It’s funny how in our society, we hold females to a higher standard in parenting than males. If women have to be mothers, they have to do everything perfect. There’s so much more competition. With fathers, the fact they don’t refuse to change a diaper or two is all they need to do to be totally involved. I know I’m making generalizations but just go with it.
When my husband helps with the kids at night (putting them to bed, taking them back to bed if they wake up in the middle of the night, checking for monsters, reading bedtime stories or singing them to sleep) I’m met with amazement or a ‘you’re so lucky, that’s usually the mom’s job’. I think it’s the way most people see each parent’s role within the family. If my husband works a full time job, he should get an uninterrupted night of sleep every night, right? Since I stay at home, I should suck it up and get up during every hour of teething hell or monster lurking behind the curtains. I guess I’m not that much of a martyr.
My husband knows if I barely sleep for a consecutive number of nights, I turn into a raging maniac who can’t function during the day. He sees it when I don’t allow anyone to talk to me until I poured two large cups of coffee down my gullet. He also sees what I do as a full time job. When I don’t function, our kids won’t get proper care. It’s not that he’s being an amazingly awesome father who goes over the top (though he would argue he was nonetheless), but he splits the parenting down the middle as much as he possibly can. He helps me and I help him (or try to). If he has an important meeting or presentation or business trip early the next morning, I get up with the kids during the night. If I didn’t sleep for three consecutive nights and forgot how to tie my shoelaces, he gets the kids the next night. Once I remember the bunny runs around the tree THEN jumps in a hole, we try to split the tasks again.
It’s not perfect. Sometimes I feel like he’s keeping a tally of how many times he gets up each night vs. how many times I get up. “No no, you only got up TWO times, not THREE times last night because 1 time didn’t count when you only rubbed her back and didn’t have to pick her up.”
I lose on a technicality.
Then I retort with, “but I still technically got up AND walked across the house into her room AND walked back into our bedroom and took THIRTY minutes each time to fall back asleep again.”
Someone tell me we aren’t the only parents who talk like this. At least it sounds funny when I type it out.
Of course I keep my own tally as well. I’m not perfect. Every business trip he takes with every night he isn’t home I make a mental tally of, so one day, I feel totally justified to abandon him and our children for a guilt-free, three week cruise alone. I can dream.
Another reason for his nighttime duties is because he isn’t here all day to see them. He doesn’t want to be the kind of dad who comes home at night, and sees his kids for half an hour each day. He knows he’s missing out. Even if nighttime duties are torturous sometimes, I think a part of him enjoys the fact that his kids do really need him. The baby wants him for comfort when sharp calcified, knife-like structures emerge from her soft delicate gums causing a pain similar to birthing a child. When our toddler is scared of the dark, or a monster lurking in her closet, she’ll scream for dad. As she says, daddy is large, mommy is medium (always flattered from this observation but I digress), so daddy can protect her from monsters.
So when it sounds like he is justified in refusing to help me because of his job and my lack of one, sure. He can refuse. But he doesn’t want to. We both want sleep and the other one to take the kids every night. I think everyone wants that. But he doesn’t want to just be a paycheck and the guy who occasionally kills spiders. It’s as simple as that.