Since I work from 9 to 5, I have a chance to see my son only in the morning, on a lunch break and in the evening – after I come home back from work. As soon as I get home, I try to give my wife at least one hour of her own time, until I go to exercising.
During the weekdays, my wife spends the most of the day with our son and especially right now things are more demanding than ever before. Our son is 1 year and 4 months old – in other words he is a toddler.
Now, anyone who has kids understands that this is a very hectic part of your children’s life: They walk around, carry stuff from your kitchen to your bedroom, empty the drawers, jump on the sofa and my favorite – climb onto every possible object out there.
Because of all this, I can truly value my wife and what she is going through on a daily basis. Still, I have had only a small “window” to this world as I’m working full time. This was about to change as my wife announced a while ago that she was going to participate to a two-day seminar and that I had to take care of our son during that time.
I had never been alone with my son that much before. That’s why I asked myself: “How was I going to be able to manage those two days with a toddler who is doing these crazy stunts all day and who needs to be watched every second?”
I didn’t know the answer to this and quite frankly, I was a little bit nervous about what was coming.
Am I gonna make it?
It seemed that there were so many things to remember when spending the weekend with him: What to eat, how to dress him when going outside (it’s winter here), changing diapers, feeding him … So many tasks and although I had done each of those tasks separately before, it was now my responsibility to handle this stuff for almost two days – all by myself.
The other thing that I kept asking myself was: “How was I going to make it physically?” I know, I’m an athlete and I’m in a good shape, but I also knew that taking care of a toddler is a different kind of physical exercise. It’s more spontaneous and nothing like a race where there is a clear start and an end.
Finally, I was thinking of my days from productivity’s perspective as well: As I’m pretty busy with this blog and other projects, I was afraid that those two days were going to be the most unproductive ever. I was mentally prepared, that I wasn’t going to get that much done during the weekend.
I had quite a few questions and expectations towards the weekend. Still, even I if was a bit nervous about what was coming, I was also fascinated to see how things would turn out.
Experiencing something new
So, what was really causing this confusion about the coming weekend? Well, I figured that there was only one reason: Facing the unknown.
I hadn’t been in a situation like this before, so it was natural to set unrealistic expectations in my head about it. I was facing the unknown territory which put me outside my comfort zone.
It’s quite easy to start making things up in your head when you don’t have your first-hand experience about the topic. And although I knew that I was capable of handling the situation, I fell to the trap of doubting myself about my capabilities of being able to manage the weekend well.
So silly – I know. Yet, this is exactly what I was doing and many dads must be nervous too when they are in a similar situation.
I’m an adult, I can handle it!
Eventually I decided that enough is enough – no more of these silly and unrealistic thoughts: I’m going to make it through the weekend! There were actually a couple of things that gave me the self-confidence to think so.
First, I knew that others had faced the similar situation and they had made it perfectly. I knew that I could do it too and this gave me the positive mental boost when I remembered this fact.
Second, all I needed to do was to ask some instructions on how to make through the days. I asked my wife about the things I should remember and once I had a “cheat sheet” written down, things were already easier.
Finally, I had the help of my own parents available if I needed it. Luckily, they were just a phone call away (and leave nearby anyway) I could call them if I needed. Just knowing that I could get help calmed me down.
Put the fear away with these five steps
Eventually the weekend came and … I made it :). If you are spending time alone together with your child for the first time, remember these things:
1. Learn the essential information in advance. Ask as much information from your spouse in advance and write it down, for example about the clothing, about the foods or just about the daily rhythm. When you have the necessary information ready, it makes things easier.
2. Play out full. Focus on your child when you are with him/her. Decide not to open the computer and spend time online when he/she is awake – you have time to do it some other time. Be present because that’s what your child appreciates as well.
3. Maximize your time pockets. Most likely your child has a rhythm he/she lives by, so it’s important to learn about it advance. For instance, my son went to his afternoon nap around 12.30 PM, so I was ready to work during that time.
I made sure (as always) that I had all the material ready before my time block started and that I was well-prepared. That way I could start working on my projects as soon as possible.
4. Enjoy and have fun! Play with your child, read with him/her, go outside … do all the fun stuff and the time will fly. Truly enjoy and appreciate the time you spend with your kid – it’s a great way to get your mind away from your work stuff!
5. Give space to your spouse. Appreciate what your spouse is doing. Remember that when you are working, he/she is probably doing a lot of work with your children already. That’s why you should happily give him/her time with his/her own activities. Your spouse’s happiness reflects to the whole family’s well-being, so that’s why this is very important.
I really enjoyed the time I spent with my son and I’m more than happy to have these weekenders again. It also gave me a great perspective to what my wife experiences during the weekdays when I’m working.
If you are about to spend time together with your child, just relax and remember that everything is going to be alright. Mostly, it’s just these silly thoughts that we have in our heads that make the whole thing too complicated. Once you get past these thoughts, everything is going to just fine.
Over to you: Can you remember the first time you spent time alone with your children? What was it like? How did you prepare for it?