Our Week as Working Parents

I’m a stay-at-home dad, but I also freelance from time-to-time. I am pursuing social media & writing work, as that offers family friendly flexibility, but when I am offered work in my old TV stomping grounds, I tend to accept – especially in the run up to Christmas.

I was recently offered a longer stint than normal, and that included a full working week. We had never gone a whole week as working parents before.

Please forgive the indulgence of this post. I know this is the norm for many families, but it took a bit of adjustment and juggling to make it work for us.

Before we got started, there was some prep to be done.

Stage 1 – Childcare
Our daughter attends pre-school at nursery 2 ‘school days’ a week, so ideally we want to place her there, but they are getting increasingly popular. It turns out we can place her there for all but one day. I then contact a childminder who we used a few times in the past, and she is fine to look after her that day. Phew.

Stage 2 – Scheduling who does pick up & drop off

Ideally, I would do drop off in morning (8am), and my wife would do evening pick up (by 6pm). However, she has an even on one night, and is away on a business trip for another, so I need to do those days.

Anyway, we figure out our schedule, and away we go.

Day 1 – Dealing with a sick kid

Disaster! It’s Monday morning, and the kid is poorly. She’s been up half the night with a bad cough and cold.

We agree the kid is too poorly for nursery. My wife had arranged to work from home anyway, so she volunteers to keep her home with her while I head off to work. We still have to pay the sixty quid for daycare of course.

I am able to leave the house exactly when I need to, public transport all fine, and I arrive at 9:30 on the dot as planned.

I try and leave early to give my wife a bit of childcare-free time. Out the door an hour early at 5 is better than nothing, so will be home an hour earlier than planned.

Nah. On each leg of my 3-stage (plus walking) commute, there are delays and cancellations.  My 1hr 40 journey home takes an hour longer.

I get in to find daughter still up which is lovely, but because she passed out for a nap earlier she isn’t sleepy now, nor for the next hour – which is full of frustration as we try and settle her to sleep, eat dinner, and unwind – but we end up winding up each other more.

Finally down, my wife and I eat lukewarm pasta, drink cheap wine, and watch The Antiques Roadshow – the easiest show to agree on.

Day 2 – The morning childcare and commute run

The kid is well enough for childcare, and I need to do the drop off as my wife has a fixed appointment. Today os childminder day, who offers more flexibility so we can do a 7:30 start. We need to leave the house at 7:10 to arrive for 7:30 drop-off, then I can make 7:59 train to get me to work in good time.

Before we leave the house, the kid insists we read a book that features her Star Wars fave Ahsoka (a book she couldn’t find the night before and was a source of some upset). Normally I’m less compliant in these circumstances, but not wanting to get her day off to a tearful start (we haven’t used this childminder for over 9 months) I agree. We leave the house late at 7:25.

So, I rush with her to the house (opposite direction from train station of course) only to exacerbate her cough and understandably upset her. We slow down and am resigned to missing train.

The knock on effect, with subsequent delays is that I am in the office 2 1/2 hrs after leaving the house. My boss (who I’ve worked for a lot in the past) a) isn’t there, and b) isn’t that bothered as long as the work gets done.

My wife is doing pick up, and I stay in office 6pm+, just to get on top of things.

But tonight, the journey home works out fine – door to door in 1hr 50, including a supermarket dinner flyby.

My daughter should be asleep by now, but yet again isn’t. We suspect that she had sugary stuff at the tail end of her time with the childminder.  She doesn’t settle down to sleep until 8:30 – an hour later than normal. It was nice to see her, and after cuddles from me her wind down is mostly her alone in her room, chatting to herself so not too much disruption. My wife and I dine on supermarket pizza, cheap wine, and only manage to watch the 30 min Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver in Sky+ before sleep beckons.

Day 3 – While the wife’s away…

This one is going to be tricky. I need to do nursery drop off and pick up. I also have a shoot for a client I am overseeing, so I need to be in by 9:30 for 10am start. I book the kid in for early start (which costs extra of course) – only I get it wrong and my wife can do drop off. Luckily this early drop off suits her and I can leave even earlier too, important as a) aforementioned shoot, and b) I have to leave office 2 1/2 hrs early to ensure I make the pick up from nursery in time (you can book for later, but they charge per extra 15mins).

An insanely busy day, I leave 10mins later than planned, so I miss my bus which has potential knock on effect. But in the end I get to nursery for 5:30.

My wife is away overnight for a business trip, so it’s just me & the munchkin. We have early bath, then watch a Batgirl cartoon while she eats a dinner of ham and raw carrot (her choice). She would’ve had an early dinner at nursery.

Stories, milk, and cuddles before bedtime. At 7:30 I’m downstairs a eating a Heston Lasagne for 1 (over priced, over caloried, over flavoured), enjoying more cheap red wine, and Netflix (Orphan Black). In bed by 10. Or 11. The kid woke once in the night, crying for mummy (awww) but a quick cuddle and she was back to sleep.

Day 4 – Working late

Another busy day ahead, but start time is more fluid. I do 8am drop off (as wife is away), and everything goes fine from drop off to transport and I get to work at a reasonable 9:45.

I have to leave office early for an event I am working on in central London, and will be there late so won’t see my daughter until Friday morning.

Turns out I’m working VERY late, and don’t get home until after 4am.

Day 5 – Flexible working

Getting home the same time that I usually get up (I’m a 4:30-5am riser) understandably disturbs my routine a bit.

Full disclosure: I have epilepsy, and the main trigger is sleep deprivation – so working until early hours like this is not taken lightly, and my wife and I know what I need to prevent a seizure, which is basically to get uninterrupted sleep.

The spare bed has been set up in the front room, and with earplugs in and sleeping pills at the ready should I wake up early, I get enough sleep to feel confident I won’t have a seizure.

My wife and kid are long gone out the door when I get up past 9. I told my boss the night (morning) before that working form home would be the best option today. Not only would I be in late (because of working late) I would have to leave early as my wife has an event on so I need to do nursery pick up. My boss is fine with this, and I manage everything I need to oversee workwise from home (with others in the office helping out). I wilt badly as the afternoon progresses.

When I pick up my daughter from nursery, she is in tears – which is very unlike her as she loves nursery. It seems the week of childcare and disrupted routines has finally taken it’s toll on her, and she is emotionally and physically exhausted.

It’s kind of how we all feel.

Working Parent vs At Home Parent

While it was a big adjustment for us, it was exactly that – an adjustment, not something that we couldn’t adapt to.

For peace of mind when this happens again, I probably think we should have someone in place who can do the nursery pick up at short notice should public transport let us down. There have been many times when my wife has been delayed because of this, and if we were both in the same boat then we need someone local to do pick up.

Flexible working. This is a catch all term, that includes options for mobile/home working, flexible hours, and understanding bosses. Without these, this week would’ve been impossible. And flexible working works both ways, so can be advantageous to employers too.

I also have a greater appreciation for my wife’s perspective. She sometimes reflects that feels she is missing out  on aspects of our daughter’s development. Knowing what happens during the week and weekends, I know this isn’t the case at all – but having spent a week hardly seeing my daughter during the day, I know how she feels.

There’s no easy solution to balancing work and parenting, and while it’s lovely to be home with the kid, this time next year she’ll be at school – and the extra money sure comes in handy. :)<