I’ve been working on this post for awhile…Yesterday, Jill (over at BabyRabies) posted a pretty raw yet poignant piece along the same lines. She gave me the oomph I needed to finish this one and post it. And what perfect timing – it’s Father’s Day weekend!
On Monday, I return to work. I’ll be away from the family three days a week, for twelve-hour shifts. We’re fortunate to have family & friends in the area, all of whom are more than willing to help out however they can. But for the most part, Chris will be flying solo on days that I work. And although I’ll be celebrating my own father tomorrow, I want to take a few minutes today to publicly honor the father of my children. I’ve done this stay-at-home-mom thing for three months now. It is no joke. It is a full-time job, 24/7. Literally. When you’re not working, you’re still on-call. There are no breaks, no clocking in and out. No overtime pay. No pats on the back, no awards, no catered lunches. I wipe just as many bottoms at my work as I do at home, but at least most of my patients can thank me for cleaning them up! No, I think staying at home with children might be the hardest job out there. Thank you to all of you men & women who do it so gracefully!
That’s where Christopher comes in. I used to think it was just one of the perks of marrying a man with children. He’d done the single dad thing before, so he was pretty efficient from the beginning. But after watching him do this with three of my own kids in addition to Lucas & Avery, I know better. My husband loves being a father. Just like any other passion or hobby, he works at it. And it shows. Last night, I jotted down a few things that are a normal part of Chris’ daily routine…
He gets up in the middle of the night, every single time one of the kids needs something. He empties the dishwasher. He wears fussy babies around the house. He does a much better job of folding prefold diapers. He is king when it comes to swaddling newborns. He sits next to Ames at the dinner table because he has more patience when it comes to feeding him. He folds laundry.
I could go on & on. He doesn’t get up to go to a 9-5 job every day. But does it matter? Neither do I. He works at the church, and I work at the hospital. Our schedules are very different from most people’s. But does that matter either? If one of us is up in the middle of the night, the other is up. If I bring down a load of clean laundry, he pauses what he’s doing and helps me fold it. I used to apologize for all of this, but he’s taught me that it only makes sense. We are a team. There are no “his & hers” duties. It doesn’t matter who makes more money, or who is away from the house more throughout the day. It is our household. They are our children, our chores, our responsibilities. It is all ours.
What I’ve learned from the father of my children:
There are few skills in the domestic world that are strictly maternal. Things like birth and breastfeeding, or supersonic hearing, or mother’s intuition – these are forces of nature not to be challenged. Moms were simply made for these things. But bathing a baby? Doing the dishes? Changing a diaper? Even holding a baby? These are learned skills. Someone taught us these things – maybe our mothers, or a friend, or even a labor & delivery nurse. Anyone can learn how to do these things, no matter the gender or the age or the amount of previous experience.
My point is, we shouldn’t elevate ourselves to the point of making men feel incapable of caring for their own children. I’ve done this without even realizing it. One time, Ames fell down in front of Chris while they were playing. I rushed over to pick up my boy and comfort him. Chris stopped me and scooped him up. He said something along the lines of, “Don’t do that. Let me handle this. I am his father.” So simple. He is their father. It took the two of us to create them, and it’s going to take the two of us to raise them. It’s become clear to me that the more I intervene and take over, the more likely I am to push my husband away. In return, I will become bitter & resentful when he doesn’t help out more. This will most certainly cause a rift in our parenting relationship, and the relationships he shares with our children – a rift that might become irreparable if it grows too wide.
So I let him. I let him “handle this.” Sometimes I have to go behind him and put a diaper cover on a sleeping baby because he forgot, like this morning. But he put the diaper on her. Sometimes I have to stop what I’m doing and nurse a crying baby, even though I just did so an hour before. But he was holding her and trying to soothe her. And that’s the point. He’s trying. And he’s good at it. I want him to stay encouraged. I want him to stay in this with me – all in. Remember this post? I’ve learned that it’s not 50/50. It’s 100/100.
We women tend to play games. I am a woman. I feel called to empower women. So I’ll speak to the women. Ladies, we cannot continue to make comments like, “it’s fine” and then get mad when things don’t go our way. Remember this post? My husband cannot, nor will he ever, read my mind. I am obligated to communicate with him, clearly & honestly. Over the years, Chris and I have actually fought about this concept. He would say, “Just tell me what you want me to do! Tell me what you want me to say, so you’ll stop being crazy!” I would come back with, “Oh you did NOT just call me crazy. Don’t you know how to argue like an adult? I am not going to tell you what to say!” Then we’d forget what we were fighting about and just fume in silence. When you add kids to the mix, this kind of communication makes for a dangerous marriage!
In an episode of “The Cosby Show,” Sondra lets her husband Elvin go to dinner with a female friend and then blows up at him when he returns. Later, she tells her mother that although she gave him permission to go, she secretly wanted him to protest and stay home with her instead. And remember the scene from The Break-Up, where Jennifer Aniston’s character gets mad at Vince Vaughn’s character for not wanting to do the dishes? What does he do? He laughs at her. Who wants to do the dishes?!
I can think of countless examples in my own marriage where I’ve done this. Since having children, though, I’ve tried to get better. For the sake of my family, I’ve got to stop playing games. I’ve got to allow my husband to step up and be the husband & father he desires to be. Sometimes that means nudging him an extra time to rouse him in the middle of the night. Sometimes that means asking him to turn the TV down because I know I can hear a baby crying and he cannot. Sometimes that means being direct and asking him to come out of his office and help me, instead of waiting for him to see that I need it. But that’s okay. Our weaknesses & our strengths are supposed to work together. When we’re on the same team, things are much more harmonious & peaceful.
I enjoy seeing my husband father our children. It’s endearing, it’s heart-warming, and it’s downright sexy. It makes motherhood more enjoyable. It makes me love him more than I ever thought I could. Thank you, Christopher, for being the beautiful man you are. Thank you for teaching and for learning. Thank you for being you. But my answer is still the same – no, I will not have any more children with you.