Tuesday, 07 January 2014
A Dad's View 3: All about the quality time
Our resident dad Tom Dunmore orchestrates more quality time with his baby daughter and finds that it's the simple things in life that count
A relationship is about balance. And when there are just two of you, finding equilibrium is fairly easy, but when you become parents, you quickly find that biology is not an equal opportunities employer. Once us daddies have had our few minutes of creative input into the baby-making process, we are little more than bystanders.
To compound matters, nature has hard-wired men to look for problems at every turn – and try to solve them with bluster and brute force. Which is great when a shelf needs putting up, or a puncture needs mending, but not so hot when your partner needs some emotional support.
To her credit, my wife seems to understand this. She muddled through her baby blues with just a fraction of the comfort she deserved, and patiently sets me tasks to complete – a shopping list of baby kit, a lap of the park with the buggy, a passport form to fill in. I tick off my to-dos and rejoice in my promotion from bystander to tea-boy.
Yet something is nagging me – I only see Ava when she's sleeping. I was at work when she smiled her first smile and commuting when she sat up for the first time. Something has to change or I'm going to miss the whole 'growing-up' thing.
So, I decide to quit my job and throw myself into the life of a freelance writer. I hire a desk five minutes away from home, and resolve to work a four-day week so I can have a special 'Daddy Day' for bonding with my daughter, while my wife has a well-deserved rest.
Our first Daddy Day trip is to a parent-and-baby screening at the local cinema, where I wince through the latest instalment of Transformers. I had assumed they'd show nice, relaxing movies: instead, the explosive soundtrack has been turned up to drown out the howling. Ava somehow manages to sleep through it all – a wise choice, it turns out – but I come away shell-shocked.
Next we splash about at an 'aqua tots' session at the swimming pool: a far better idea. Ava loves her first swim and I feel a warm glow, just as I notice her lips turning blue. I quickly dry her off and warm her up, and then she decides to reward me with my own special moment – she rolls over for the first time. Unfortunately, she happens to be on a changing table. I get just enough of my body between baby and tiled floor to prevent injury – but my confidence is shattered. Should I retreat to the sanctuary of an office job and resign myself to only seeing my daughter at weekends?
No. No, instead I decide that 'Daddy Days' need a rethink. So, rather than trying to manufacture special moments with Ava, I resolve to be more helpful with the day-to-day tasks – mealtimes, bathtime, bedtime. And fortunately for me, it turns out that this is when the real magic happens: watching Ava's shock, delight and revulsion as she tastes her first banana; hearing her singing along to a lullaby; feeling her grow heavy in my arms as she slides into sleep... these are treats I would have missed if I was working flat out.
It would be wrong to say we've found a new equilibrium – Ava's charmingly bizarre sleep patterns don't allow for that – but I think I've hit upon something close to my perfect work/life balance. Tragically (especially when it comes to paying the utility bills), it involves rather more life than work.