During my 5th year of graduate school, my Better Half gave birth to our first child. Becoming a father was the moment where I considered my life as complete as it could be.
I worked to shift my work-life priorities so that I could be more present for my family. My Better Half stayed home with our Little Girl for 12 weeks after giving birth, and during this time, we talked about me also staying home with our Little Girl two days a week for a few months after my wife returned to work full-time. Those Tuesdays and Thursdays meant so much to me that thinking about them always makes me cry. I miss those days so much.
For most of March and all of April 2012, I had a chance to do it all with my Little Girl. Messy meals, naps that never happened, naps that lasted for hours, inconsolable missing mommy moments, giggles for reasons only she knew, walks around the neighborhood, silly pictures, and dirty diapers. There were moments I was scared and worried that I could not do it, but those moments faded the longer I had the chance to figure it out (mostly) on my own.
Being with her, learning her faces, needs and dislikes; it gave me a strong base to build upon.
I had a big conference presentation to prepare for in mid-May, so my Better Half and I talked about transitioning our Little Girl to daycare 5 days a week so that I could focus more on my research. This was a decision that sort of had to happen, but it was still a really hard one to make. I remember sitting there the first Tuesday without my baby not wanting to write or read anything and thinking how much I missed her stinky diapers, her way of hamming it up when she wanted something, and her way of being her self with me in those small moments.
The process of parenting often feels fraught with doubt, but I felt so grateful and blessed to be able to stay at home two days a week with our Little Girl. I know this experience made me a better therapist, too, as it deepened and broadened the base of experiences I can draw upon when relating to caregivers who spend longer stretches of time at home with their children.