This article cross-posted on DC Urban Moms.
I learned an important lesson this week. My husband is a parent too.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. My husband is actually a great parent. A wonderful parent. He adores the kids and they adore him. But, after a year of intensive home renovations, it had gotten to the point where I felt like I was parenting solo. Many nights he would get home from work with a quick kiss for us and then disappear into the construction zone. Sometimes he would come back in for a quick dinner only to disappear again, sometimes he’d just pop his head back in for a goodnight kiss. Now, some of you may be thinking, what’s the big deal? Allow me to respond: no daddy from the hours of 5pm to 8pm? Prime dinner, bath, and bed-time? With two toddlers? Do you now have teenagers and just not remember what 7pm is like for a 2 year old?
I know he didn’t enjoy the disappearing act. It’s not like he was off with “the guys.” Poor guy doesn’t even have “guys”! And it was all hard, physical labor that he was doing. But let me tell you, dinnertime, baths, wrestling wriggling babies into pyjamas, and getting them off to bed, well, that’s hard physical labor too. In the end, though, the hardest part was knowing that he was missing out on it. I was the one who knew the songs. I knew the way to rock our son, the way to rub our daughter’s back, how warm the bath needed to be and who got the pink bear and who got the blue bunny to snuggle. And on the rare evenings when daddy was too exhausted to work, the kids wanted their normal routine. They wanted mommy to get their milk, not daddy. Mommy to cut the dinosaur chicken, not daddy. He never has let on if that have bothered them, but I could only imagine how I would feel. But what could we do? The work, once begun, had to be completed. Our unfinished addition weighed heavier and heavier on our minds and finances.
Then, one day, it was done. Finished. After months and months–over a year of actual, ongoing construction–the floors were in and walls were painted and the toilets were flushable. So we moved into our new house, with a little pink bedroom for our girl and a little blue bedroom for our boy, and even, luxury of luxuries, a playroom! (Green.) Even better, the work was done. Free evenings stretched before us, evenings where we could all enjoy dinner together, play together, put the kids to bed together.
We have begun a new routine. After dinner we all head upstairs. We let the babies run around naked in the playroom, finally happy to have a room in our house warm enough to be naked in. I rock and cuddle our baby girl while daddy and our big boy lay on the bed in his new big boy bedroom, looking out the windows at all the neighbors’ houses and making up stories. When I come in the room, I am most often told, “Go away mommy, daddy and I are busy talking!” Music to my ears! So we all lay down and talk a bit, and then eventually I rock our son and he goes happily into his crib.
Still, though, I am the master of the routine. I control the timing, when there’s been enough naked running around, when it really is time to get in bed and say goodnight. Mommy still does the rocking. Until this week, when an evening commitment kept me later than anticipated; despite my promises to be home for bedtime, it was after 8:30 before I was home. In my head, I played out the scene: kids would be wired up from spending the evening with daddy, they wouldn’t be in their pyjamas, they’d probably all be snuggled on the couch having a tickle fight or watching too much TV. And I was fine with that–it was my first evening away since our daughter, now almost one and a half, was born. I was prepared for the chaos. And then, to my surprise, the house was silent. Nary a peep. Figuring they were up in the playroom, and that daddy was just waiting for me to step in and save him, I headed upstairs. Silence. Lights off, doors shut. I checked the bathrooms, thinking that perhaps they were all watching daddy go potty. You know how fascinating that can be, and yet, no one. Then my husband, my dear, sainted husband, comes out of our daughter’s bedroom, empty bottle in hand. Both the little angels were sound asleep. Mommy had entirely missed bedtime.
Mommy missed bedtime.
And, the world didn’t end. No one even fussed very much. There was hardly even a perfunctory “Where’s mommy?” from either of them. Daddy did it all, all by himself. Now, when we woke up the next morning they had the wrong bears and different blankets and not their usual pyjamas, and he hadn’t raised the drop side of our son’s crib. (Seriously, the boy is nearly three; if he had any desire to climb out of the crib, side dropped or no, he’d have done it long ago. He’s never even tried when the side has been down. So I wasn’t too worried.)
Now, did he love it? Well, he maybe doesn’t want to make it the new routine, but he honestly didn’t seemed too phased by the whole process. Although, secretly I think that he prefers that I be the director of bedtime. Still, it is a huge relief for me to know that he can handle the kids all on his own. (You may think I’m exaggerating again, but let me just tell you about a little incident when we were going to visit a family member in the hospital and I was struck with, shall we say, stomach problems. The kids were all ready to go, and I’m camping out in the bathroom, and he asks, “Should I take one of the kids with me?” Meaning, honey, you can’t even get off the toilet, but can I leave both the kids with you? I told him that they all needed to go, and his horrified look was priceless. Well, priceless now. Then, doing some bodily harm was really the focus of my concentration.)
So, what did I learn? Come home late and see what has transpired? No, wait…force your husband to do more around the house, the lazy sot? No, not that either…ah, yes. Let your partner do it their way. As in everything else, if you want it done right, do it yourself; if you just want it done, gosh darn it, so you can sit down and read the paper from last week with a microwaved cup of coffee and a leftover vanilla wafer you dug out from inside the couch, let them do it however they want.
The author, did, in fact, enjoy her microwaved coffee, but swears that the leftover vanilla wafer was merely artistic license. She further categorically denies eating anything found in her couch.