When I was pregnant with my first child, there was a sense of entitlement I possessed. With every kick and my ever-growing waistline, my relationship with our developing son felt extremely personal, and that feeling was something that was mine and mine alone. Everything changed once he was born.
As a first time mum, I never really understood the exhaustion and fatigue that comes along with caring for a newborn. I mean, you can read a hundred books on the subject and listen to a million tales from other mothers, but, like with anything new, words rarely compare to the actual experience.
Beyond the fact that I was dead tired, I was dealing with the massive guilt that I couldn’t do everything for my baby that he needed all the time. My husband was a phenomenal partner in those moments, stepping in for a night feeding when he could see I’d reached my breaking point, making sure he called in the other family members for assistance for help when I didn’t know how to ask.
As my son got older, I noticed he enjoyed bath time with his dad more than with me, or he only wanted his father when it came to reading books at bedtime. It took me a while to realise that I was jealous to not be his everything.
Now, three kids later, I’ve realised that not only do my children need to have individual relationships with their dad that have nothing to do with me, but I also welcome and foster those situations. Because I am only one person with a very broad set of responsibilities and sometimes those responsibilities make it impossible for me to meet everyone’s needs at the same time. If the kids prefer for their father to read them books every night then I’m free to clean up the kitchen before I feel the crushing need to pass out. If they’d rather have my husband play board games with them, then it gets me a few crucial hours to work, or better yet, recharge my batteries, so I’m my best self when they need me to be.
Their relationship with their father isn’t just giving me a much-needed break from being the end-all be-all of my kid’s lives; it’s helping them to realise that they are each with unique gifts and talents that have nothing to do with me and everything to do with who they have become. With every passing day, they become less my kid and more their own little person, and not only do I welcome that change, but I also find it to be a healthy transition for all of us.
Being a stay-at-home mum makes me the one constant in their lives all day every day, and while they trust in my consistency, it makes my being around more of a non-event. So every night, when their father arrives home from work they greet him at the door with hugs and kisses. “Daddy, I missed you,” falls from their lips. And I’m not jealous that his return is just like the return of some novelty, like the county fair. Because I’ll be here when they wake up tomorrow, and the day after that and that in itself is a gift.