My son Evan is now two months and a half and he’s the best thing that happened to my wife and I. But that’s not why you’re here reading this. You want to hear how you transition from being at home on diaper mode 24/7, back to a world of adults that speaks actual words. You want to know how you can go from not being able to distinguish day and night, to have to wake up on time, take a shower, and be awake for at least eight hours straight.
In Denmark, maternity and paternity leave are fairly extensive where as a dad, I could take two months of paid leave – compared to eleven paid days in France, or six weeks of partial paid days in some states in the US. The break was long, needed and very much welcome, after nine months of being on the sideline of a pregnant girlfriend. But at some point, you have to come back.
You will be tired. You will want to give up on sleep on your desk in the middle of the open space like it’s an 8am lecture about thermodynamics. You will wonder how you can still play with your son after a whole day of your eyes popping out of their sockets.
And somehow, I managed to come back to somewhat a normal rhythm at work, and still have time for my family.
Chill and take your time.
The first days back in the office will feel like your first days back at school. You haven’t slept because you were nervous about coming back after summer break. You are worried that you won’t be able to follow the pace, because you haven’t used your brain that way for so long. Oh god, what if your work friends are now into a totally new trend (like TikTok), and you have not even heard of it? Don’t worry, those first days will feel like you are starting a brand new job, but give yourself a grace period to be able to ramp yourself back up. For me, it took two weeks before feeling myself at work again. Just like parenting is a waiting and being patient game, so is this. You got it.
Catch up on your readings.
I found out that reading books, articles or handbooks were the easiest form to process when your brain is half working. Hands-on work like coding or designing, or anything that is cognitively more intense, and that I would call active work were very hard to pull off. It would require more focus, and a thought process that is quite demanding when you are sleep-deprived and half of your liquid intake is coffee. Reading is a more passive way to activate your brain, where information is getting stored and will be made sense of later on. So, stock on all those Medium articles (hey, check out this one), list of [insert year] trends (hey, read this one), or even podcasts (hey, listen to this one), because you’ll have some time to catch up on most of those, and finally slowly empty that Pocket list.
Talk to your boss and colleagues.
On a daily basis, there should be no shame in telling your colleagues that you are tired; since having rocky nights with just a couple of hours of sleep is your new normal, you shouldn’t feel weird telling people that you are indeed exhausted. Other parents will know how it is. Other adults will empathize, and will now consider twice having children of their own. Also, talk to your boss or manager, and set expectations from the beginning, and tell them that you will need some time before being again fully back.
Leave on time.
I am the kind of guy who runs ten projects at the same time, and when at home I would still procrastinate on my computer, while scrolling Instagram on my phone until it’s the middle of the night. During my paternity leave, I opened the computer only when I had to; and I’m still trying to enforce that, even now. My kid is already growing so fast, I want to spend as much time as possible being there for him when I am home. I also feel more focused when at the office, since I know that my days are not extensible any more, nor that I can catch up on work late at night. Do yourself a favour: leave on time, check out from your work and pick it back tomorrow. Your kid shouldn’t wait, Trello totally can.
You will get through the day. You will be tired. You will still be a great dad. One day at a time.