Giving Dad Space to Parent
It’s 4am; my son wakes up crying. I was the last one to go to him, so my husband shuffles in. My son has a large bed on the floor, so we have the luxury of laying with him when he needs some help getting back to sleep. I stop myself from grinding my teeth as I listen to him cry; his dad is there, he is not alone in his distress, I remind myself. Eventually, he stops crying, I am able to relax back into sleep, my husband falls asleep with him, and they snuggle until 5:45am when he wakes again and our day begins. I hear them wake up and read a story together in bed. I get up, make coffee, and turn the oven on to bake the bread that has been rising overnight.
I am with my son all day, everyday. I know what so many not-a-word-word-sounds mean. I know where the Tylenol is in the diaper bag. I know where he dropped his water cup earlier in the day when he gets thirsty. My husband goes to work each day, and doesn’t have the luxury of this level of micro-knowing. It would be easy to snap at my husband when he doesn’t know where our son’s clean pjs are, or that he really hates putting on a particular shirt. It would be easy to rush in at 4:03am, after a few minutes of crying, shoo my husband back to bed, nurse my son, and soothe him back to sleep myself. When I get up to go to the kitchen, and my son cries because I have left the room, I could go back to him and ask my husband to cook instead, or scoop my son up and bring him with me to the kitchen in a carrier on my back like I do when my husband is at work. These are admittedly my first impulses. I restrain myself, because I see how easy it would be to suffocate my husband’s parenting with a thousand “It will be easier if I just do it myself” moments.
If I didn’t give him this space, my husband wouldn’t know the sweet sound of the sigh my son makes as he falls asleep. He wouldn’t know how to wipe our son’s face in a way that he finds funny instead of infuriating. He wouldn’t have his special silly bath time rituals that even I am not all that familiar with. I wouldn’t have my peaceful morning coffee in the kitchen by myself as I make breakfast. I wouldn’t know the luxury of getting in the shower anyway, even when our son wakes up from his Saturday afternoon nap earlier than expected. Most importantly, if I didn’t restrain myself and let my husband do things with our son himself, I would be diminishing him as a father, a role he naturally excels at and cherishes. Giving my husband space to be a dad on his own terms does not come naturally to me, but restraining the urge to fix everything for my son myself has helped nurture a beautiful relationship between my guys, and has helped me maintain some semblance of balance and sanity in mothering.