Going back to work: A new dad survival guide

You're a different man to the one who left the office two weeks ago. You're a dad now. That changes everything.

Dad baby going to work

In Australia, if your partner has just experienced the ladyparts-rupturing miracle of creation, then —whether you are a lesbian or garden-variety CIS male — you may be eligible for two weeks of paid leave at the national minimum wage.

This is not as good as you’d have it in Sweden, where new parents get 480 days of leave (at up to 80 per cent salary) to split between them, and 90 days are reserved just for dad.

But two weeks is better than your old man got (unless he is Swedish) and thus not to be sneezed at.

Understandably, it’s less generous than mum’s potential government-mandated windfall of 18 weeks at the minimum wage (soon to be the developed world’s most miserly maternity leave policy — thanks to feminist Donald Trump! Sad!).

In any case, you’ll most likely be headed back to the coal face a long time before she does.

A fortnight is a long time to do many things but – in my experience, and in the experience of a lot of new dads I know — it is not long enough to really bond with the gurgling pink express delivery of inconvenience whose bassinet now rests beside your bed.

To survive your re-entry into the workforce so soon post a totally brain altering, life disrupting experience, you need to:

1. Have a plan — you won’t stick to it (at least not entirely), but it’s invaluable.

2. Manage your FOMO — inevitable when you know you’ll be escaping missing out on all sorts of horrendous incredible stuff.

1. The Survival Plan

Good news: this part is easy and should be as uncomplicated as possible.

The most crucial thing, for me, was nailing down a morning routine that got me out the door in the same 30-minute window, regardless of the morning’s eruptions.

It needs to outline things like how you will split duties on work days vs weekends (I recommend taking the first bottle feed and nappy change, because the early hours are even more draining) as well as setting some new routines — like Dad bathing the baby when he gets home, before bub’s bedtime.

Your plan should be flexible enough to cope with known variables, (such as inconsistent amounts of sleep, no time to collect the dry cleaning, intermittent big ticket expenses, stuff like that), and potential surprises, (such as your missus calling five minutes before your pay review meeting, sobbing hysterically because she’s cut junior’s finger when trying to trim his nails and IT’S BLEEDING AND HE HATES ME AND WHAT IF IT’S MENINGOCOCCAL??? Stuff like that).

Bad news: You need to talk through the plan with your partner. Life admin is dull — so this will be the last thing you want to spend the precious little time you have together while bub is sleeping on.

But unless you do, it’ll take just two shitty days back at work before she’s stroppily plonking the kid into your arms the second you come through the door, and Archduke Franz Ferdinand has just been assassinated in the Sarajevo of your lounge room. Global war. Millions dead. Total nightmare.

So: Plan…

2. Managing your FOMO

You will miss out on many magical moments with your newborn when you return to work, so accept that some level of FOMO is unavoidable. This feeling will fade, but initially it really sucks.

To mitigate this, ask your partner to text you a shot of the bub each day, say after lunch. My delivery is called ‘The Daily Sid’, because that’s my kid’s name, and while it’s cheesy, I didn’t expect to be writing about it. Sorry.

Note: these are also good to flick on to your parents/the grandparents, because it’s nice to be part of those conversations, even by text.

Also note: one or two deliveries a day is plenty. More and it becomes a constant, bitter reminder that everyone — your partner, your mother-in-law, the local bloody barista — gets more time with your newborn than you do!

Fourteen days is not long enough before you’re forced back to work, blinking in the light like Grant Russell and Brant Webb, disinterred and bewildered. But it’s more than enough time to re-examine your priorities.

Related Post: How much time should new dads take off work?