One of the great things about my family is that, instead of the usual two parents, Georgia (and baby-to-be) have three. That's three pairs of hands to share the load and, especially given that we're all flexibly self-employed and close friends, it means that life runs pretty smoothly most of the time.
Last month, for example, we decided to make the most of the sudden burst of late-summer weather, as well as the fact that I had a bit of time off from Coronation Street, and all head down to the country for the week. Georgia loved having all her parents (and one set of grandparents) around, and the three of us enjoyed chilling together and spoiling her, making the most of these last few months of "her-only childhood".
Last week I found myself in the highly unusual position of being a single parent. Cam had gone back to Canada for his mum and dad's 50th wedding anniversary, while Catherine had a number of work things to deal with. She's also entering the third trimester of pregnancy, and is at the stage where she tires easily, particularly as an older mother-to-be, so I took Georgia home with me for three days.
Aside from the obvious lone-parenting issues – plonking your child in front of Peppa Pig while you go to the loo with the door open, for example – the biggest difference was being able to create our own timetable.
I didn't have to meet Catherine or Cam for hand-overs or meal times, so Georgia and I could pootle through the day at our own pace, going wherever the mood took us. Because, of course, the down side of three parents is that there are three people's schedules and needs to consider. So, for those few days, much as I love Catherine, much as I miss Cam, having Georgia all to myself was a rare treat.
Yes, I know how spoilt that sounds. I'm sure there are countless single parents reading this and rolling their eyes. I have plenty of friends who really are bring up children alone, so I'm well aware that the reality of single parenting, day in, day out, is that it can be stressful, exhausting and lonely.
The time alone with my daughter felt like a luxury precisely because I don't have to do it all the time. I don't have to struggle out of bed seven days a week, regardless of how I feel, I don't have to juggle work and childcare and shopping and cooking, while trying to cling to the vestiges of a social life. I have it easy and so, when I do get Georgia to myself, I make the most of it. In fact, I wallow in it – playing and snuggling and enjoying every minute of her two-year-old cuteness. The fact that I also have to spend so much time away in Manchester filming the TV show only serves to make time alone with Georgia feel even more like a luxury.
I wonder again how I'll manage to love the new baby with the same ferocity with which I love Georgia. Even though I know rationally that I will, and everyone tells me "babies bring their own love", it still seems unfathomable.
Before Georgia was born, I had a clear picture of what fatherhood would be like, but this time, when I try to think ahead to being a father of two, my imagination fails, and I struggle to see it emotionally or practically. I am excited about the new baby, but I'm apprehensive, too.
Right now, fatherhood feels so perfect that the thought of any change makes me nervous. Then I think about holding my son in my arms, and I know it's going to work out fine.
Article: 29th October 2011 www.guardian.co.uk
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