Friday, 8 June 2012

Such Sweet Sorrow

We say goodbye all the time.  At work, at home, we are constantly bidding people farewell.  So you’d think we’d be quite good at it.  A cheery wave off and away we go to the next thing.  But it’s not quite like that is it?  Especially not when you are saying goodbye to your first child for the first time.

As with most fathers I got the statutory two weeks paternity leave, which was wonderful, thank you HM Government.  Being able to be with my newborn for a fortnight was brilliant,  and also an absolute necessity as I don’t think I could have coped with suddenly plunging into the world of sleep deprived nights and constant attention to a new person during the day.  I couldn’t have done it if I was having to go to work as well.  So  paternity leave, all in all, a good thing and I am glad that it was available to me.  But two weeks does not last forever.

Monday came and I was due to go back into work.  This was hard.  In fact it was supremely difficult.  How do you say goodbye to someone who doesn’t really acknowledge your existence in any way and probably won’t notice if you’re not around and yet who you can hardly bear to leave.  It is commonly heard that parents of newborns go to work to escape and have a break from your newborn.  It is a rest, and I enjoy my work generally speaking,  but don’t be fooled into thinking that that means that we want to be there.  Speaking for myself, but I’m pretty sure I include the majority of parents in this, I couldn’t wait to get back to see her again.  This little bundle, which had made my life so miserable, who never went to sleep, who wouldn’t stop crying, who I couldn’t really help, who was only interested in mummy, whose objective in life was to eat and then sleep and then wake up and eat again.  This tiny thing that couldn’t do anything for herself, who couldn’t move herself and whose eyes were barely open.  This midget monster who had turned our lives upside down, who had grabbed onto us and wouldn’t let go.  All of this and yet she was still a shining star in my life, a glittering jewel that I couldn’t wait to get hold of again.

It turns out that saying goodbye is a very important thing for us.  A  goodbye means we can move on, it means we can look ahead to what is coming.  Now I do get a goodbye from my daughter and can leave to go to the next thing, but back then there was no such thing and I’m afraid that I probably wasn’t a very effective worker, certainly for that first week, until I had resigned myself to a lack of goodbye.  Partly this was because I had had about 3 hours of sleep a day for two weeks, but mostly because my mind was with my little daughter and my harried wife.   It seems that I needed that goodbye, that recognition of my leaving.

So the next time you bump into a colleague at work who has just had a baby who doesn’t seem to be quite all there, it’s still probably the lack of sleep, but it could be that whilst their body is in front of you their mind is still at the front door waiting for a small voice to say goodbye.

1 comment:

  1. You made me cry. Us stay-at-home Mums certainly have the best of it, we get to keep hold of our babies all the time, rarely having to say goodbye. I'm glad N can now answer you :)