We’ve all done it. I don’t care how “in tune” or “supportive” of a father you are, we’ve all underestimated how much moms do to take care of our kids. Well, I got the opportunity to play Mr. Mom for five days this week after Kate had outpatient surgery, and it was a pretty eye-opening experience.
I considered myself a pretty appreciative husband, but after about three days of flying solo (by “flying solo” I of course mean taking care of the kids while one or both of my parents stopped by once every day to help out) I began to see just how much she juggles on a regular basis and still manages to have dinner ready when I walk through the door. I could barely keep the kids alive without going nuts.
So, armed with sage wisdom imparted by this vast amount of experience, I asked Kate to let me guest-blog to help enlighten dads everywhere. For those of us who haven’t had the benefit of such an experience, here are some practical examples of what motherhood means:
- Deciding that your hair is good enough and a shower is optional to go out.
- Needing to go to the bathroom but holding it for an HOUR before finally finding a window where someone doesn’t need something for two minutes.
- Shooting the last half of a cold cup of coffee purely for the benefits of the caffeine you’re ingesting.
- Eating what’s left of the baby’s cold oatmeal for breakfast.
- Losing it with your three-year-old in the mall food court for refusing to eat, falling off his chair because he was messing around, and proceeding to cry inconsolably while asking for mommy.
- Apologizing to said three-year-old later that night when the realization sets in that a.) he’s three, b.) he was tired, c.) he won’t starve if he doesn’t eat, and d.) he hasn’t been able to connect with mommy for three days because she’s been recovering, and that’s a long time for a toddler.
- Considering 6pm “two hours till bedtime.”
- Starting to seriously wonder if you sitting down to a hot plate of food doesn’t somehow magically inspire a monstrous bowel movement in your baby (have fun going back to eating after that, by the way).
- Staying up far later than you should even though you’re tired simply because it’s the only time you’ve had to yourself all day.
- Kicking yourself the next morning at 5:30am when you have to get up with one (or both) of the kids.
But the most important thing I learned didn’t come until I was having a slight meltdown on day five. You see, I’m a fairly particular person (read: control freak). I like to plan the way things will go, and for things to go the way they’re planned. This is not a very compatible personality trait with managing two kids under four. I finally realized partway through the day that the only way to keep the kids taken care of was to stop planning for taking care of myself in the equation. Stop planning to feed myself. Stop thinking about when I’d get to sleep. And stop worrying about whether I’d gotten to take a shower or even look in a mirror. Take care of them first, and then when they’re all set, think about myself. In short, I realized that the only way this was going to work is if I started being selfless.
And you know what? When I did, a bunch of the stress came off my shoulders and I began to enjoy my kids (and my life) again. Now, I realize that this is a little over-dramatic for a few days of pinch-hitting for my wife, but I truly wasn’t prepared for the situation I’d be thrust into, so permit a little melodrama from a very linear, fastidious man who is not used to being such a fish out of water.
Believe it or not, when I was selfless in a situation, it actually made everything more manageable. When I stopped sweating the small stuff, the big stuff wasn’t so catastrophic. And that’s when I realized that the only way a mom survives is when she practices being selfless. And moms do this every day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.
I also realize that all of this is absolutely old news to the moms out there. You’ve known this already. But to them, and especially to my wife Kate: I get it just a little more now… thank you. To the kids that may read this (and we’re all someone’s child, aren’t we?): go thank your mom right now for the sacrifices she made to raise you. And to the dads that may read this, I would encourage you to make sure that the mother of your children is able to take some time for herself on a fairly regular basis. She needs time to refresh her soul and whether it be watching the kids for an hour so she can get a mani-pedi (yes, I’ve been married for 10 years, I know what a mani-pedi is), sending her to the spa for an afternoon to get a massage, or planning a date night or overnighter that’s completely centered around what she likes to do, we’re the ones that can make that happen.
As for me, I’m going to bed. I’ve got work in the morning and I’m looking forward to a restful day at the office.