Two years ago, when my tiny man really was living up to his moniker, I was doing my 91st lap of the bedroom at 3am, trying to rock him to sleep. He was full, burped and ready to go back to bed - ‘pleeease, I begged him in my head, won’t you just go to sleep?’
I remember dreaming of being a millionaire with a maternity nurse, who’d swoop in, bring the babe into the bedroom to have milk, then let me doze straight back to sleep… So I didn’t have eye-bags the size of Ikea’s blue plastic ones.
But last week, I actually interviewed a maternity nurse - not for my own use, but in my job as a journalist. She works solely for the super-rich, royalty, and celebrities, and told me stories of regularly being handed over an hours-old newborn, fresh out of hospital, by parents who then wouldn’t even visit their tiny one for whole fortnight.
It got me thinking about the old-fashioned idea of ‘providing for your family’ and what it really means. It’s definitely not all about the money. It seems to me that those billionaire parents who “outsource” their newborn to a professional and don’t even see it might be giving it everything it practically needs, but their tot might be lacking the love element.
When our tiny man was born, my husband hadn’t been in his job long enough to receive paid paternity leave, but there was no question that he would take the fortnight off, unpaid. I couldn’t have coped without his help… He was like an eight-handed octopus - proffering breastfeeding-me water and Cadbury’s Dairy Milks whilst prepping dinner and dealing with all the poonami washing.
So much so, that I was terrified for the end of that two week ‘bubble’ of family life as the three of us. How would I cope solo at home? How would he feel as the sole wage earner for our new threesome?
Jessie J was right, it’s not about the money - being a ‘provider’ is no longer just about bringing in the pay check that covers the nappies; it’s about being there for the family.
Judging by the whizzing WhatsApp messages from my NCT group, I wasn’t alone in that fear - mums can feel overwhelmed and lonely in those first few weeks, sometimes mourning the independent work life left behind, whilst a lot of men find it hard to be away from their partner and tiny new family.
Still, we UK parents are lucky we get that two-week bubble at all. I feel really grateful that the millennial way is to co-parent. It’s hard, and involves more juggling than a Cirque du Soleil performance, but co-parenting is infinitely better than the old binary ‘housewife mum’ and ‘paycheck dad’ roles.
In our house, I do much of my (paid) work in the evening, after looking after tiny man for most of the day, so my husband finishes off his day in the office with a packed Tube commute home followed by immediately plunging into a garden kickabout, bath-time and story-time. (Definitely not called ‘babysitting’ - just a dad looking after his offspring!)
I try to have made dinner for us earlier in the day, but if work or tiny man-time didn’t allow it, he’ll pull out a saucepan (and his signature pasta, peas, sauce dish will inevitably emerge). We’ll wing it and try our best.
Family life is a bit like running a start-up: no matter what your job title, everyone mucks in (and the newest member of the team is often making the biggest splash).
Perceptions still need to change: 78% of Britons still reckon the working parent is the main provider in a family, because they’re the financial support of the family, WaterWipes research found. Only 17% believe that both parents are the main provider in the first six months of their baby’s life.
You’re not working towards a multi-million pound valuation - but dividends of cuddles, kisses, and family moments. And though it’s hard to remember, sometimes, when you’re dealing with pooey nappy number six and thinking about your work to-do list and ‘must plan that date night’ - they are worth even more.
* We’re seriously gobby and only write about what we really mean - but this post is sponsored by WaterWipes and its #ParentPact, because the modern family unit is fluid and built on both parents working together.