When my son's nanny was booked into hospital recently it brought home a couple of hard truths for me and my wife.
Firstly, it highlighted just how important a solid support structure is when you have a child, and secondly how we don’t exactly have the best one available at the moment.
My wife’s parents live in East London, so they can’t be called at the last minute to drop in and watch Gabe, while both my mother and father work. We also don't have any neighbours capable of watching our son for an extended period of time.
So while there is some help, it's fairly limited. Working past retirement age, of course, is also another fact of life in today’s economy and I can't see my folks being able to stop anytime soon. That said, I wouldn't expect them to drop everything for Gabe. They've done that for me and my brothers most of their lives already.
Thankfully both my wife and I have flexible jobs, so when the nanny couldn't make it to work, we were able to split our time between watching the little man and getting our work done.
Spending more time with Gabe is not exactly something I am going to whine about and having mom or dad around during the day was clearly a bonus for him too. So, it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened and luckily we were able to manage the situation well enough.
But it could have been very tricky had our nanny been booked off for longer. That week of extreme juggling gave us an idea of what could happen in future and got us wondering how we would cope with the situation in the future if it were to happen again.
Being "forced" to stay at home brought up another decision that we have wrestled with since having Gabe – should one of us have been a stay-at-home parent from the start?
There are very few people who can manage on one salary in today’s economic climate, meaning two working parents is a necessary reality whether we like it or not.
That said, one of us opting to work from home could be an alternative to hiring a nanny (or sending the child to a crèche), but in the early years, it's a guarantee that you won't be getting much work done when your kid is awake.
Over the few days that I did work from home, I split it between shifts of 5am-8am when my wife was still at home, 11am-1pm-ish when Gabe had his mid-morning nap, and then caught up on everything else when my wife got back from work.
It’s certainly do-able, but only in an emergency, because stretching it over a long period would affect others in the company, regardless of how much I would like it to be otherwise. It is the same for my wife.
So if we hope to keep Gabe in clothes, food and with a roof over his head, we both need to continue working.
Not having a child was never an option. I still consider having Gabe as the best thing I have accomplished in my life. So no problems there.
Maybe one day our circumstances will change, and I really hope they do, but for now we just make sure that the time we do have with Gabe is all about him.