Last year, in July, we went to London and Cambridge. While I was sitting in a conference room listening to lectures, Sergio and Ruben were riding on trains, crawling through parks, and crying in museums.
I felt jealous because I missed out on these moments (except for the crying ones!), but at the same time thrilled to have a few days to myself, and worried that something could go wrong. Actually, we bought the world’s most expensive SIM cards so we could be connected all day. I never stopped looking at my phone, and called every chance I got (even though they hardly answered, looks like they were having too much fun!).
At first, I felt really worried. It would be the first time Ruben and Sergio would be alone, without me, for so long… In the beginning, as a mom, it’s hard to accept the fact that your child will be well cared for by someone else other than you… You feel insecure, anxious, and yes… your ego gets hurt when thinking that someone else could do it just like you do… or even better! You loose the fear of this little by little and you eventually enjoy your freedom. For us it was a bit drastic, because the only way for me to get the professional development I wanted, was by leaving Sergio and Ruben on their own.
Of course, Sergio and Ruben had a wonderful time, they enjoyed nice summer days in the fields of Cambridge and the mega city that is London…
Here is Sergio to tell the story first hand, through this interview:
What was the first thing you thought about when you knew you would have to take this trip?
I was a little anxious, because it was the first time I would alone with Ruben. Despite that, I thought, “how bad can it be?”… I have always changed Ruben’s diapers, I have always given him food, helped him sleep… All the things I would have to do on my own, I had done already. The only difference now would be that it would just be the two of us.
What was your most shocking “expectation versus reality”?
My expectations were actually lower than what really happened. I thought Ruben was going to be more uncomfortable. It wasn’t really that bad and his behavior was normal for a baby. Everything was easier than I expected.
However, when we went to the Natural History Museum in London, I expected to be able to see the exhibitions while Ruben had his nap in the stroller or baby carrier, but he didn’t, almost the whole time we were there, except for half an hour. Like it always happens in museums – which we learned afterwards – he was very restless and bored. I wasn’t able to see the exhibitions the way I would have liked to, and we had to leave quickly.
What was the toughest moment?
The hardest was the time Ruben’s food ran out earlier than I expected. I realized he was hungry and we were out of milk. I bought a sandwich so that I could give him some pieces while we were on the train (we had to get back to Cambridge, which is a trip of about an hour and half). Ruben started crying and I was not able to calm him down. I tried giving him pieces of the sandwich and egg but he never accepted them. Cambridge is a college town and there were lots of young women on the train. Actually, I was one of the few men on the train that day. All the girls started playing with Ruben trying to get him to calm down. I was worried. Right before we arrived he ended up calming himself down and started laughing with all the girls.
Sometimes you think that things will be much harder than they really are. For sure, this specific moment was not fun, but in the end, it was only a while that he cried and cried, and it eventually passed and it was not that terrible, really.
Based on the anecdote of the girls entertaining Ruben, would you say that babies are “chick magnets”?
No. Actually, while this was happening I thought of this, and realized its not true, because none of the girls spoke to me at all, they just gave all their attention to Ruben.
What was the best thing of your time together?
There were several fun moments, but what we mostly enjoyed were the parks. Cambridge and London have a lot of green areas that you can take advantage of. We were there in the summer, and we spend a lot of time relaxing on the grass. Ruben loved crawling around, eating the grass, looking at the cows and ducks. We also met a couple of very good friends there (in fact, these were the first to meet Ruben and had not seen him in six months). We had a picnic lunch in the park and had some beers, while Ruben played and laughed with everyone.
What would you suggest people do in Cambridge and London with a baby?
In London you should definitely visit the museum, even if you baby cries during part of your visit, because it’s very interesting. Go to all the parks, stop there for a beer, sit on a blanket and relax.
In Cambridge, the best you can do is stroll around and stop at the parks too. Cambridge is like the countryside, it’s a very wild area filled with natural things and fields. You can sit next to the river and have a glass of wine or beer, watch the people, the cows and the ducks. It’s really very idyllic.
How did you manage with the classical things of caring for a baby, such as diapers, naps and food?
Clearly, changing diapers is sometimes complicated. Using a fully equipped place for this, like a bathroom with a changing table, when you are alone, is hard, especially because most men bathrooms do not have changing tables at all. Moreover, being from Chile, you may not dare leave your stroller outside on its own for fear of it being stolen. So you try to get into the bathroom with all of your stuff, the space is very tight, things fall to the floor, your baby cries… so I ended up changing Ruben on a park, laying him on our blanket on the grass. This was much easier, there is plenty of space, you won’t even bother the rest of the people.
Schedules and food are difficult sometimes, because you keep having your own schedules in your mind. For example, I generally have lunch at one or two, but Ruben has lunch at around noon, so I kept forgetting it was his lunch time. In London and Cambridge there are tons of cafes such as Pret a Manger, where you can buy a sandwich, fruit and other healthy things. Ruben was just beginning to eat solid food when we were there, so I usually bought a sandwich that had pieces of chicken or egg to share with him.
Naps were not a problem at all. When we travel we always take our baby carrier and stroller with us, so Ruben is used to sleeping in either. For example, while in the museum, I was lucky for thirty minutes in which he fell asleep on the carrier and I was able to see part of the exhibition.
What advice would you give other fathers who perhaps feel nervous about going out with their babies alone, not even mention traveling?
I would tell them to put on their mom pants. I would tell them not to worry, because everything will be alright. The worst that can happen is that your baby will cry… Yes, you could have an accident or your baby could get sick, but most probably your reaction will be the same, whether you are with or without the mother. You’ll be able to solve the problem anyways.
It’s important to know where to go in case of an emergency, but this is true whether you are alone or with your partner.
I think you should not feel anxious, you should relax. Of course there will be moments in which you will be worried, because there are so many variables: your baby might start crying while on a subway packed with people, and his pacifier might fall to the ground and you won’t be able to give it to him because it’ll be dirty, and sure, there will be moments in which you will get stressed.
But you should try to relax, nothing that bad will happen. It’s normal for your baby to cry, all babies do at some point. If it happens too much, stop whatever you are doing and sit for a while, go to a park and let your baby loose so that she or he can have fun exploring… or go to a bar and have a beer. I went to several bars with Ruben we even did cheers, me with my beer and he with him bottle.
Would you do it again?
Of course, it’s really nice to feel that your child is your responsibility, that you are in charge 100% and that you will have to do everything that he or she needs. In general, as a father one looses lots of opportunities to do things because you have the mother their that will generally take charge, and it’s nice to have the opportunity to do them yourself. It’s quite a unique experience. In fact, we will soon have our version 2.0 this year.