Before we became parents, we were typical Silicon Valley professionals with a 24/7 job and long commutes. Our dinner conversations were interrupted by work emails on smart watches. When we met with friends who had kids, we always longed to have one (or a couple) ourselves but often we would ask each other the question – ‘where’s the time?’ Then, we took the plunge.
I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, an inability to keep any solid or liquid down, during my pregnancy. I was left very feeble and struggled to keep up with work. That’s when I literally started having nightmares about being left behind in the race, which set forth a cycle of endless throwing up, anxiety and depression.
We knew at this moment that I wouldn’t be happy taking a backseat in my career even after my baby gets here. If we wanted to make this work, my husband would need to support my career goals, and be an invested parent and husband.
My husband had been my biggest supporter and advocate. I have a knack of getting involved with myriad things even outside the scope of my immediate responsibilities and he has never complained about me carving out time for them. But what was different about parenting was that I didn’t know what to expect and couldn’t hand over a ‘to-dos list’. So really the only conversation we had while we were expecting was – ‘Haven’t I been a much better partner than you expected?! (Yes, some amount of self-bragging was involved here). I promise I’m not going to be a horrible dad.’
Fast forward to when we welcomed the apple of our eye – Avi. I was exhausted after a long labor, so my husband took complete charge. I distinctly remember him telling me that I needed to learn how to change diapers when he was going back to work after being with us for 2 weeks. During Avi’s first month visit to the doctor, I couldn’t undress him since I had never done it before. My husband had happily taken it upon himself to give me relief when I wasn’t nursing.
Four months of maternity leave just flew by, and despite it being a lot of work, we thanked God every day for the gift. Aren’t they adorable? Then began the separation anxiety! I knew it was going to be harder for me than for Avi to be gone for 10 hrs every day of the week. I also knew that to sustain my career goals, I would need to lean in to it a 100%. If I were going back full-time, I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t move up the corporate ladder. Yet I cried at the very thought of not seeing Avi for long hours, and potentially days if I was traveling.
When I was still coping with my own struggles, my husband offered to use four weeks of his paternity leave to help me ease into work. I was very surprised because I had assumed that we would use that time for a vacation or for visiting our families. But I started warming up to it because I trusted my husband to care for Avi better than anyone else (except myself at that point). Both him and I agreed on parenting philosophies, which was a constant battle with our parents.
While I looked at it as him going out of his way to help me out with getting back to work (not an easy task, I tell you!), my husband was getting more and more excited about spending time with Avi. Not a day passed without him exclaiming how much we was looking forward to being with our little guy!
On the D-day, I issued him a long list of instructions, tips and tricks before leaving for work. His response – ‘Don’t worry, I’ll figure it out!’.
Avi had very stubbornly refused to take a bottle until then and preferred to be breastfed. We had consulted a pediatrician, a lactation consultant and zillions of mommy blogs, and tried everything without any success! On day 1, my husband patiently fed Avi 60 ml milk (2 oz) with a 1ml dropper. He was whiny without mommy, so my husband walked him in a park for 3 hrs. Yes, I messaged million times and with every message, I was more and more reassured in my husband’s ability to care for Avi.
Now, after 4 weeks, here’s how things stand. Avi has become very attached to daddy and looks forward to spending time with him. (It isn’t any different for daddy). He is taking a bottle from daddy. (Mommy hasn’t had any luck yet). Daddy has extended his leave by 2 weeks because the time went by too fast and he would need to get on the road (err, the plane) as soon as he gets back! So while daddy is still home, this Father’s Day is special for us, and though I was planning to give daddy some respite from child care by sending him away for a ‘boy’s day out’ with friends, he has decided to spend the day with our 5-month old doing stuff that a 5-month old and his daddy can enjoy together. (Still figuring out what they are. Suggestions welcome!).