"I Daddy!" Katie exclaimed enthusiastically a few weeks ago, standing up in the bath.
"Oh, yes?" I enquired, curious as to what part of striking an attitude while standing naked covered in bubbles represented Barry in a two-year-old's mind. "And what does Daddy do?"
"Cooking." Katie considered a moment longer. "Working on things. An' flipping me."
I was impressed – it seemed a pretty good summary of Barry's day-to-day actions from a Katie perspective. It also seemed a good time to bring up the subject of an impending major change in our lives.
“That's right! Daddy does do all those things. But soon, he's going to start doing something else as well. Do you remember what Daddy's job is?”
Both children looked blank, which was not terribly surprising. I had in the past told Katie the answer, but 'engineer' is rather an abstract concept for a two-and-a-half-year-old. As for Jamie, he has previously demonstrated his inability to remember my own profession despite having had me come into school to talk to his reception class about Being A Doctor. (“Well, that was a long time ago,” he told me when I brought this point up in response to him being unable to answer my question about what job I did. I assured him I had not actually changed my profession in the few weeks that had, in fact, at that time elapsed since my talk to the class.)
“Daddy's an engineer! He's a design engineer. That means he works out what the bits in the insides of computers should look like, so that somebody can make them. And very soon Daddy's going to be starting work as an engineer again!”
To which both children looked blank again, and the conversation passed to other matters, probably bath toys. But this is indeed the case. Almost eight years after Barry and I first discussed whether he should take the well-paid voluntary redundancy package offered by his floundering company, thereby giving us the triple benefits of paying off the mortgage, letting him escape a boss with horrible interpersonal skills, and having a parent at home full-time to look after the children that we both planned to have, he is re-entering the world of paid work and coffee breaks. It's been a longer stretch off work than we had originally envisaged, but then we also hadn't envisaged the government sending the economy into a nosedive; there hasn't been much available in the field of design engineering. However, finally a job came up with a well-known company in our general vicinity, Barry interviewed successfully, and his years as a full-time father are about to come to an end.
This means, of course, that we also have to enter the complex world of childcare. We'd assumed initially that we'd have to get a nanny in order to manage school drop-offs and pick-ups, but a few general enquiries brought us the useful piece of information that childminders will also do this, although for obvious reasons they can only manage one school each and so you do have to find one who picks up from your child's school. This narrowed the available field drastically, and the need to accommodate a sibling under five narrowed it still more (childminders are legally limited in both the total number of children they can take and the number under five), but, fortunately, the one childminder in the entire town who picks up from Jamie's school and had the appropriate spaces for the required days proved to be perfectly acceptable when Barry took the kids round to see her, and, although she has not previously had experience with autistic children, she is happy to give it a try. Whether she'll be as happy to continue after experience of Jamie's freakouts when the world doesn't go his way is another matter, but, if this does work out, it looks set to be excellent. The children have their first trial day with her tomorrow, and on Monday Barry starts his new job. Wish us luck.