Thinking back to before I became a father, I imagined some of what I’m experiencing now: sibling squabbles, fighting over toys, vying for parental attention, a little mess here and there.
But nothing could have prepared me for just the amount of chaos that fatherhood during the pandemic could mean for my life.
When I first became a father, at my previous job, I had an eight-week paternity leave that I was able to space out over a year following my son’s birth. My wife went back to work when he was three months old, so besides the week off after his birth, I was able to make this leave stretch until close to his first birthday. I worked three days a week and stayed home two days a week.
Then because my wife wanted more time with our baby, she stayed home with him one day a week, and I worked from home one day a week and stayed home with him once a week. It was a great balance. Everyone had time together, but time apart, too. We were able to fully focus on our son during our days with him but also get adult interaction.
Two years later, we had another baby and a stay-at-home order that brought my job home indefinitely. While my wife has definitely enjoyed my being home, it wasn’t without challenges on her side either – trying to keep the kids quiet so I could concentrate and being home so much gave everyone the sense of cabin fever. Behavior quickly disintegrated as our home didn’t afford enough space to adequately channel the high amounts of energy our two boys have. We joked about how frequent the boys’ famous car naps have become!
Most of the time the focus is on the struggles moms had and continue to have parenting through the pandemic. But us dads are struggling, too. A lot of times I’m in survival mode. Working from home has been a blessing, but it is also hard. It has been helpful for my wife’s mental health, but taxing on my own. I was used to a clear delineation between work and home life. Besides the rare occasions I was on call, had to do an early morning deployment, or was needed to work at home in order to help my wife struggling with PPD, I was always able to leave my work at work.
Now the boundaries are blurred.
It’s hard, there are more distractions, more random breaks throughout the day, and no time to transition between work and home. Sometimes I will stay in my office for a while after I’m done working just to allow myself some time to decompress since I miss that vital time to recharge during my commute. At home, I am not separated from the chaos. Instead, I am fully aware of all of it. I often hear it in the background even downstairs in my office or receive messages from my wife who is at times counting down the minutes until I’m done.
But overall, even with the struggle, working from home during the pandemic has been a positive. I get to see the boys more during the day. I get the chance to witness those little moments I miss when I’m gone all day. When I’m done with work, there’s no travel time so if we want to go do a festive family activity, we can quickly get ready, load up the car, and go. Technically I now have more time in my day, but less time to myself.
The whole experience has definitely given me more understanding and empathy for what my wife does all day every day. We often joke that our kids are the absolute worst ages for this pandemic, but together we will make it through this.
Moms AND dads, keep up the good work.