We were very fortunate that Aya and I were both home for the full three months of Aya’s maternity leave. Aya’s mom was also in town for the first month Chloe was born, so we were not short of helping hands. It was great to be able to fully enjoy and take in our new dynamic as a family of four together, but the day Aya was to return to work was fast approaching.
Her first day back to work was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. She had the following week off after that. So between that and the Holiday, her first “real” day back to work wasn’t until the first Monday of December. This was good because it gave us both a taste of what was to come without having to dive in full force. But it also made us a little lazy. Maybe more than a little.
I made no special arrangements mentally or physically to prepare for the day at all. I didn’t prep any bottles or start defrosting milk bags the night before. I was just going to wing it. “Chloe’s a very chill baby. I’ll be fine,” I thought.
That’s right, I thought.
We had both stayed up way too late making 5:30am the next morning come really early. Oh, and not to mention, Ellie woke up at 3:00am and came into our bed a very alert and chatty little girl. “Daddy? What you doing?”
She didn’t fall back asleep until 5:00am.
This is how we began Aya’s first day back to work.
To be honest, the last few weeks of Aya’s leave I was actually really looking forward to her going back. I was anxious for a return to normalcy, to reclaim my space and my role. I wanted to spread my wings and accept this challenge. But starting the day exhausted with a tired cranky toddler and a hungry crying baby, I couldn’t help but think “You’re actually going to leave me here alone?” as Aya left for work.
My shining moment was right in front of me, but before the day had even begun I had fallen flat on my face. I wanted this so bad, but I just wasn’t ready at all.
Ellie was naggy and whiney. “Daddy, Dora, Diego, Daddy, Dora, Diego… My show! I’m Hungry! I pooped!” We hadn’t even had breakfast yet and my patience was stripped down to zero.
Chloe who is rarely fussy and always easy going was not feeling the bottle. I had given her a bottle before so it wasn’t completely new to her. She just wasn’t feeling it that day. I’d give her the bottle and she’d push it away and then cry. And then she’d take it and push it away and cry. All while Ellie is putting naggy pressure on me. “Feed her daddy. Do it. Feed her. FEED HER!” she kept hounding.
Chloe did eventually take the bottle, she just didn’t enjoy it much. Gasping, choking, burping, and swallowing all at the same time.
As the day went on, nothing was actually that terrible, I just wasn’t prepared. The diaper ballet really caught me off guard too. Ellie had a full diaper so I changed her. Then right after, Chloe pooped. Once I got her cleaned up, Ellie pooped. But Chloe, who apparently wasn’t finished yet, pooped again. Finally, we could…oh wait. Nope. Ellie pooped. Again. And as the violin played, the ballet continued.
In addition to the diaper ballet was the nap dance. One up, one down. Two up, none down . One up, one down. But never down together, not even for 5 minutes. Luckily Ellie did fall asleep for her afternoon nap. She desperately needed it. And of course, just as Chloe fell asleep, Ellie came downstairs after 30 minutes, “Hi daddy! I’m awake!”
I surrendered at that moment any possibility of making dinner and decided ordering pizza was a much better option.
I wasn’t the only one who was vastly under-prepared either. Aya was so exhausted from the day that after she ate dinner, she took Chloe upstairs to nurse her but never came back down. They were both down and out for the count by 8:30pm.
It took us awhile to get into a rhythm, but now with a few months under my belt, things are running much smoother. Between grocery shopping, storytime, art class, Japanese school, and cooking regularly, I’d say I have succeeded and successfully reclaimed my role. I did it!
But as Chloe is starting to drool uncontrollably and chew on everything and anything, I know my next obstacle, the dreaded Reverse Tooth Fairy, is lurking just around the corner.