Simpler and Harder
Someone asked me the other day if I find taking care of my six month old baby equivalent work to a full-time job. I laughed and said “Yes, and then some.” Babies are intense. They require constant care, patience and love. Yet, they are also very simple. They simply need care, love and patience.
I find being on parental leave harder than going to the office, but also simpler. My daughter needs me to be available to her, all hours of the day and night. She doesn’t care about labour laws, 15 minute breaks every few hours, or annual leave and sick days. Yet, on the flip side, life with her is much simpler than modern office life can be. I’ve never heard any office gossip around the changing table, nor questioned the value of my work as I feed or played with her. She is clear with what she needs, and does she best to communicate her needs to be as simply as she can. My daughter does not try to manipulate me, nor have ulterior motives. She is free with her praise and laughter, and flexible when her days don’t go as she planned.
She has also been very patient with me, as I’ve learned my new role. When we started out working together, everything was new for both of us. I felt out of my depth, and deeply humbled. No degree, course or successful project I had done before in the corporate world mattered, at 2am as I tried to calm my colicky infant.
My daughter was a loving teacher. She still looked at me with adoration as I fumbled to learn the job, and repeatedly got things wrong. She did not make me feel a failure every time I cried, or had to walk away for a bit to recompose myself. She taught me true grit and perseverance. For the first six weeks of my daughter’s life, I was in agony every time I fed her, and I spent maybe 10 hours a day feeding her. But we pushed through together, and I learned a new skill that I previously had not had. For the first 32 years of my life, I’d been of the opinion that if I couldn’t win the game, I didn’t want to even try to play. My daughter taught me that I could improve at something that initially, I found so hard.
She taught me that patience is not a lake or a well, that runs dry, but like a river that flows if you allow yourself to flow with it. She taught me that a bad moment can be followed by a beautiful magically moment, and that life is too precious for long fights with her father, when we’ll only both say sorry eventually anyway.
I will return to work outside the home next year, and becoming one of the thousands of working parents in New Zealand, and I look forward to some aspects of that. But I will do with a clearer understanding about what’s important in life. I will have many job titles in my career, and work in different offices in different locations. But now, I will always be a parent; the one job you never switch off from.