Recently I learnt the challenges of single parenting. No Amy hasn’t traded me in for a younger and slightly less tired model. Not yet anyway. I’ve recently put a ring on her finger so there’s no chance of that now. Smart I know!
Part of Amy’s job as a prison officer means that every 16 weeks she works a week of night shifts. This would strike the fear into any Dad. Men cannot survive without a woman there to tell them exactly what to do and when to do it. When we are younger it’s the job of our mothers. Then when you get older you seek out a wife who is prepared to take over this very important role of taking care of your useless and pitiful soul.
When you become a parent, it’s not just yourself that you have to worry about though. There’s also a small person who looks you dead in the eye with a look of “right Dad what happens now?” This is where a mother will be replying “washing, dishes, bath, bottle, bed” whereas a Dad would reply with “errr should we order a pizza and watch the footie?”
So for one whole week I would be responsible for taking care of myself and also my 9 month old son. I’m not afraid to admit that there was doubt in my mind that I could do it. I struggle to keep up with my own life at the best of times when I have the help of Amy, so there was a fear that I would finally have the mental breakdown that would result in me ending up in a loony bin. It was well overdue. I had been building up to this moment for a while now.
As Austin and Daddy waved Mummy off for her first night shift there was a sudden realisation that I was now on my own. Obviously to start the week off nicely, Austin decided that he would give me a taste of what might come. Would he settle for bed? Would he hell. He must have sensed my fear and took full advantage of it. I went to bed that night fully expecting to have the worst nights sleep with multiple get ups. What followed however was nothing short of a miracle.
I woke up the next morning with a sudden sense of panic. It’s 4:30am and I haven’t been woken up several times! Something terrible has happened! Quite the opposite. My little boy had slept through the night for the first time in ages. He clearly felt pity on me and decided to help a Dad out in his time of need. Sometimes children are good like that.
Spending time with Austin is the best thing in the world, as long as you have plenty of things to do. Once he gets bored he turns into a grumpy old man who will just complain until he’s blue in the face. There were times throughout the week where we would get out the house to do literally anything at all. Going for a walk in the pram and nipping to the shop to get bread and milk. Anything to keep Austin entertained for 5 minutes.
At the end of the first day I put Austin to bed as usual. Now I like to think that I’m quite an experienced parent at this stage, and I was well aware that the first night was quite clearly a one off, and that Austin would be back to his disruptive, clingy self throughout the night. However, lightening seemed to have struck twice, and once again Austin slept all the way through. This seemed to be too good to be true. As the week went on, Austin slept through again, and again, and again. Every night I went to bed thinking this will be the night that it all goes wrong, but it never did. For seven days, I saw the promised land that every parent dreams of. I was in parenting heaven.
For any parent who spends all day every day at home with a baby, you will understand that the days can be long and mentally tiring. Luckily for me, working in a nursery, I was able to take Austin to work with me two days a week, which allowed me to have some sort of break. A break which consisted of looking after other people’s children for 11 hours a day. That’s right, for ridiculous individuals like myself, this is classed as a break.
The days at home with Austin were pleasantly surprising. I expected to spend each day desperately waiting for his bedtime, but instead we spent quality time together playing and being the best of friends. I actually had time to bond with him and it felt amazing. By the end of the week I could feel the connection that we now had. It made me realise that actually I can do this whole ‘Dad thing’ and it was surprisingly good fun. I started the week dreading every second, but by the last day of Amy’s nights, I felt like I could have carried on for longer than a week. At least in 16 weeks when this happens again I can look forward to it rather than dread every second.
And the question that every parent is asking reading this…did he continue to sleep through the night after this week with me? HAHAHA! Of course not, first night with his Mum and he was a little rascal. I didn’t find it amusing though, honest.