Figuring Out Fatherhood: Hooray, I'm Back At Work!



"So, how was your Christmas?" asks my colleague, as I sink into the chair behind my desk on the first day back at work after the holidays.

"Stressful," I respond, with a sigh. "Exhausting; but good. The kids had a great time."

Adjectives such as 'stressful' and 'exhausting' are often used by parents when describing their Christmas and New Year – a week or so of yelling, excited, screaming children constantly high on chocolate and sugar and not going to bed until ridiculous o'clock in the evening.

Which is why - as much as I loved spending time with my family during Christmas - I'm secretly glad to be back at work. My job is busy, often stressful, but it is far more relaxed than spending a day at home. At least at work no one jumps on your lap and complains that they're bored, or hungry, or that his brother has stolen one of his toys.

My relief at returning to work is tempered with a sense of guilt that I have left my wife behind to spend all day every day looking after three demanding children. She is, however, far more organised than I am, and often remarks that when I'm at home for long periods of time it's like she's looking after a fourth child (although one who is, thankfully, potty trained).


I also have much less patience than my wife, and so if I am being pestered relentlessly for a biscuit, or to put on a DVD, I find myself reaching the point where I just want to stand up, yell a garbled sentence of words at the ceiling, run upstairs, and scream into a pillow.


In comparison, I can sit at my desk at work, where the only pressure is a looming deadline or ever-growing workload. But the guilt remains.

"How was your day?" she asks, as I return home from a hard eight hours at the office.

"Busy," I grumble.

"Perhaps," she responds curtly, "but did you have adult conversations with adult people, and did you have to clean up a million dirty nappies?"

As she asks the question, she glares at me through dark, frazzled eyes. I look at the floor in shame; because, as hard as work is, at least I can make a cup of coffee without having my trouser legs pulled by needy children, and I can eat my lunch in peace without a screaming baby puking all over my shoulder.

My wife doesn't get time off from parenting, and I eternally admire her for it. I do as much as I can before leaving for work in getting my two eldest children fed and dressed, but she is the one who somehow manages to get them all out of the front door and to school on time.

She is the one who can erect a buggy one-handed whilst holding a five-month-old baby in the crook of her elbow, and do a shop in Sainsbury's without being fazed by a tantruming toddler.

I love being a parent, I love my kids to bits, but there's no way I could do what she does.

"Fancy swapping roles tomorrow?" she asks one evening; grumpily, yet with a tinge of hope. I shake my head.

"No chance."

Before You Go