For our second child, my husband took some of my maternity leave. Notice the language, there. I said 'took' and 'my'. That was how I felt, anyway. People are divided on the issue. Some people thought it was great that he was doing that, while other people couldn't believe it. I wouldn't have minded at all if it didn't take away from my time. (There I go again!)
Maybe I shouldn't have felt ownership of it; I guess it is only fair. I think dads taking parental leave is a great idea. I just wanted the whole year to myself. First of all, I was breastfeeding. And yes, as the time approached I began pumping milk, but my pump and I did not get along. I thought of it as an instrument of torture, to be honest. Which doesn't exactly pave the way for a positive relationship. Anyway. My husband and I argued about it. He wanted six months and I didn't want him to have any, which is how we settled for three months.
I felt like after carrying our child for nine months, conscious of everything I was doing and eating and its effect on him, and abstaining from alcohol, and don't get me started on giving birth to him, that I deserved the whole year. I admit it! And I was still breastfeeding through the night. Jerry would lie there without a care in the world snoring while I sat there wanting to gouge him with a fork just to even out the sleeplessness....but I wasn't bitter. Do I sound bitter?
It was really hard for me to leave my son when he still seemed so small. I mean, I had trouble going back to work (part-time) with each and every child (it doesn't get any easier) and I'm sure I would have at any age (except maybe when they were 16 years old).
I was getting all upset and anxious and wondering to myself how I could possibly leave my sweet vulnerable little baby with - gasp - his FATHER? What was I thinking? (Okay, I was a little irrational. Give me a break. I hadn't had a good night's sleep in three years!)
I think my husband was picturing time alone with a sweet little baby who would laugh and smile and then sleep the rest of time while he napped on the couch. Unfortunately, life at home with children is not a Hallmark card.
I warned him. I said he didn't know what it was really like. While I wanted to stay home, I also had already had one maternity leave and I realized how hard it could be. He waved off my concerns. "Pfffft! I'll be fine! No problem! I can handle it."
On my first day back at work he paged me at 11 a.m. with a #1 page. That means a crisis. I called home in a panic. My husband yelled, "You've got to come home RIGHT NOW!" Apparently Ryan was refusing to drink milk out of the bottle.
Another time he asked me seriously, "Do you ever have to psych yourself up to get through a day?" (Ummmm, is that a rhetorical question? Do I love chocolate?) As someone I talked to about it said, "A day? Try every day!"
Another day he met me at the door when I arrived home, yelling that Ryan hadn't napped all day and that he was teething and he couldn't handle it anymore.
The good thing was that it really helped Jerry understand how hard it can be at home, and how the parent at home isn't just lying on the couch watching TV and eating truffles. I was just visiting a new mom and she lay there on the couch holding her sleeping baby and saying hopelessly, "I planned on painting the entire house while I was on maternity leave...but I haven't even done one room yet." I patted her hand, saying gently, "No more crazy talk, please. Don't say another word. It's enough just to deal with the baby!"
I remember how the midwives visited me at home a few days after the birth of my first child, and I had struggled to have a shower and get changed into clothes. When I greeted them at the door, they looked at me in horror. "You shouldn't have gotten dressed! We expect to see you in your pyjamas still!" I collapsed against the door in unmitigated relief. "Well, thank GOD for that!" It was the greatest feeling ever. I've never forgotten it.
And of course there are great things about being home. You get all the hugs and get to see all the developmental milestones happening in front of your eyes.
When I was expecting our third child, I said casually to my husband, "So, this time...are you planning to..." My husband interrupted me quickly, "No! NO! Nooo!"