Hello, Mr S. Pembroke here. Husband, Scientist, and now short-term stay-at-home Dad.
It’s now been a full 5 weeks since my feet last graced the stained and pock-marked floor of an industrial laboratory, and I have very mixed feelings about returning. Mrs Pembroke has asked me to put my thoughts on the last month into some sort of order. She would normally be the first to testify that I’m not noted for my organisation, but for the blog of a literary creator who keeps our home ticking, I will try.
Firstly, the boy himself.
Samuel (Sam for short, but I prefer Samson. Because his name is Sam. And he’s my Son) is overall a good natured boy and loves nothing more than displaying the toothless grin of the truly content to anyone who gives up the time to smile at him first. Although Holly is now the kind of agreeably wonderful daughter that you could reliably hire out to would-be parents to give them an idea of what they might get if they were really lucky, as a baby she was not jolly and scowled something rotten. But Sam beams away and reminds you the world is a better place than you could ever imagine. I only hope he doesn’t lose too much of that as he grows.
Having said that, he acquired the family cold this week and has not been sleeping well. When both parents lose sleep, everything rapidly unwinds. As anyone who’s had kids, or spent time in a government run Advanced Interrogation facility will testify, sleep deprivation makes the most trivial task very complex. You move slower, more erratically, and bump into things. The printed word becomes especially difficult. All I had to do is read the clock, expiry dates on items in the fridge and the occasional school letter, and that was bad enough. Mrs Pembroke had to pen prose, so goodness know how she managed that (“Coming soon, the next instalment from Sophie Pembroke, where that Woman, the one with the long hair and the fingers, buys a thing and meets whatsname who she used to know in chess club – or Guides or something”).
He’s much better now, thanks for asking, but for a while I questioned how I would have managed if I would have had to get up, leave the house, Do Science, attend meetings and look generally alert and intelligent, or at least employable.
On to subject of time.
Beyond giving Mrs Pembroke a head start on wordsmithing, the secondary reason for the shared parental leave (or “SPL”, check it out on www.gov.uk today!) was to get a rare opportunity to spend more time with those I have helped bring into this world. My concern over what to do with Holly faded quickly as she discovered Minecraft (as, ashamedly, have I) and so the after school time we spend together has mostly comprised of conversation and activities of quite a specific nature. Holly is also very fond of young Sam, and he of her, which is yet another thing that I hope lasts.
Passing time with Sam is less arduous than I thought. Making him milk and food, serving them up, and getting him to sleep takes up a fair proportion of the time between shuttling Holly about the town and housekeeping. There’s still time for tea, biscuits and the occasional TV show, but the day goes quickly. Except Wednesday’s which are looooong and Thursday, which is Ballet Day, and just horrible.
An unexpected bonus is the extra time I’ve spent with Mrs Pembroke. These last few weeks we’ve actually been able to talk together over coffee, we share updates and comments on the day over lunch and meet at the front door to accept the surprisingly regular deliveries of stationery, clothes and presents for other people. But mostly stationery.
I believe some of my musical work has already been published in Week Three, but that’s just the start. Sam loves singing and so, when things get grumpy, we sing. A lot.
During a particularly fraught bath time last week I penned a number that I called “Big pink bucket in the lovely splooshy bath” to the tune of “John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave”. I was rather pleased with the second verse which was a short discourse on the nature of colour, absorption spectra of dyed polymers and colour perception in the brain. Some of the scansion was a bit iffy and I forget exactly how it went – either way, beat that, Baby Einstein.
Let’s keep this one short. Mrs Pembroke still keeps the books and orders food and I’m more than happy to do everything else. Except cleaning out the fish. Mrs Pembroke and Holly get one fish each and I get the tank. Not sure how that happened.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the last few weeks. It’s not been easy, but it’s been good and I couldn’t have done it without the great support of Mrs Pembroke, Holly and of course, young Sam himself. I’d encourage any father who has the chance to take Shared Parental Leave to one extent or another, it’s an opportunity you rarely get and I think it’s good for the careers of both parents to share the time off (again, admitting my leave was relatively brief). It already seems very odd that SPL didn’t exist at the start of the year and I can only hope this helps in some small to start levelling that particularly tilted playing field that is the workplace.
So thanks for dropping by, leave the cups there, I’ll do them later when Sam’s gone off for his nap. Have a great weekend!
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