I had it in my head that parenting would be this breathtakingly beautiful journey where my husband and I would be so connected and in tune with each other and our offspring, that every day would be filled with love and contentment and utter adulation for our little family. That I’d master clever things like Dunstan Baby Language and baby signing so that I’d never need to wonder what my tot was trying to communicate. And I’d develop superwoman powers and be able to suss out exactly what my son and husband needed – before anybody else could point it out for me. My partner and I would be this united front of highly conscious parents, always tuned into our boy’s needs and together in everything, fair and square…
Well, nearly 3 years into this parenting gig I’m calling BS on all of that.
Parenting for us has been a truly seasonal dance throughout, with one partner taking the lead in some stages and the other falling a little out of rhythm, only to subtly take over and be more in control in others.
During the first few weeks with a newborn, it was my husband who was most on top of things. He was the one who very quickly figured out how to intuitively read situations related to our tiny boy and how to act accordingly.
I often resented it in the moment, because he just “knew” without much fuss. While my first instinct when Ryder cried was always “I think he’s hungry, let me stick a boob in his mouth,” it was the hubster who discovered things like his Dirty Diaper Dance – when he’d wriggle and kick his legs up and down non-stop coupled with blood curdling screams, because he had a soiled diaper and wanted a change. I was still approaching everything ever so academically, robotically going through the mental checklist of possible causes to eliminate (while the earth shattering screams continued unabated). But my husband just had the innate ability to sense and observe and take action really quickly. You know, all the stuff that you as a mum are supposed to be able to do from that special mommy microchip they give you when they hand the baby to you (What? You didn’t get yours either? Oh, join the club!)
I look back on those first few weeks of our son’s life and I know I didn’t have as great a handle on things as I would have liked, because I was so incredibly hormonal and overly sensitive and took every suggestion personally. Hubby was a lifesaver.
Somewhere along the way, though, things started being a bit more fun and manageable for me. Ryder was finally engaging with us through smiles and little coos and it got even better when he started scooting around and becoming a bit more mobile. I loved those older baby months ….(apart from teething. Teething was just super crap). Even at that stage Ryder had his clear favourites for certain things. Mummy was the fun one, the one who could keep him entertained. Daddy was the calm one, the one he’d retreat to when he was feeling sleepy, to curl up in his arms and get some shut eye.
I definitely remember that I didn’t always enjoy the time when he still wasn’t talking and was only able to point at stuff with grunting and more frustrated crying in between. I actually recall once telling my visibly aghast mum that I was so irritated at the fact that my boy couldn’t yet articulate what he wanted and I just couldn’t wait for him to start actually spelling out his needs. Yikes, bitchy mama, step aside.
But man, oh man, when I became mum to a fully fledged walking, talking, interactive toddler … that’s when I truly came into my own. I loved the toddler stage. And I love the threenager stage even more. There is so much spunk and personality and humour wrapped up in a two to three year old. Fantasy play, slapstick humour and actual cute conversation are just such a pleasure for me. My husband, however, cannot get as into this particular stage as much as I can. There have been times I have questioned him, and he’ll be the first to admit that he just cannot sustain two to three hours straight of playing with a child. That’s my forte’, he says.
He, however, is an absolute master at soothing Ryder once he’s gotten himself into a wailing, hot mess. While he struggles to deal with the tantrums when they first go from irrational crying to full on heebie jeebies on the floor, his calm and reassuring energy comes in very handy at the height of a tantrum, and more often than not it is the husby who manages to transform our temporary Boyzilla into sweet and cheerful Ryder once more.
As similar as our parenting styles can be, we can also clash pretty often over little differences in the way we approach things like routine and discipline. For example, my husband gets super antsy about mess and disorder, whereas I’m pretty laissez faire, as in “OK, he’s just spilled water all over the coffee table, but he was experimenting with pouring and we can clean it up pretty easily, so no biggie!”
Over the months, major shifts have also occurred in the way we split our duties as parents. For one, hubby had thankfully picked up all the cooking in our home not long after I returned to work. He has become such a whiz in the kitchen and I just always sucked at it.
But he also very sneakily backed out of diaper changes, slowly at first, and then avoiding it all together unless I was away and he absolutely had to. Already bathing, feeding, entertaining, etc of the kid were very much my responsibility. Sometimes I really do believe I got the short end of the stick. Cooking is done in an hour or so. Baby and toddler related stuff is several hours each night and it doesn’t end until the sproglet is wrapped up in bed – and sometimes not even then, if you’re still dealing with night-time waking. Hubster gets to enjoy free time every night and day, whereas the mommy shift is 24-7, 365.
My guy still rocks my socks off daily and there is absolutely nobody else I would want to do life and parenting with. Yes, there are ups and downs, but relationships are a daily choice to compromise and communicate even through all the tough moments. The tough moments are flippen hard – like being sleep deprived and emotional and feeling as if one spouse isn’t doing their fair share (which happens on both sides). But the good moments? Those moments where you’ve conquered stuff as a team, whether it’s late night raging fevers, projectile poo or night terrors, ah mannn, those are the moments that make your heart sing. Hang onto those. They will get you through the low points.