Paternity Leave Nearly Done
It’s been a little over a month since Phoenix was born and now that December is coming to a close, with it comes the end of my paternity leave. I’m not really sure that I’m ready to go back to work, though. The first two weeks she was here were basically a whirlwind of people showing up, work getting done around the house, and general “settling.” The two weeks after that have been spent just trying to get a decent schedule down and learning how to manage some of the changes that come with a baby. I just now feel like we might sort of have a handle on things but I don’t really get to verify that before getting back to work. Hence, not quite ready.
To borrow a line from Scott Hanselman, who borrowed it from his friend Eli, “Kids go through three phases: Plant, Pet, Person.” Phoenix is currently in “plant” phase, where we provide sustenance and she sits for long periods of time. She’s not interactive at all, has no motor control, and doesn’t even smile yet. In a way, and I know this sounds bad/negative, I think “plant” phase should actually be “parasite” phase. Per Wikipedia, a parasitic relationship is “where one organism, the parasite, benefits at the expense of the host.” Right now, despite the “It’s so rewarding!” declarations to me from existing parents, there’s really no “reward,” just work. There’s not even “unconditional love” coming from her, just “need,” which is not the same thing at all.
I think I’ll have a more positive attitude and be less generally depressed once there is some sort of basic interaction possible. In my experience, women love babies. Like, baby babies. Men like older children that are mobile and more interactive. (Yes, that’s a blanket generalized statement and isn’t true for everyone, but this is what I’ve seen.) I find that to be true here, too, where my wife and her friends love how tiny Phoenix is and so forth, but I find myself strongly looking forward to a day when she can smile and I know it’s not just a gas bubble.
A friend of mine told me my perspective would shift and I’d learn to love everything, including the pain. I’m a month in and I don’t see that happening. I might, in the long run, forget how painful this stage is (and I think most parents do, which is why you don’t hear about it much) and possibly even look back and laugh someday, but I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy the painful moments. They’ll just exist in time and be something to bear through. “It’ll get better!,” something people (particularly grandparents) love to throw out there, doesn’t really help me right now, does it? “Sorry doesn’t put the Triscuit crackers in my stomach, now, does it, Carl?”
I don’t think it helped that for the first two weeks we were home Jenn was pretty much on bed rest due to her C-section, which means I went to the hospital with my wife and came back with two babies to care for. Also during my leave, several home ownership items came up like a leaking toilet, a clogged kitchen exhaust fan, and so on. A perfect storm of “more work for me” that amounts to barely keeping my head above water. Oh, and the usual (and, now additional) stress of the holiday season. I’m sure all of that pretty well tanked my mood and it’s yet to snap back.
It’s important to note that this all has no bearing on Phoenix herself. She’s a wonderful little girl and I love her dearly. I’m glad she’s here and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s just a… severe adjustment period that has me down. Again, I don’t think expectations were properly set.
I could go on, but that won’t really help anything, either. Suffice to say, I am looking forward to the joy of parenting, whenever it decides to arrive. In the meantime, I’m headed back to work next week and I will be figuring out how to make all this work together.