When I was pregnant the first time, almost 7 years ago, I read all the books, followed the blogs and generally consulted every parent I know for tips, tricks and advice. One of my biggest takeaways? Recognize Dad’s importance and the roll he (or she, if that’s your preference) is going to play. He can’t breastfeed, but he can learn to be pretty damn good at everything else.
Personally, I see a lot of families where the mom lacks confidence in her partner as a parent. She feels like she can’t leave the kid(s) alone with Dad, because “what if they need food/diaper changes/help through a massive meltdown?”. Well, let me tell you, Dad won’t ever get the chance to rise to the occasion if he never gets an opportunity.
How did we learn to become good moms? Well, first of all, we never stop learning. But, we had hours and weeks and years of hands on experience (often just mama and baby) to teach us. But if daddy/baby alone time rarely happens, how do we expect them to learn and master? How do we expect them to try things, fail, and try again until they figure out what works, just like we have? Do we yell at their first attempt and say they’re doing it wrong? Or do we let them continue to explore options, and possibly end up with a new solution that we hadn’t even discovered yet? See what happens there? Now we have 2 potential solutions, instead of just one. And a more confident dad for it, too.
It’s a running joke… Dad’s babysitting the kids, Dad’s gonna burn the house down, “Dad, keep the kids alive while mom runs to the store”. Haha, funny, right? Not really.
So, what’s the solution in our home? We trade off as Lead Parent.
As it works out, both my husband and I have non-traditional job schedules. He often works weekends and, in exchange, has some weekdays off. I work from home 1 or 2 days a week. So, whoever has the longer day out of the house is off the hook. On Lead Parent days, we tidy the house, handle school drop off and pick up, coordinate extracurricular activities and playdates, run errands while the kids are at school, and often figure out dinner plans. We’re both usually home in the mornings to get the kids ready, and back home by bedtime to tag team again.
With this arrangement, there’s no room for resentment. Our “Honey Do” lists go both ways. Our kids lean on us equally. We shoulder the load together, so when it’s been an especially rough parenting day (vomit, tantrums, witching hour, you name it), there’s true compassion and empathy, because we’ve both been there.
Does this mean we coexist in a perfectly equal, evenly balanced dynamic of parenting? No way. We have our rough days. We have days when we each feel like our own day was harder than the others’ was, regardless if we were working at our job or working on the home front. But, it does mean that we are able to see each other eye to eye and know that we’re both working our butts off to succeed at raising good humans, contributing to our finances and taking pride in our occupations. We are able to take alone time, to exercise, to see friends, to practice self care, without worrying about being gone too long or wondering if we’ll come home to a cranky spouse or a burned down home. We recognize that in order to be good partners to each other, we need to respect that the other parent is able to make good choices that move us forward, even if the choices he makes aren’t necessarily the ones I would’ve made.
I know this won’t work for everyone. But even taking turns running the show at bedtime, or on a weekend, could shift the dynamics enough where everyone feels heard, seen and appreciated. We’re all in this together, and we have common goals driving us forward. Survive the early chaos, raise kind, brave children, and reemerge 18-20 years later admiring the adults our kids have become, still adoring our spouse, and enjoying the empty nest we’ve been left in.