In this 3 part series I talk about the start of my life as a working dad
Well I won’t go back to the very beginning, we all know how life starts. No I’ll start this tale at the birth of my first daughter Lily. In fact I’m going to back a little from there as we all know parent life starts the moment you find out you are pregnant.
We were living in the England, in a modern house in a country village. Slightly odd, but that’s England for you. Newly built sprawling housing estates right next to quaint cottages and ancient waterways. Of course like any other village in England it was smack bang next to the motorway as well.
I was an almost-qualified GP, my wife a barely qualified junior doctor. Thankfully we hadn’t been trying for too long. As a GP now I know all too well how many couples struggle to conceive a child, the pain and anguish they go through, the rounds of IVF and fertility treatment.
You never know what will happen when you start trying. We all know how it happens so I won’t explain (if you want that kind of information head over to my medical blog) but you never really know if it’s going to happen. It’s a nerve racking time.
If you’ve had a child before or at least been pregnant then you know you can get pregnant but with your first, it’s just months and months of hope and disappointment on a monthly cycle.
Thankfully we didn’t have to wait long
We found out fairly quickly that we were pregnant. Well it seemed like an eternity but was quick by most standards, around 6 months. We of course were over the moon with the news.
As most first-time parents do, we quickly started to get everything ready. Researched everything. Planned what we would buy, when we’d buy it and from where also. We read books, we read the internet, we downloaded all the apps we could find.
And a day later we were exhausted. We’d just found out we were pregnant and already we were wondering what on earth we’d let ourselves in for. Little did we know of course it would only get more challenging as time goes on.
We realised we had to pace ourselves, to slow down a little. We still had 7-8 months until she came along. Plenty of time. No need to panic.
The apps and the internet
Ah the benefit of modern technology, or should that be ‘curse’. There’s an app for everything. Literally. We downloaded everything we could find that might help us, but most were just useless.
What we did find useful was monitoring the growth on these websites – the ones that tell what size they are, what they are doing etc. Now we weren’t really monitoring the growth of course, just day by day my wife would tell me what size Lily was and what she was supposedly doing.
You’d think being doctors we’d know this stuff already, but honestly we just don’t get taught that much about the real details in medical school.
Through all of this we were working. Both of us full time. I was working as a GP trainee still, and my wife as a junior doctor on the wards. As usual for England we commuted. Far. Or at least it seemed like a long way.
Commuting to work in England isn’t like a lot of the rest of the world. If you’ve ever visited England you’ll know the road system is…not great. If you somehow manage to avoid the enormous pot holes that seem to never be repaired then you’ll probably get stuck at a set of traffic lights.
Manage to somehow get through those, you’ll get stuck behind a tractor. Manage to get past that and there’ll be a truck blocking your way.
Roadworks…always roadworks. England loves the roadworks. A never ending cycle of tearing up old road to replace with new. Yet unlike Australia where we live now, who very sensibly do work on their road system either overnight or in small sections, for some reason the English transport authorities seem to think it’s a good idea to tear up enormous stretches of road at a time. Very often there will be traffic backed up for miles in both directions, only to find there’s not even anyone working on it!
So, we are commuting around 45 minutes each way to work. Not a huge amount I know, but when you are working 8am-6pm, 5 days a week as a busy GP (trainee) in the UK and then you have 1.5 hours a day driving…it gets tiring. You are losing what little time you have to spend with your loved ones just driving around behind a tractor or truck or maybe a herd of sheep (if you live in Wales that’s likely).
So this is really where my struggle to achieve that ever elusive ‘work life balance’ started. Throughout my younger days I never really had that much issue with this. Things just seemed easier then (and I know other parents can relate to that). You seemed to have all the time in the world to do everything. Suddenly now it just seems like time is the one thing I don’t have.
I find myself talking about it with my patients even now, but what does it really mean?
Well it means different things to different people, and may change depending on their stage of life. If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a GP it’s that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to life, everybody is different.
At that stage of life we were both still doing our post grad training, commuting long distances and working 50 hours a week, and now of course we had a little one on the way. We were suddenly finding it a little hard to find time to be with each other, to spend quality time together.