Oh dear – I didn’t mean to suggest last post that Llew doesn’t help with Master J – he does, and has done from the beginning. Of course it’s fractional, but there’s not much to be done about that, plus Llew is out working full-time (not to mention overtime, without pay) five days out of every seven, so he’s hardly failing to pull his weight. Yes, I agree that kind of work is very different to the relentless demands of caring for a newborn 24/7, and Llew gets time to himself every single day – time that I miss more than anything else – but it’s real and demanding work that he does, and quite frankly, without it we’d be screwed.
A friend told me a story from the early days of her own parenting that I’ve found myself repeating since Master J was born. She and her husband were having words about some aspect of childcare, and her husband became quite defensive and wounded, saying to her, “But I’ve been so good, I’ve been helping…”
“Helping?” she screeched. “Helping? Listen, pal, there’s no ‘helping.’ You don’t ‘help’ with your own kids. You might ‘help’ with someone else’s, but there’s none of this ‘helping’ business with your own. ‘Helping’ my arse!”
I love this anecdote – I loved it well before I had a child – but ‘help’ is still the dominant verb in this house. Llew does help, and he probably helps more than a lot of guys – he must do, otherwise those women in the restaurant at my sis-in-law’s birthday wouldn’t have felt so compelled to fall all over him, gushing admiration until I thought I’d puke, because he’d managed to hold his own child for an hour over lunch. Wow! That’s INCREDIBLE, ladies, you’re right! He’s amaaaaazing! And it’s a truth of the species that most men need endless thanking and acknowledgement for every little shred of domestic assistance rendered. Unpack the dishwasher? Thank you, husband, thank you thank you! Take in the washing? Thank you, husband, thank you thank you! And you know, I am happy to thank Llew, I mean it when I do; I genuinely appreciate and rely upon his contribution, and that’s something he seems to need to know. It costs me nothing to say it out loud.
Every morning before Llew leaves for work, he gives Master J his reflux medication, then changes and dresses him before the first feed. At night, Llew gives Master J his bath and dresses him for bed. We share story-time duties – sometimes I read and Llew nurses Master J, and vice versa. If he’s here, Llew also burps Master J during and after feeds. But outside weekends, he’s not here for any but the final feed. Sometimes – although only very rarely – he’s not here for that. This will not change – not even if Llew manages to get home earlier. He will also do chores, and actually strives, I know he does, to lighten my load. He just doesn’t think or operate the same way, so he often genuinely can’t see what needs doing without being told, and ‘being told’ creates its own problems…
Llew has taken Master J on numerous occasions. I think it’s very important (for all three of us) that Master J and Llew spend time alone together, and they’ve done that from the beginning. They’ve done all sorts of things together: they’ve been to see Master J’s grandparents, to the driving range, to the pub to watch the football, to the mall for emergency baby supplies, for walks… and it’s mostly during these breaks, along with those afforded by Master J’s grandparents and auntie, that I’ve researched and written the two Varuna features, and done whatever other shreds of writing I’ve managed. I have also had lunch with girlfriends twice (the third occasion is booked this coming Sunday), and had my hair cut twice. Llew and I have also had two date nights, courtesy of first my sis-in-law and second my in-laws. So we’re doing all right. I am doing all right. It’s just quite full on, he’s not one of those “easy babies” (if they even exist) and, as every mother knows, it never ends. We really shoulder the sack – it ain’t called the ‘mother lode’ for nothin’ you know.
A day later…
Oof. Through no fault of our own, Master J and I have had a hell of a time getting him a proper sleep today. I’d succeeded after an earlier feed, and he was sound asleep, only to be violently awoken by the thoroughly obnoxious din of a leafblower. I think leafblowers top my Most Hated Sound list. Talk about aural torment. I hate them, I hate everything about them; quite apart from the way the sound makes me feel – deadly – I hate their pointlessness. Why blow leaves instead of collect them? I just don’t get it. Anything that sounds that appalling really ought to satisfy in the utility department. Coffee grinders, for instance, do good work. But leafblowers? What do they do except wake sleeping babies and enrage neurotic writers? Nothing, that’s what, fucking nothing. Grrr.
Oh good. He’s awake again. Awake and crying. Again. But good news: we had a successful pram outing this morning, and a successful leg of a car trip yesterday. Okay, so it’s all gone wobbly elsewhere, but those small victories still shine very bright.