Bringing a baby into the world during a global pandemic and lockdown certainly wasn’t part of the plan. Neither was spending the first two months with that baby at home while our older twins were home from daycare. On the positive side, I’ve had more time at home with all three kids than I expected and I haven’t been at work during the first two months of our baby’s life. However, it’s not like I’m actually spending that time bonding with my child, and the time I do have outside of working is primarily going to devoting attention to the twins. I was really hoping to spend more time in the first few months with our baby actually bonding with him.
Not only is the lockdown causing me to spend less time with the baby, just the nature of having a baby after twins makes it hard to spend time bonding, in particular for the father. While we strive to have as much shared division and equal parenting between us, in reality, there are just times when I can’t do the things my wife does, especially for the baby. While she is nursing the baby, it naturally falls upon me to be the parent in charge of the twins. This usually means playing with them, feeding them, or otherwise entertaining them. At two months old, the baby is often nursing, and at four years old, the twins often need attention. This naturally results in me spending far more time bonding with the twins and my wife having far more time with the baby.
I’m not in love with this arrangement for a few reasons. First, I am quickly becoming “the fun parent” and the twins often ask for me over my wife when they need help or to do something. I’m very worried about the precedent this sets and how it will translate into their view of gender roles as they age. My wife and I have strived and sacrificed for four years with them to show that we do equal parenting and share responsibilities, but because of the situation we’re now in, it’s harder to demonstrate that example. I do not want them learning that mothers are in charge of babies and domestic work while daddies get to do the fun things and play.
Second, this means that I get far less time with the baby than my wife does. While she gets the nursing time to bond, I primarily spend time with the twins doing the fun things. I rarely get to spend any time with the baby one on one as a result. At best, I get a few minutes of feeding time from a bottle once a day and maybe a little tummy time. Even those times are really only even possible after the twins go to bed because otherwise they are busy trying to make faces and play with the baby themselves. It’s not exactly the kind of deep quality time I wanted.
What makes it even harder is that my only other comparison is the amount of time I had with the twins when they were babies. With twins, everything has to be a team effort, so I had plenty of time with each of the twins one on one. We also ended up feeding them with formula, so I had ample opportunity to spend time with them while feeding. Also, when they were actually awake, which with two was pretty often, I got the chance to spend time with them playing, reading, and goofing around. With this baby, those times are extremely rare and usually occupied with entertaining the twins.
Having them at home in the first place wasn’t part of the plan. Once the baby was born, my wife started her maternity leave and I planned to immediately follow it up with mine. We expected the twins to be in daycare and out of the house, leaving us alone with the baby to have bonding time. Instead, the twins have been home since March and instead of spending the time entirely with the baby, we thankfully have one parent who doesn’t have to work, but ends up almost entirely consumed with entertaining the twins. By the time I’m ready to take my leave, the boys should be back in daycare, but I might not even be on leave because I might end up saving it in case daycare shuts back down due to COVID. With the uncertainty right now, it makes sense to bank that time just in case. There’s no chance two of us can work and take care of the three kids at once.
Nothing about the time of COVID has been as predicted. We certainly didn’t expect to bring a child into this world, we didn’t think we’d both be home, and we didn’t think that we’d also have the twins home. While we have the benefit of getting more time together as a family, it means I have so little time to spend myself with the baby. We’re not able to go out anywhere to get a break, and when we’re home I’m either working or spending time with the twins. I had hoped that having a single child this time would mean more time together to bond and develop that father-son relationship, but unfortunately so far, it hasn’t been what I had hoped. Hopefully, my leave will mean more of that special time for me.