Who’s the hardest working parent?

Who’s the hardest working parent in our house? Until recently, it depended on whether you asked the Duchess or my good self.

Little Buddha celebrated her three-month birthday this week but she’s been well behaved for a good month or so. Before then, the stress of having a baby triggered lots of silly squabbles.

Whatever the source of the row, the substance was the same: You don’t understand – I’ve got the most stressful job in this family.

Here are the basic arguments:

  • I’ve got a full-time job and then I come home to a bomb site
  • I need to keep Boy Wonder entertained at the same time as looking after a newborn
  • I often give Boy Wonder his breakfast and always get him to bed at night
  • For 8-9 hours a day I’ve got to juggle the needs of a very hungry baby and a very impatient toddler

Looking at it now, it all seems so silly and inevitable: we were both exhausted, stressed and devoting every waking minute to some kind of obligatory task. But we were often doing it apart, so the more tired we got the less tolerant we were of the other’s legitimate moans and grievances. And without realising it, we had inadvertently slipped into very traditional roles of breadwinner and housewife.

Since Little Buddha matured and relaxed, we’ve done the same – and our relationship has returned to a fairly natural state of affection, support and banter.

The reason I say all of this is that today the Duchess left me holding the babies for a whole weekend while she went on a hen do in ThatThereLondon. We dropped her at the station this morning at 7.30am and it was clearly a wrench to leave the little ones; she’s only occasionally spent a night away from Boy Wonder and this was the very first time she wouldn’t kiss Little Buddha goodnight.

Once she was on the train, though, reading the paper, devouring sweets and listening to music, she hopefully relaxed and looked forward to her time with friends. On the other hand, I returned to our house with a 36-hour mission to feed, water, entertain and safeguard our kids – completely on my own.

Let’s be clear: most men would have roped in a grandmother or refused the idea altogether. I know plenty of blokes who don’t mind that they ‘can’t be trusted’.

However, today I stepped into the Duchess’ (still expensive, daft) shoes and this is what I learned:

  • The only way to survive is to break up the day into three-hour segments
  • To do this properly, and not encounter a screaming baby or a furious toddler, you’ve got to be constantly on your toes and plan, plan, plan
  • Little Buddha is actually easily sated but Boy Wonder needs regular feeding, hand-holding, entertaining and attention
  • On at least one occasion in the day, both of your beautiful children will fill their nappies with noxious materials at exactly the same time
  • Getting out of the house – say, to the park – is comparable with scaling Mount Everest and you should expect to leave two hours later than you estimated
  • As hard as it was today, it probably wouldn’t have helped to have the Duchess’ extra pair of hands and feet – most weekends, I lazily assume she’s in control and she expects me to have the gumption to work out what needs doing – someone needs to be in control
  • Some of her time-saving techniques – like making the next baby feed before you set off so it’s the perfect temperature when you arrive at a place – are ingenious
  • While it’s hard getting out of the house, when you arrive at the park or a similar appealing destination, it’s probably the nicest time you’ll have that week, if not lifetime
  • Since the Mighty Boro got relegated the other year, I have’t been bothered about Match of the Day but I can’t wait for tonight’s episode
  • Whatever happens before she returns tomorrow afternoon, I will pretend it’s not so hard and I’d be happy to do it again… in about ten years’ time
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