidiness, or raise an eyebrow at an unwashed partner or a disobedient child. You utter twats who come home after being away for a night or two and balk at having babies thrust at you the minute you walk in. You wankers who don’t get up to do a feed in the middle of the night because you’re the one going to work the next day. You verminous bottom-feeders who not-so-secretly think, ‘what’s so difficult about childcare’? You. You know who you are. I’ve done both sides, and I know the truth.
That stuff about ‘parenting being the hardest job in the world’ is largely bullshit, obviously – I wouldn’t begin to equate a day of lead-mining and/or defending your country with guns (just the two worst jobs I could think of off the top of my head, I have a feeling there are worse out there*) with the dual responsibilities of making sure the toddler doesn’t eat all the toothpaste and preventing the baby from falling in the tumble dryer. However. That said. It is fucking hard work. Much more than you think it is, if you don’t do it. And no matter what I’ve said before, and no matter what I’ll say after – Dave is bloody brilliant at it, and I love him to death for it.
*In fact, one ex of mine spent a summer vacation loading fresh pig hides onto a pallet. It was a hot summer. The ones at the top would be crispy. While the ones toward the bottom were still rather… flaccid. Yes, even I would prefer childcare to that particular experience.