New experiment: focusing on childcare

W- is back at work, having made the most of the paid parental leave allowed. It was wonderful to have him there for all those medical appointments and procedures. A- and I enjoyed spending time with him at home, too. He also had some time to work on projects: workshop improvements, a wardrobe renovation for J-, and a play area for A-. We’re well-stocked with memories, and A- clearly loves him and is comfortable with him.

Now we’re entering a new phase. We’ll be settling into new routines as W- gets back into the rhythms of working, commuting, and going to the gym. We’ve learned even more about cooking, and we’ll be ramping up our meal preparation. We’d like to make sure he still gets some discretionary time for hobbies and some time to play with A-, and that I also get time for personal care. We want to continue to be kind to each other and to stay connected.

What would be useful to think about at the beginning of this adventure? What could help me make the most of it? What would I like to remember, looking back?

The previous phase:

  • What was it like?
  • What worked well?
  • How can we make things even better?

The next phase:

  • What are the risks? How can I mitigate them?
  • What could awesomeness look like? How can I get there?
  • What are some triggers for reevaluation and planning?

What was it like with both of us home? I still spent most of my time with A-, taking her to neighbourhood baby activities when the weather was manageable and playing with her at home when it wasn’t. That allowed W- to focus on projects when he wanted to and spend time with A- when he wanted to. He’s awesome at engaging A- and having fun with her, and I enjoyed playing with both of them.

I liked being able to walk to the supermarket with W- before the afternoon rush. We’d pick up lots of groceries and he’d carry them all home. We usually waited for 7 pm to start cooking, taking advantage of cheaper electricity rates. It was easier to cook with W- around. We could swap depending on who A- wanted to play with.

I really appreciated having him around during A-‘s medical procedures. It was difficult dealing with fasting, sedation, and recovery, and it helped that we could take turns.

Flying for almost a whole day each way was also much easier with company. A- mostly clung to me, but W- helped keep us safe and fed. He was also invaluable during the trip, cooking up a storm, bonding with my family, and taking care of A- when I need to focus.

We went on the art gallery field trip organized by the OEYC. It was more for parents than babies, so we decided not to bother with taking her to museums or other places like that for a while. We walked to the zoo in High Park a couple of times, since it’s free. W- dropped by the Junction Family Resource Centre a couple of times, too.

It was nice to confirm that yes, we enjoy each other’s company even if we spend lots of time with each other at home. In fact, I prefer spending time with him at home over going out – he’s awesome.

I left A- with W- a couple of times, and they did okay. I won’t plan lots of baby-excluding activities, though, just priorities like dental care. Discretionary things can wait.

The time worked really well because W- is such a wonderful parent. He’s living, involved, patient, experienced, reasonable, and thoughtful. Our frugal lifestyle and savings kept us from being stressed by the reduction in income. His DIY projects and my consulting/coding gave us non-baby-related avenues for growth. Cooking and video gaming were nice interests to share, too.

We’d like to build on:

  • A-‘s bond with W-: playtime during evenings and weekends
  • W-‘s woodworking skills and setup: hobby time during the weekend, small projects around the house
  • Healthier cooking: continue with lots of vegetables, explore salads in summer

So, what’s this next phase about? I’m going to focus on childcare while W- works at IBM. We expect that this approach will generally minimize stress and allow us to be more deliberate about our decisions, especially when it comes to raising A-. I look forward to learning a lot, too.

What are some of the risks?

  • Professional risks, reduced income, opportunity costs: Modest lifestyle, savings. I don’t need more to be happy, so it’s mostly about safety at this point.
  • Socialization for A-: regularly going to neighbourhood centres, signing up for registered programs, treating transportation as free
  • Intellectual stimulation and fulfillment for me: occasional consulting, Emacs, learning about child development
  • Socialization for me: blog, Emacs, neighbourhood centres, meetups
  • Personal care: coordinate with W- and make time for dentist, doctor appointments
  • Anchoring my self-esteem on the wrong things: It’s not about A-‘s accomplishments or even about living some kind of ideal parenting thing. Stoic philosophy helps here.

Imagining awesomeness:

  • We have close relationships
  • We have an increasingly smoothly running household
  • There’s plenty of physical activity, intellectual stimulation, and socialization in A-‘s life. We go to the playground a lot. We have a structured physical activity class every week, and something for exploration and culture every week as well. There’s also plenty of unstructured play time for exploration.
  • We eat healthy, homemade food
  • We involve A- in household life and help her develop life skills
  • We help her learn the basics of money management. She has a small allowance and control over part of her budget.
  • We read every day
  • We have people over for play dates and tea. Our place is a place people hang out at.
  • Net worth still enough to cover regular expenses (SWR, or straight savings at least)
  • We are deliberate about our consumption of stuff, media, etc. Not as a babysitter or as a way to compensate for distraction.

Some changes ahead:

  • A- starts walking: more independence, but also more supervision. Will eventually get her used to short walks in the neighbourhood. Let’s see if I can hold off getting a grocery cart until then.
  • A- starts talking: build her vocabulary through experiences, labels, and models. Go on field trips.
  • A- eats less, and might be pickier: stick with Ellyn Satter’s model, probably. Don’t worry until the doctor says so.
  • A- sleeps better: whee! Catch up on sleep, then catch up on discretionary activities.
  • A- gets better at independent play, feels less separation anxiety: get her used to playing by herself while I read, write, or draw; consider getting together with others
  • A- explores her independence: be loving and patient. Get plenty of sleep and make time for self-care.
  • A- goes to drop-off programs: bring something to write or draw with. Also, connect with people.
  • A- gets the hang of playing with others: bring her to neighbourhood centres or organize play dates
  • Parents need more support: take A- along. Invest in safety, capabilities, comfort.
  • A- goes to school: look into volunteering at school. Ramp up tech skills, consider more consulting or coding. Look into doing more for Emacs community. Get back into sewing, writing, drawing, etc. Start picking up house/DIY skills.