By Jeremy Majid
My wife came home from work recently and mentioned that her colleague Naomi was back from maternity leave. I couldn’t believe nine months had passed; it didn’t feel that long since I’d seen her week-old baby boy.
Children have a magical ability to mark the passage of time, better than any calendar can. It seemed far too early for Naomi to be returning to work, but then when I stopped to think about it, my wife had done the same thing.
My daughter is approaching two and a half. Upon hearing about Naomi, I reflected on how different a nine-month old baby seems in the present compared to when looking backwards. When your first child has entered their ninth month, they seem so advanced; crawling, standing, eating solid food and observing the world around them. But compared to a toddler, a baby has no language, no independence and is more often in need of comfort. They are most certainly not ready to spend eight hours a day away from their parents. My daughter is still not ready now. On some days she is, but not several days a week for most of the year. Even though I look after her three days a week, on some days (and nights), only Mummy will do.
I was heartbroken when I heard of Naomi’s challenges in returning to work. She had placed her son in the child-care centre at her office, meaning she could spend her lunch break with him. Even so, he wasn’t coping. He cried most of the time and refused to eat. It must have been hell for Naomi and so many other parents who have to follow this path.
Before our daughter was born, we didn’t really know anything about raising a baby. We followed the standard advice until it didn’t work, which was around day five when we returned home from the hospital. From there, a combination of our research and experience lead us to two key conclusions.
Our daughter needed breastmilk and the feeling of safety that comes from always being near her parents. So this became our focus.
She rewarded us and still does, by being a relaxed and happy child who is confident to explore her environment. She takes herself to bed for her daytime nap (sometimes)!
The problem was, we were faced with a deadline. My wife had committed to returning to work three days a week when my daughter was only eight months old. Our closest grandparents were two days drive away. So I resigned from my job and found a job for the two days per week I now had available; allowing me to spend three days with my daughter.