Today my wife went back to work after an extra long Easter weekend. It was really nice to have her home, and now it is “back to normal” with her at work and the little guy home with me. My parents are still here so we are not totally alone, and it is great that he has his grandparents to get to know, and that they can get to see him and interact with him during this fun period of life that he is in.
As my wife got ready to go to work this morning, I felt myself with a little “tug” from that side of me that loves to work. I’ve mentioned in an earlier post how much work in general means to me, but today it was that “off to work” feeling that I was missing. It’s that feeling of going off to the day where you will be setting and achieving goals, looking at the big picture, seeing trends and making adjustments to self-improve, having a sense of purpose that can be tied to measurable results and the sense of “a job well done” that comes with it, and on and on.
I know, I know, having a child that I am taking care of is much more important than work, and what I am doing by staying home with the little guy is super important for his overall development and growth during this early age. It’s not that I am wishing I was off to work today. It’s just a little “work withdrawal” hanging over my head. For someone who has always been career-focused, it is no surprise that this would happen, and will happen again in the future, so it’s no big deal, especially if I don’t make a big deal of it. I have a few things I can do to make sure I am not letting the work withdrawal turn into “stay at home blues”:
- Stay “plugged in” to the world – follow the news, read business articles, industry publications, and especially read articles that challenge my mind
- Give myself daily tasks / errands – this gives a sense of purpose
- Find a community of people who are in the same position and connect to them (this is something I have not done here in HK yet, but will happen when my parents are no longer here)
- Watch an occasional documentary – it helps you learn and helps you stay sharp
- Pick a baby-friendly hobby that has nothing to do with babies. For example photography – if you like photography, then make this something you do, and when you go out for walks, snap some photos
- If you like to write, start a blog 😉
- Laugh, a lot. Laugh when the little one does something funny, read funny things, watch the occasional funny youtube video.
It’s not easy to stay at home with a child. Anyone who thinks it is easy should try it for longer than a few days or a few months. Leave your job, and be there when your wife goes to work, and sit there in the empty house with your baby, saying, “ok, now it’s just me and you, little guy.” To me, as someone who is on leave from a multifaceted, high-stress, high-pace, high-responsibility job, with only one child who is now almost 5 months old, it’s not the actual tasks of staying at home with the baby that are the hardest part – it’s the change of pace, the change in mental stimulation. The career things that were fulfilling to you before are no longer there to fulfill you.
So, you have to find new things, and if you do it right, those new things will be the things you look to for fulfillment in the years to come, so that when you go back to work, it is those things that are rewarding to you, and not work (this is something that my wife is good at, and most Swedes in general are way better at than me). If you don’t find some things that in your current situation that will keep your mind challenged and that you can find rewarding in another way than work, you risk walking down a dark path to being a depressed stay at home dad – this is something that is super common.
Above all, take it easy on yourself and your wife/partner – and if you feel like your wife is not taking it easy on you, tell her. The two of you are in this together, right? For me, it is important that I feel respected now as the primary care giver of the child, but I also must respect that my wife wants and needs to be heard when it comes to her concerns on raising the child. It’s not easy. Being in a relationship takes work on it’s own, and parenting is not easy, and I think a lot of people get so focused on the child and the parenting that they don’t focus on each other’s needs. “You and her” do not end just because there is a baby there – it is both “you and her” and “you, her, and the baby.”
So, back to the topic of “work withdrawal” – there are really a lot of factors that can make you have these feelings, and there are ways to deal with them so they do not become toxic. I think it is normal up to a certain point to have an element of work withdrawal, but then it is up to you to take control and find other ways to feel that fulfillment, and to deal with things if it is going in the wrong direction, or you are left with a hole that cannot be filled. Also, remember that missing working does not mean that you do not love your child or that you are second-guessing your decisions to stay home. I love the little guy more than anything, and I am 100% glad with the decision to take parental leave and stay at home with him, but yet I can still have these occasional feelings where I miss work. It would be weird if I didn’t, I think. Above all, I think it’s about keeping your mind and body active – do things and get out there into the world with the baby (which is good for the baby, too, by the way), but also keep your mind active, and don’t forget you have a captive audience to share ideas with: our little guy is a great listener 😉