Shared parental leave: end of part 1

It’s just hit me that I only have one full week left of time with Luna on my own. At the start of the Easter holidays Alex will finish work and we’ll start our ‘tandem time’, as we’re calling it, a 2 month overlap before I start back at work in June and Alex takes over as her primary carer.

It feels bittersweet. I’m really looking forward to having a second pair of hands around and someone to share the daytime responsibilities with. I’m looking forward to getting stuff done, having time to myself occasionally and having time together as a family. It’s a unique opportunity, one that I don’t expect we’ll get again soon, and I’m truly grateful that the new shared parental leave laws in the UK allow us to do this. That is the sweet in the bittersweet.

The bitter is saying goodbye to this incredibly special time I’ve been able to spend with Luna. Again I’m flooded with gratitude that the laws here allow me this time off work; the pay could be better for sure, but compared to friends in the US this is a gift. I feel grateful too that the time we’ve had together as a duo has been so enjoyable. Luna is a pleasure to be with, she smiles and makes me smile; she laughs and makes me laugh; she sleeps and I can’t take my eyes off her perfect little face. This time has been so precious and during the past 4 months our relationship has been cemented. She feels as much a part of me now as when she grew inside my body. My body has continued to provide her all the nourishment she’s needed to grow those gorgeous rolls, chunky thighs and developing brain! I’ve witnessed myself grow too, into ‘Mummy’, a role I’ve been longing to fulfil for so long and which feels like a coming home.

Of course, we have our moments. Which new parents don’t? The moments when I’m watching the clock willing it to be time for Alex to come home and take over for a while; the growth spurts when Luna has doubled down on feeds and I’ve felt physically drained; the fussy periods where she wants holding, bouncing, rocking every 5 minutes. But on the whole those moments of exasperation have been few and far between (there’s still time!) When I have felt that way I have tried to stop and remind myself how finite this time is, and urge myself not to wish a second of it away. So she won’t be put down for a nap? Then I’ll embrace the fact she feels so safe and loved in my arms that this is where she’ll sleep. So soon I will be away from her and I’ll long for the times I was pinned to the sofa under a sleeping baby.

So I’m reflecting now on these few months we’ve spent together, a team of two from 7-6, Monday to Friday. It’s gone so fast. I’ve wondered in awe as Luna has developed skills – figuring out how to smile, how to hold, how to shake, rattle and (almost) roll! I’ve felt my heart almost burst out my chest with love, and just when I think I can’t love her any more, I have! I’ve had the time to sit and think, but not always the clarity of mind to do so! I’ve devoured Netflix series’ and got sick of television. We’ve gone out and stayed in; made new friends and spent time with old ones. We’ve slept, we’ve walked, we’ve played, we’ve cried, we’ve laughed, we’ve discovered each other. I’ve given of myself in a way I never have before, and changed forever because of it.

I know that none of those things will stop of course, but I know also that the next phase of our relationship will be about learning to share each other. Luna will have the chance to bond with her dad as she has with me. Alex will taste the delight of being in her company more and witnessing her change. And the three of us will have this very special window of time to enjoy as a family.

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