Survivor’s Guilt

It’s a peculiar feeling to return back to the real world when your partner cannot. It would be odder still if Janelle had opted to be a stay-at-home Mom, but that’s probably matter for its own post entirely.

Last week I started going back in to work part time. I’m only going in three days a week for four hours each day (the other two days I keep the same schedule from home), but it’s twelve hours a week that I find myself feeling reasonably guilty about. Everything parenting started out as a tag-team effort. Diaper changes were two-person jobs. Clothes changes. Nap times. Baths. Feeding. We’re now starting go through the natural differentiation process where we’ll trade back and forth or (especially for something like feeding) it becomes the domain of one parent over the other.

Now that we’ve each gotten the hang of the basics of raising Joshua, there’s no real reason for each of us to take part in every activity. This has, in turn, led to more opportunism from both Janelle and I. She’s feeding him! Time to type something. Michael’s trying to put him down for a nap. To the showers! She’s changing his diaper. Quickly, make lunch!

However, returning to work gives me a bit of a golden ticket. Three days a week, I’m gone for about five hours. And because I need to be awake enough to be useful for work, I get to sleep through the night while Janelle attends to Joshua’s feedings. This means that the scale of baby work is dipping heavily towards Janelle at this point.

It’s difficult to avoid feeling like I’m slacking off around the house… but I’m working on convincing myself that I’m not being entirely fair to myself. Janelle is lucky enough to be able to take a truly obscene length of time off from work as part of her maternity leave, but that time doesn’t come with full pay. I’m lucky enough to have an obscene amount of sick and vacation time used up. I could probably match her leave time with my own, but that’s not a great idea.

As nice as it would be to take a couple of months off work to stay home and help Janelle and care for Joshua, the practical thing to do is to suck it up and get back in the office. First, it’s important to have as much income as we can manage because we need to both be anticipating increased expenses, and also increasing savings for the little man’s education. Second, when Janelle heads back into work, she’s going to be tapped out on time off, so having a stockpile of days off on my schedule is a good call. Once Joshua hits daycare, I imagine the likelihood of illnesses will increase exponentially.

Now, there’s a very real chance that if you are feeling like a slacker as a parent, then you are, in fact, a slacker. But if you feel bad about it, chances are you’re just being hard on yourself. Not all parenting involves actually holding the baby and bouncing him up and down. Parenting is feeding him and burping him and changing him and putting him to bed, but it’s also helping pay for baby supplies and running the errands that need to be run and making sure that if the little guy gets a fever in November that you can be home to take care of him without having to forfeit some salary.

And it’s okay to enjoy getting out of the house. It’s not as if Janelle doesn’t like hanging out with the baby, anyway. I mean, he’s a cute baby.

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