Wednesday, 27 August 2014

When You're Parenting Alone By Accident

I knew this was going to be hard for me.

I've been anticipating being a Mom for as long as I can remember- long before I hit adulthood I would find parenting articles fascinating. I studied my cousins and my sister as they experienced it themselves. I soaked up all the information I could with the hopes of one day putting it all to practice. Along with all the information (useful or not) in my head, I've also always had a strong maternal instinct. If I see a baby or a child in distress all I want to do is pick them up and comfort them, and if they are happy all I want to do is snuggle them. I have always happily offered to babysit for friends and family, assuring them that I don't get stressed out by a crying baby, and yes please go have fun with your husband while I do laps around your kitchen island until he falls asleep.

So I knew this was going to be a hard one for me. I knew that I would have the tendency to take over and to do everything myself, and we would be in danger of Chris being a bystander to his own son's childhood.

It scared the crap out of me.

I don't want to parent alone. In the long run, I don't want to be the only one that can comfort him when he is sad, tired, hurt or sick, and right now I don't want to be the only one that can soothe him when he's sleepy or his teeth are bugging him. Let me rephrase that. I can't be the only one that can comfort him. For my own sanity, but even more importantly, for Chris. I knew long before he was born that it would be my instinct to take over and I knew I wanted to do everything I could to fight it. We talked about it a few times, and I told Chris to please point it out to me if he ever saw it happening. We agreed. We had a plan.

And then life with a newborn happened, and we switched into survival mode.  The name of the game was to keep the baby happy, and often that meant being close to mama (and her boobs.) Not to mention the fact that I soothed him all day long, and him and I fell into a groove- I became an expert on what our boy needed and wanted. However, without realizing it, in the moments when I was holding him just so, shushing in the tone and volume that he loved and wrapping him in a blanket in the perfect way that made his eyes droop... I was robbing Chris of the opportunity to figure out what worked perfectly for him and Elliott.

Once I realized what was happening I quickly tried to build up Chris' confidence. I gave him suggestions of what I knew he liked, but more importantly I encouraged him as often as I could about what a great job he was doing, and how impressive it was that he got Elliott to sleep so quickly. I stopped jumping up to get Elliott when he started to fuss and gave Chris a chance to pick him up first. When I heard him crying from the other room I no longer quickly returned. It didn't take long before he found his own groove with our little man, and he no longer passed him to me to be soothed, but instead enjoyed the time himself.

These things may be second nature to other women, but it wasn't always easy for me. There were times when Elliott cried for twice as long before he fell asleep, and moments when I wanted to stretch out my arms to take him from Chris. Even now, I struggle when Chris sees me looking quite weary as I try to lull Elliott to sleep and it's taking twice as long as usual. When he offers to take him from me to give me a break I can't help but think that it will take me 3-4 more minutes but passing him to Chris will start the process all over again and it will take 10-15 more minutes. But the truth is, those are 10-15 minutes where my arms are free and Chris is getting a chance to not only do something for me, but to get to know his son and what he needs even better.

I'm so thankful to have a husband that desires to be a great daddy to our son, and I am so thankful that I learned to let him.

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1 comment:

  1. Lovely reflection, Melissa. After we had Sawyer we went through a very difficult time in our marriage due (mainly) to exactly these reasons. As he was our first and we were young, we had no idea what we were doing. Add to that 'survival mode' and me being the one home with Sawyer 24/7, resentment started to build on both sides! DH felt left out and useless, and I felt like I had to do everything, either out of necessity or efficiency. Unlike you, I had zero expectations of that being a problem for us as new parents and it was very difficult. Thankfully, DH and I are great communicators and once we realized how bad the problem was we were able to open up and change how we did things.