Philip Potter

Dadding, back at work

Posted on 06 May 2018

Previously, on Phil’s dad weeknotes..

I returned to work from my 14 weeks Shared Parental Leave on 6th March. I stopped doing dad weeknotes after I returned to work, but I thought it was worth another update, because there are things worth writing about in Luke’s development and in my return to work.

The new routine

To be honest, it’s been a bit of a bumpy reentry, in terms of working out a new routine that works for my work, my wife Sonia’s work, and Luke’s childcare. On top of that, nursery has been the expected melting pot of pathogens, and we all got a pretty horrible viral infection (I was affected for about 4 weeks, and had 2-3 weeks total time off work as a result). But we’re just about getting settled into a routine that works.

Luke is in nursery 4 days a week (every day except Wednesday), 9am to 5pm. Every morning, we need to get him out of bed, change his nappy, prepare his breakfast, give him breakfast, get him dressed, and supervise him enough while he plays. At the same time, we have to get ourselves showered, dressed, teeth cleaned, and sometimes shaved, hair washed and dried. Every evening, we need to pick up Luke, take him home, prepare his dinner, give him dinner, give him his bath and brush his teeth, read him stories, and put him to bed.

My work is flexible enough that I can arrive late or leave early in order to do drop off or pick up, but I still need to put in the hours. So if I need to leave at 4.15pm to get to nursery in time, I need to be at work well before 9. And if I arrive at 9.45pm having done drop off, I stay in til 6pm.

We have struggled with a particularly gnarly hazard that if we don’t explicitly talk about things, we both end up assuming that Sonia will get involved and pick up the slack. There are at least two reasons for this: one is around overfunctioning versus underfunctioning (and there are definite gender issues here, too), and the other is the practical fact that Sonia works from home, so if I’m doing drop off or pick up, she’s still around to help with breakfast or dinner. This isn’t entirely one-way, either: I find it difficult to leave early in the morning when there’s still breakfast things to clear away, washing up to do,

We took each week as it came, made plans around who does pick up and who does drop off, and chatted at the end of each week to see how things had gone, what went well and what could be improved.

Some of the things we have learned after painful experience are:

  • it’s very important to keep talking about things, especially while the routine is still forming
  • we need to have clear expectations about who is lead parent, and when the other parent is around but has work responsibilities and therefore can’t help
  • having dinner options for Luke that can be prepared in a short time with minimal effort takes up-front planning and effort

This week, Sonia had a business trip to Scotland from Tuesday to Thursday, so I had to do Tuesday pick up, Wednesday looking after Luke all day, and Thursday drop off, all alone. That really helped me build my confidence that I can do the morning and evening routines on my own, and helped me to see all the things Sonia had previously been getting involved in that she maybe didn’t need to.


Luke is now walking! He had been cruising (walking while holding on to the furniture) for some months, then a couple of weeks ago he took his first freestanding steps. There were a few days of taking 3-4 steps and collapsing on his bum, but pretty soon he was taking longer walks, and even squatting down to pick things up and standing back up again. He’s now very confident walking everywhere, and we rarely see him crawl at all any more.

I had worried that walking would make him even harder to supervise when playing, but it’s actually been more mixed. When he started crawling, we needed to babyproof much more, such as moving things out of his reach. We needed to do a bit more of that for walking, since he can reach a bit higher now.

But one thing I didn’t anticipate is how taking Luke to the park is much less effort and more reward now that Luke is walking. When he was crawling, he would be much closer to the ground, and he would find things there that he’d put in his mouth. I have horrible memories of trying to fish a cigarette butt out of his mouth that he’d found and immediately put in there. Now he’s walking, he does much less of that, and he can engage with the actual play equipment much more. So where previously I’d have to keep a very close eye, and perhaps take him from one piece of play equipment to another, now I just let him walk where he fancies and slowly stroll round behind him.

Another thing about walking is that he can now get from one place to another while carrying an object. He showed us this by stealing another boy’s ball when we were at the park and walking around carrying it. So we’ve got him his own ball, and now he loves picking it up, throwing it, and chasing after it. He has such a big grin on his face when he has his ball, and it’s clearly such great exercise for him. He’s not just practising his walking, he’s also practising squatting, balancing while his hands are full, and kicking a ball.

The loveliest part of this is that he now he can rake around his collection of books, choose one, and bring it to me to read to him. Walking means that he is in control of which books we read, instead of me picking for him. I hadn’t appreciated how walking would change the dynamic of so many of our interactions!