After that, things became a little frantic and chaotic. Both of us were working full-time in the City with the usual City pressures of long hours, now coupled with the rush of the nursery drop-off in the morning. Whenever our son was sick, things fell apart, and during that first winter, this was a regular occurrence. I’m only half joking when I say that in his first year he had more antibiotics than he had milk!
We would receive a call from the nursery saying he was sick and needed to be taken home. The dilemma then was: who goes? Luckily, most of the time one of us was more available than the other, but we did have a couple of occasions of "I can't go" and "well I can't leave either" which, you could say, added a bit of stress! Plus if antibiotics were required, the nursery insisted that our son stay away for at least another 48 hours! Managing that when you both work full-time was problematic. Luckily my wife's employers were very understanding. Top tip for others in the same situation: try splitting the days with your partner - one of you does the AM shift and the other does the PM shift - a great compromise!
On top of that, neither of us could realistically make it back in time for the nursery pick-up, so we had an arrangement whereby one of the staff at the nursery would close up and bring our son to our house and wait for us there until we got home. This eased the pressure in the evening. However, deep down it didn't feel right. Our little seven-month old son was, in effect, spending longer at work each day than I was! We would drop him off at 8am, he would spend the entire day at nursery, and we would only get to see him again 11 hours later Monday to Friday. We knew we were supposed to be the parents, meaning we were supposed to do some parenting, not leave him in somebody else's care all day long (and it was long!).
We were at maximum altitude and at full speed, and when anything flies so high and so fast for so long, something's going to break. The whole set-up was stressful. We didn't have time to think and we certainly didn't have enough time for each other. The fact was that financially we both needed to be working full-time (and we were not prepared to compromise on our living set-up). Although we live in a modest semi, our mortgage was large (we have never been very good at buying and selling at the right time, having bought during the last peak in 2007!).
Our financial issues were compounded a few months later when we swapped the nursery for a full time Nanny in order to give us greater flexibility.
We live in a world where we're always chasing a higher salary, bigger bonus, increased status, larger house, newer car, but why? Sometimes we need to be happy with what we've got. Maybe it's not about having the best of everything, but about making the best of everything we have.
We definitely needed to make a change. Our daughter’s birth in 2012 was a catalyst for that change.
As you might have gathered, this time round my wife and I split her Maternity Leave. She took the first 10 months and I took the next four. During this time our Nanny was off on her own Maternity Leave. Spending quality time at home and getting to grips with the daily routine had some unexpected consequences. We started our descent. We figured out that at a lower altitude, we would be better able to deal with any unexpected turbulence.
My wife left her full-time job and took a three-day a week job. I also managed to negotiate flexible working and now work a four and a half day week.
I also try and leave the office by 5.30pm to make sure I can catch the kids before bedtime. I can work for an hour or so during the train ride home anyway (when I'm not blogging...Ssshhhhhh!).
Finally we feel like we've got the right balance. It's been a long time coming and has involved a lot of trial and error, but finally we're there.
All this has not come without some major changes to our household economy. For example, we traded our full-time nanny for a live-in au pair, and will take the kids out of the private school system and into state schools. However, we think these decisions are well worth it and our quality of life has already improved considerably.
Rather than flying high, we are now at a much more comfortable cruising altitude, with lower expectations and more breathing space - and perhaps even an increased ability to take in the sights!
N.B. This blog first appeared here: http://www.cityparents.co.uk/Blog/Cityfathers/240.htm on 20 April 2015