"Yeah for sure I'm going off on paternity leave again, I loved it last time and can't wait for it this time". This was the statement in the back of my head and the statement I made to many family and friends as the weeks and months led in to my finishing up work.
Now don't get me wrong, I was under no illusion that my paternity leave this time was going to be dramatically different to the first time with Emmy, no two hour gaps in the middle of the day where Emmy & Leo sleep in-tandem, no late sleep in's until 9am from Leo once Emmy gets a hold of him each morning, instead as I had expected it's early starts and late finishes - so much for that 'year off' so many of my work colleagues had wished me all the best with on my way out the door.
So what's gone on in the last month or so? Well firstly you can forget the three course meals and red carpet roll out from me as Nomes walked through the door post-work, the first month was more a case of 'ok what's in the freezer and what can I knock up quickly that is going to look like I've spent all day preparing dinner?".
Secondly housework has been a tad (yes by tad I mean crap-load) harder. Washing and general house tidiness is fine, I'm a bit of a neat freak by nature, that, to his credit (yes to his credit I'm a process driven person for a reason) is my dad's own traits and genetics coming out in me. But the vacuuming, the ironing, the additional things like finding the time to use a circular saw to build a planter box have diminished greatly. I mean for the 'love of' how do you vacuum with a two year old running around and a nine month year old needing to be entertained by something other than lying him on a rug and letting him play with a soft toy.
But I've found that I've had these moments of clarity every few weeks or so when you realise that none of that stuff matters when you're getting to spend this much quality time with your kids.
Watching Emmy grow into a young girl with an old girl attitude and getting Leo to hit milestones that you weren't sure he would hit at such an early age.
Far and away the best thing has been the time I've got to spend with the kidlets, having Emmy right there with me every day as I put Leo through his physio routine 'E.V.E.R.Y step of the way' is terrific in some instances and horrifyingly difficult in others. I still have the words 'Emmy stop pulling the toy away from Leo he needs that to move towards' ringing in my ears.
The toughest thing has been the balancing act of Leo's physio and keeping Emmy entertained, but more importantly isolating her from the feeling of not actively playing a key role in something that for nearly a year now has seemed to revolve around nothing but Leo's well-being. So as we approach Xmas this year Nomes has adopted this phenomenon called 'Elf on the Shelf', perhaps you've heard of it?! Yes, the bane of every husbands existence - BUT, I have to admit it's one of the little things that is giving Emmy some specialised attention this Xmas and allows us to have something just for her in this non-stop world of physio, specialist appointments and development focuses with Leo.
We had an extended family catch up recently and a heap of my cousins and I were exchanging war stories of raising kids and it's reassuring that I'm not the only one who can't go to the toilet without having someone there to watch and help me.
I won't lie there has been a couple a days where Nomes has come home and I've just simply said 'deal with her' in relation to Emmy, I'd honestly just had enough, that's a lot to do with Emmy not sleeping during the day anymore, yes you read right, she doesn't sleep at daytime now. Naomi took her dummy of her the week that I began Paternity Leave which still to this day I partially think was a ploy to make me appreciate how difficult it was for her when she was on leave.
In saying that though Nomes has been brilliant in her time back at work and has a helped greatly upon returning home, always there to lend a hand in getting kids out of the bath etc and question why dinner hasn't been started yet which always goes down well after eleven hours of nutbag crazy kids.
I guess the main thing that we wanted when changing roles was for me to be able to bond even more with Leo and play a more significant role in his early years. Equally important for us was ensuring that Nomes got to spend quality time with the kids each afternoon when she arrived home, having spent all day every day with the kids for the first eight months it's a huge withdrawal for all three of them to go through.
Luckily we all seem to be managing and getting on with life, importantly Leo's physiotherapy has continued along and he's on track with other typically developing children which is brilliant, a long way to go but he's rising to every challenge that we throw at him. Emmy is being her usual self, strong willed, determined, confident and most of all loving to her little brother. The bond that I've been able to watch first hand between these two has been amazing - the other night Leo had a fever and Emmy was up with us at 2am checking on him to make sure he was ok - so cute!
The next month or so will be interesting as we've got some upcoming checkups for Leo's eye's and hearing so that'll no doubt give us a road map of our 2018, but as with everything we'll just take this in our stride as we go again, by in large though 2017 was a year we didn't expect, but can honestly say that the impact that Leo has had on our family unit and wider friend/family model has been huge and we're better parents and people for having gone through what we have.
We can't wait to share our experiences next year with you and thank you for your kinds words of support and well wishes throughout 2017.