It's Working Project

“Not having daycare his first year meant turning down work if a sitter was not available. It meant extra stress of finding a sitter last minute and potentially losing a client because I was not available when needed.”

What is one piece of advice you wish you could offer your former, pre-child(ren) self?

Too many for just one, but give up all notions of reason and rationality, accept that you have no control over their behavior, and just roll with what it is.

How long did you take for paternity leave before heading back to work? How close was your back-to-work plan with the reality upon your return?

Technically I did not stop working per se, but I was (still am) a stay-at-home parent (I dislike greatly the stay-at-home mom or dad title). Jonah’s first year, he did not go to daycare at all and my wife works a job that is basically six days a week. After a year, Jonah started going to daycare twice a week.

As to a plan, I can’t say we had one. We realized that he needed to be in daycare so he could socialize and so I could get a break to do some work.

What, if any, adjustments did you (or your workplace) make to your schedule after having a baby?

I am self-employed. All adjustments I made were on the fly and condition-specific. Not having daycare his first year meant turning down work if a sitter was not available. It meant extra stress of finding a sitter last minute and potentially losing a client because I was not available when needed. I learned to work through his naps, which was difficult because he didn’t really start napping successfully until 8-9 months in. I stopped shooting editorial altogether because it was too last minute in nature, took up too much time, and paid too little to justify doing it. Most of my work was on weekends, though my wife works Sundays, so that was difficult to manage.

Who was your biggest source of support in returning to work?

Certainly my wife was a great help, but she has a worse schedule than I do and could only do so much. I never felt a lack of support from people I knew. I felt a lack of options for what oddly seems like the non-traditional approach we took.

The vast majority of stay-at-home parents are women. Being a man in that world is a little uncomfortable. It took a long time to develop relationships with other mothers, unless I knew them from before becoming a dad. Most mothers were not approachable. How to explain, if I wanted to set up a playdate, or my son and a mother’s child were interacting, the impulse to ask to share contact information never seemed like it would be received well. The vibe was “don’t talk to me, don’t hit on me, you are only interested in me and not my child.” This wasn’t said out loud, this was body language. Once a conversation began, most mothers were shocked that I was a SAHP, they assumed I just had that particular day off from work. And honestly, a lot of mommy groups don’t want dads there.

Society has trouble still with SAHDs. Do you know how many places have baby changing stations only in the women’s room? A lot. 

What was your biggest back-to-work, post-baby challenge?

Everything. Finding work was/is stressful. Finding the sitter when I managed to get work was/is stressful. Having the energy to shoot a ten hour wedding when I know I need to be awake for a baby/toddler at 6am the next day because, even though it is Saturday, my wife works. Finding the time to process the work I did have. Don’t even mention all of the work I need to do, like marketing and promotion, that I never have time for. For the first year of Jonah’s life, the only break I got from him was shooting a wedding, or something like it. Not exactly relaxing. Clients need quick responses and nothing I do can be defined as quick.

But the hardest might have been this realization: My needs and calendar took a back seat to my child’s, my wife’s, and even our babysitters’. If I got a call for work, I had to check with my wife’s work schedule, check with all of our sitters, and figure out my son’s schedule before I could commit.

As a Working Parent…

I never expected everything would be so hard and I’ve got nothing here, other than loving my family (which ain’t nothing), would be so much easier!