We’re now two weeks into to the Month Long Life Swap – where I disappear into my study at 8am saying ‘I’m off to work now, darling!’ and the husband waves distractedly from behind a screaming baby while also trying to put the daughter’s hair up for school.
Actually, the main thing we’ve discovered is that life is a whole lot easier when the breadwinner is winning that bread in a room just off the main house, and can be flexible enough about their schedule to pop out and lend a helping hand with child-related emergencies. Such as the nappy that exploded all over everything, or the baby that finally fell asleep five minutes before the school run and will not cope well with being woken up. “Just leave me the monitor,” I can say, cheerful in the knowledge that he probably won’t wake up before the husband and daughter are back anyway.
Flexibility is a life saver when you have kids.
Still, I am having to be fairly strict about my own habits. Since becoming a full time writer I’ve only worked school hours – except for Wednesdays, when I have a full, glorious nine hours to write. Still, adjusting to an 8-6 schedule, five days a week, has been a bit of a jolt. I’m amazed at how much I can get done – but also how easily time can slip away while I get distracted by something that feels like work but isn’t actually a priority. Fortunately, I spent a chunk of time last month refining my November Action List in preparation, so it’s fairly easy to spot when I get off track.
So I’m ploughing through the list, popping out for cuddles periodically, and enjoying the opportunity to have lunch with my husband some days. Well, sort of with. We generally have to eat in shifts while one of us holds the baby…
Anyway, here are the highlights of Week 2!
I emerge from the study for a cup of tea, after several hours hunched over a new proposal, to discover the dining table covered in paper. Quite possibly every piece of paper that has entered the house since school started back in September, actually.
I blink at the sight of a wild-eyed and wild-haired husband tossing pages left and right.
“I can’t find that letter about the ballet dvd!” he says. “I know I saw it, and I know the deadline was today and I should have taken the cheque on Thursday but I didn’t and now I can’t find it!”
“Um, it was an email,” I tell him. “I forwarded it to you.”
All paper tossing stops. He stalks off to his laptop, muttering, “A bloody email. Of course it was.”
I head back into the study, tealess. It seems safest.
“Maybe we should buy a house at auction,” the husband suggests, the minute I appear in the doorway.
“You’ve been watching Homes Under The Hammer again, haven’t you?”
“No. Well, maybe. But really, you can get some great bargains.”
“I like our house.”
“Yeah, me too. Still…” he gets a bit misty eyed, thinking about his fantasy auction property.
I immediately ban all viewing of Homes Under The Hammer, but suspect he’s still sneaking in episodes while I’m working.
Husband returns from an outing looking grumpy. I pop out to find out the problem.
“I’m trying to get him on a schedule,” he explains. “But he fell asleep in the garden centre. He’s not supposed to sleep for another thirty minutes. I’ve shown him the piece of paper. Why doesn’t he understand?” Looks thoughtful. “Do you think he’d like a pie chart better?”
Husband decides to walk directly to the daughter’s ballet class after school. They return home almost an hour after the class finishes.
“How was it?” I ask, cautiously.
“Daddy forgot to give me my snack so I had to have it afterwards,” Daughter explains. “And the baby fell asleep just as we got there and woke up very, very grumpy.”
“It’s quite a palaver, isn’t it?” the husband says, looking a little grey.
I consider: a twenty minute walk there, with the daughter on her scooter, stopping to examine treasures on the way. Having to leave the buggy outside the ridiculously overcrowded studio. Trying to get the daughter changed from her school uniform into her ballet uniform in the toilets while also holding the baby and the change bag. Giving Daughter her snack while sitting with baby in corridor outside the classroom, because the waiting room is too full. Trying to find a seat in the waiting room once the previous class finishes and daughter’s class goes in. Trying to feed the baby in amongst the chaos. Then doing it all again in reverse to get home.
“Yes,” I say. “Yes, it is.” And part of me can’t help but be a bit pleased that this month means he’ll understand a little better why I always look frazzled on Thursdays.
The weekend is nearly here again! But after a particularly bad night with the baby neither of us are operating on top form. Despite being up from 5.30, it’s nearly 8.30 before I get to work. The husband is going out in Cambridge tonight, so I need to knock off early and take care of bedtime on my own.
“Are you sure you don’t mind finishing work early?” he asks, and I realise what a complete switch this month really is. Usually, it’s me asking for that extra time, that extra help, that balance and flexibility. And he’s very good about giving it, when he can – so I try to do the same, even as I’m thinking about how to condense my to do list into my available hours.
If nothing else comes out of this month, I think the understanding we both gain about how the other half lives will be invaluable. Especially as we start 2016 as a family of four with two working parents for the first time…
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