Not too long ago, I was at a baby shower for a friend from work, and she asked what advice I could give her as a new mom. Of course, I began spewing stories about my pregnancies, breastfeeding, and how my kids slept as newborns. As I was telling my pregnant friend every story I could think of about the first days home with baby #1, another co-worker said the most valuable advice I think any expecting parent can hear.
“Daddy Day Care is bullsh*t. Never forget that.”
She went on to talk a little bit about a really great book (the title of which sadly escapes me at the moment) she had given her just married daughter about being in a marriage that is a true partnership, and how the book talked about raising feminist children.
Essentially, while each and every marriage has its own understood roles and responsibilities there within, children are the equal responsibility of both partners. (Amen to that.)
Just because one person grew and carried a baby in her body doesn’t mean that the other person is not equally that child’s parent.
I recently took a little weekend trip with some girlfriends, leaving my husband home with our kids. Like any mom leaving her kids for any extended amount of time, I felt an initial pang of guilt. I was going to miss my little ones and I felt badly leaving my husband to fend for himself, so I wanted to make sure everything was prepared and exactly in its place before I left. As I was rushing around the house, trying to make sure he would have no problems finding anything he needed while I was gone, my husband took me by the shoulders and looked me square in the eyes.
“You know I live here, too, right? Please stop. We will be fine.”
In that instant I felt like a grade-A jerk.
Of course he was going to be fine. I didn’t marry a moron.
And these babies are his babies, too. He doesn’t check on my every time he leaves the house because he knows I am a capable human who can take care of my own kids. Sure, when the babies were super small it wasn’t so easy for Mommy to just leave because we had breast milk and a number of other things to worry about.
Now, though? I was insulting him by trying to get the entire house in order before I left because my actions were saying that he wasn’t capable.
It isn’t just that the fair thing to do between parents is to share responsibilities when it comes to the kids. When one parent takes over the responsibility of childcare completely, it lessens the confidence and effectiveness of the other parent.
When our kids were super tiny babies, I was responsible for the lion’s share of the child care in our family – I was nursing and home from work on maternity leave, so it only made sense. Upon my return to work, I had a ton of anxiety about sharing child care responsibilities with my husband more equally. In order to try and relieve some of this anxiety, I had to really sit and think about WHY I felt this way.
It wasn’t because I thought my husband was irresponsible, because he isn’t.
It wasn’t because I thought my husband was incapable of caring for the kids, because he is more than capable.
It was because I didn’t want to relinquish control.
As a working mom, I struggle often with my identity as a mother. Part of that identity (and part of my own working mom guilt) was me trying to hold onto and control as many things surrounding the kids as I could. When I finally started to let go of that control, a bunch of undue resentment and stress lifted.
If I stayed home with my kids and my husband was the only one who worked, our roles and division of responsibilities would look pretty different that they do now. I would do my husband and our children a disservice, however, if I didn’t expect him to care for our children with the same attentiveness and concern as I do, even when we are both home.
He doesn’t do things the way I do them, and I don’t do things the way he does them. As much as my Type A personality begins to twitch at the sight of a PB&J with waaaaaay more jelly that I would ever put on it, my son likes it just fine and gobbles up his lunch. Sure, there’s a little cleanup afterward, but better that we use a couple extra face wipes than I swoop in and prevent my husband from making the sandwich in the first place. He is their dad, and this is how Daddy makes the stinkin’ sandwich.
Calling it “Daddy Day Care” is an unfair thing. It presumes that Daddy is not a primary caregiver to his own children, and that having him take care of the kids is somehow a favor he is doing for Mommy. Daddy is not only capable of watching his own children – he is happy to spend quality time with the kids without it having to be a special event, completely outside the norm.
From now on, whenever I have an expecting friend ask me for my number one piece of advice, I know exactly what it will be…
How do child care responsibilities get divided in your family? Share in the comments below!