Posted on 25 February 2018
Planning for return to work
It feels like I only just started these notes but it will soon be time for them to end (as we know them at least): I only have a week and a half before returning to work. I’ve really enjoyed and valued the time I’ve had caring for Luke and it’s going to be a hard adjustment to go back to full-time work and not see nearly so much of him.
Sonia and I have had some conversations about the new routine. One practical thing we have had to address is that the nursery doesn’t have enough space during March – Luke will be in for 3 days a week but we wanted 4 – so we need to work out how we will care for Luke in that month. Thankfully, I have plenty of annual leave left so I can take some leave to care for Luke on some of those extra days.
We have tried to replan Luke’s morning routine. The current routine we’re in means that Sonia often doesn’t start work til around 9.30, because she has to look after Luke while I have my shower, and she has her shower afterwards. This has been okay for the moment but isn’t really sustainable.
We have also had some difficult conversations about hazards that Sonia anticipates. One is that, with Sonia working from home, it may well fall to her by default to ensure Luke’s dinner is ready for him when he gets home from nursery.
It’s important for us to keep talking about this. We won’t come up with the perfect plan on day one of me going back to work, but we can reflect on what works and what doesn’t and iterate our routine so that it works for all three of us, without placing unfair burden on anyone.
Luke has definitely shown some signs of developing language. He has already been babbling for some time, but recently he has started to seem more deliberate in his use of sounds. When I go and get him up in the morning, he says “Dad! Dad Dad Dad Dad Daaaad” with a variety of tones and inflections. This is exciting, but my feelings of pride are tempered somewhat because this week he has also said “Dad” when looking at: his mum, his granddad, and a piece of cucumber.
One thing that is far more clear is that he is starting to recognise things that we say and respond appropriately. During mealtimes, Luke often focuses on his food and forgets to drink his water. When I say “have a drink, Luke”, though, he knows to pick up his cup and (hopefully) have a drink from it, or (all too often) see what sound it makes when he bangs it on the table, or turn it upside down and dribble the water out. We have some books which have a common item on each page (such as “That’s Not My Snowman” which has a mouse on each page, or “This Little Dinosaur” which has a ladybird, or “Wow! Said The Owl” which has an owl), and Luke has learned to go hunting for it when we say “Where’s the mouse, Luke?” or “Where’s the owl, Luke?”.
As mentioned last week, we’ve started on the milk ladder. He’s done very well with the biscuits baked by grandma, and so we moved on to muffins. I baked some carrot and dairy-free cheese muffins (made with a specific amount of milk) and he has been having half a muffin and some biscuits with his breakfast over the past few days. So far, we haven’t seen any definite reaction, so this is really good news.
Luke continues to drink some coconut milk, though not as much as we would like. He had about 40ml of coconut milk this morning, which isn’t too bad, and is far more than the oat milk we were trying before.
Supporting mum’s work trip
Luke’s mum Sonia returned to work at the start of January, and this week she needed to be in St Andrews in Scotland for some work meetings. Since Luke is still breastfeeding, this is somewhat complicated. We considered a few options for how I might look after Luke in London while Sonia went to St Andrews: I could substitute with formula while she was away, or Sonia could express breast milk and store it up in the freezer. However, as mentioned in previous weeks, we haven’t found a dairy-free (or extensively-hydrolysed) formula that Luke will reliably drink. We have also had significant spoilage problems with freezing breast milk – often half of the batches I defrosted would have gone foul in some way.
As a result, by far the easiest option was for us all to travel to St Andrews. I’m still on Shared Parental Leave, after all, so I have nothing tying me to London, and if we all go then Sonia can continue to breastfeed Luke in the morning and evening and do her work stuff during the day. We can also stay with Sonia’s parents who can provide additional support with cooking, cleaning, and cuddles.
In other house-husbanding news, I very much enjoyed sewing some buttons on to mine and Sonia’s coats while watching Star Trek Discovery.
Luke missed his usual full-time days at nursery on Thursday and Friday, but I was able to take him in to nursery for an hour on Monday and Tuesday. There were 3 parents with babies in on Monday, which was slightly more than the nursery had chairs for, so on Tuesday they asked us to come in at staggered times. This meant I brought Luke in in the afternoon instead, which is something I’ve never done before. Normally I take him in for an hour or two between 9 and 11, but on Tuesday it was 2.30 to 3.30.
It was almost like Luke was a different baby! When I take him in around 9, he usually stays very close to me, and even if he crawls off to explore or to play with a toy he’s spotted, he frequently checks to see I’m still there and still looking at him. But on Tuesday, he was off, crawling quite far away, to places which were almost out of sight, not looking back nearly as frequently.
It’s hard to know exactly what your own baby is like at nursery when you’re not there, when all you have to go on is how they are when you drop them off or pick them up. I worry about Luke, but this made me worry a little bit less.
With the work trip to St Andrews, it means Luke is going to have quite a long break from nursery. We’re bracing for re-entry when we take Luke back. It’s probably going to take him some getting used to again.
On Thursday I took Luke to his first Quaker meeting, in [[http://www.quakerscotland.org/st-andrews][St Andrews]. It was a small meeting, with just 9 people (including Luke) and a dog. Luke behaved himself pretty well. I kept him strapped in his pushchair, and he sat and chatted away to himself. It wasn’t the most silent Quaker meeting I’ve been to, but I think people appreciated Luke’s presence anyway. The dog (called Gunnar) also made his presence known, occasionally walking around and making friends with those present.
Two of the attenders were students who were attending a meeting for the first time. The welcomer, who had given them a brief introduction to the Quakers and a copy of Advices & Queries beforehand, explained to the students afterward that she hadn’t been to a meeting quite like that before either! 8 adults, a baby and a dog does make for a unique Quaker meeting experience.