#muminreallife Guest Blogger: Lesley Cartwright @mummyneedsalatte
A Working Mum, A Stay at Home Dad
Hi, I’m Lesley, wife to Derek and first time mother to Isaac. I also work full time while my husband stays at home with our boy. Ours is not a unique situation but it certainly is a rare one.
Before we’d even started trying for a baby, Derek and I had spoken at length about what our life would be like. I work in a high pressure (but very well paid) job which has long hours and can take me away for days at a time. He worked in retail which he enjoyed but didn’t have the same responsibilities. I wanted to work part time if we ever had children but cost of living is high and couldn’t see how that would work so we knew early on that if anybody would be staying at home it would be him rather than me.
Fast forward to 2016, we had just got married when I found out I was pregnant…... suddenly we were going to seriously have to think about how this would work for us. We both wanted our child to go to nursery so started the task of looking into them. The realisation soon hit that if our child was in nursery full time that Derek’s full wage would be paying for that. We couldn’t afford me going part time, not that it was really an option with my role, and Derek didn’t want to be working just to pay for childcare so we knew the decision was made. He spoke with his work who agreed to let him drop to a part time position (2 weekdays and then 2 weekends a month) and we got our then unborn child signed up to nursery for 2 days a week. Squish (Isaac’s in utero name) would get the best of both worlds – couple of days with other kids in nursery and the rest of the time with Daddy.
Isaac arrive in July 2017, 2 weeks after his due date, 4 weeks into my maternity leave. I had hoped to have nearly 7 months with him before I went back to work but he had other plans! The following 6 months sped past and soon it was time to go back. I was exclusively breastfeeding but had started to wean onto solids. He was still pretty boob-centric though. I had managed to build up a freezer stash of milk and work had a room for me to express during the day so that was all covered. Was Derek ready though?
In preparation, he had saved some holidays so he could have a ‘two week handover’. Luckily, Isaac had pretty set routines (set himself) and I would leave them for chunks of the day to let him settle into the new role. And we were good to go…
I wasn’t. Not even a little bit. The guilt for leaving him, the pressures of work, the expressing, the missing milestones… I couldn’t have been a stay at home mum (hats off to those who do) but going back when he was still so little was hard. I’d have done anything to stay at home. Derek hated not being able to allow me that.
In time, that became easier, I knew that he was happy with his dad and his dad was happy to be at home with him too. And it is a role that Derek excels in. As I’ve said I couldn’t be a stay at home mum but Derek adores it – to him that is his job and the retail role is just one he has to do for a bit of cash flow.
That’s not to say there hasn’t been hurdles. Isaac annihilated my stash in the first month and my expressing couldn’t keep up with the demand so we had to look at introducing formula which he hated. Then there is the fact that there is next to no parenting classes at the weekends when I could go so I feel a bit mummy friend-less. The lack of understanding when Derek needs to take time off to look after Isaac when ill so I can go to work for something (‘why isn’t your wife doing it?’). The lack of dad-centric clubs. People saying ‘oh it's so nice that Derek stays at home to babysit’. The lack of information available for dads staying at home. If we hadn’t had the two week handover there is a lot of stuff that Derek would never have picked up on (just to be clear I hadn’t known til I was at home 24/7 during the 6 month maternity leave either). The crying as I left in the morning.
We make it work though. The days I’m struggling with the mum guilt and wishing I was at home, Derek makes sure I get lots of picture updates. Then we’ve set the routine that I give him his last bottle before bed so I can still get a cuddle when I come home.
Derek’s started a YouTube channel (Dad Plays Stuff) so he feels like he still has a bit of an outlet. I’m writing my blog to give me my outlet and Isaac is just coming on leaps and bounds now. I haven’t missed any firsts and I get the best cuddles when I come home. Knowing I’m doing it for the three of us makes it a bit easier.
Hopefully, not conforming ‘to the norm’ will be a bonus for Isaac too and he’ll realise how women can be the breadwinners and there is no shame in being a dad who stays at home. And maybe one day it’ll not be as rare as it is now.