When I was twelve, I wanted nothing more than a Swiss Army knife. My father had one, and I used to marvel at all the tools that fit in the compact package. Years later, I still marvel at its attempt to “do it all.” But sometimes, a stand-alone knife or can opener just does the job better.
So when I told colleagues that, over the next year, I wouldn’t be working much, instead devoting the majority of my time to caring for our newborn daughter, deep down,
I wondered if I’d end “Swiss Army knifing” it. People had mostly supportive words. Of course, there were some puzzled looks and occasional sarcastic or condescending comments, but what I didn’t expect were the rare, wistful silences (generally left by men), followed by, “I wish I’d taken more time to do that.”
Time, that ephemeral commodity. Before the baby came along, I joked with my wife about what I’d do if I were a stay-at-home husband. I’d water the plants. I’d do aerobics in front of the TV like it were 1982. And I’d finally have time to write.
It wasn’t all jest. Even after the baby came and all evidence suggested otherwise, I still maintained the delusion that when the baby slept, I’d really, truly have time to write. And so it was – except those stretches of quiet lasted a total of forty to sixty minutes a day if I were lucky. Amid all the baby and home related tasks, writing was the last on the list. On the days I worked, I’d go in after my wife and I had done the baby handoff and finish in the wee hours of the morning, so zero writing got done those days. And when the baby woke up in the middle of the night, or at least by at five or six the next morning, I was reminded why my mother was always tired.
Single parents have now assumed epic status in my mind. I’m lucky that my wife takes over in the evening. But despite everything, I look forward to each new day. Seeing my daughter’s smile, her waddling, ataxic steps, and the first gleams of mischief in her eyes make up for the times poo plopped out of the diaper and landed on the floor instead of in the toilet. I understand why those men said they wished they could’ve had more time to watch their children grow. Because I wish for the same. No time is ever enough.
Those naps did eventually add up over a year. I coalesced some of these thoughts into a poem and reworked pictures from one of my novels to create a little book for my daughter, which I’ll give to her this Christmas. I’m sure one of the first things she’ll do is take a bite out of the pages. And I’d like nothing more than to be right there to see her do it.
Joshua Blum is the author of The Thirteenth Hour, a fairy tale/fantasy novel. The book referenced above, Your Star Will Glow Forever, is a picture book about stars, hope, and the love parents have for their children. It will be officially available in the spring of 2016, though it will likely make a debut at the RI Expo this December. More information can be found here.