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Wednesday
Mar272013

When Moms Go Back to Work - When Maternity Leave Ends How Do Moms Handle Leaving the Kids in Dad's Hands?

GUEST POST:

What's it like being the wife of a father blogger; one who champions the involved dad? Not much different than being any other caring mom when it comes to leaving her kids and going back to work when her maternity leave ends. It seems no matter how the public views you, your harshest critic is the one you share daily parenting responsibilities with, and she's not such an easy "nut" to crack. MRS. FODDER SPEAKS... and she's not holding anything back.



Article by Jessica Dolgin (A.K.A. "Mrs. Fodder")


For four and a half  months I woke up with my son at 6am (sometimes earlier). I fed him at 7, changed him, played with him and then eagerly awaited the moment when my husband would wake up with my 3-year-old daughter to help me divide and conquer our new life with two kids. But this has been our parenting style from the very beginning. It was an understanding we came to even before we had our first child: Co-parenting… 50/50.  With the new baby, I do the mornings, he does the evenings. I give the baths, he makes the dinners. I pick up our daughter from school, he drops her off , and the list goes on and on. Long before our son was even a thought, we were parenting this way. It was always equal. It had to be … for both of us. So I have never been given reason to complain about the “lack of work” my husband does as a parent. In fact, it’s the opposite… he’s as “hands on” as they get.

 

So baby number 2 arrives, and I was back on Maternity leave and we needed to develop a new routine that worked for us just as well as it did the last time. I did the morning feedings with the baby (because I’m familiar with the early morning wake up for work) and he did the overnight feedings (because that’s when he’s usually up blogging). So this was how our days and nights were for the past 4 and a half months. It was routine. Something I am very fond of. Something that I thrive off of. I am a control freak, so it makes life much easier when I have control of every single situation because at least if there’s a “screw up”, it’s mine and I own it and then there’s no one else to blame (and while he may not admit this, I think my husband kind of likes it that way too cause he’s usually at the other end of the complaint). But as I got closer to the end of my Maternity leave, I knew that I was going to have to relinquish some of that control and to be completely honest, it scared the living crap out of me.

 

You see, it was much easier when we had our daughter because she was one of those babies that people dream of having. She never cried, she slept through the night right away, and she never made life difficult. It was easy… it was fun… it was the best thing that a neurotic mother like me could have ever asked for. So when I went back to work after 5 months of maternity with her, while I was still nervous that he might “screw” it up, I knew that she wouldn’t really be affected much by it if/when he did. So it wasn’t that hard to leave the house at 4am and feel somewhat secure that stuff would get done. I knew it wouldn’t get done “my” way, but I also knew that she wouldn’t care. But that all changed with baby number two.

 

This one (the baby my husband affectionately refers to as “The Lil F’er”) was what you would call a “real” baby. He did all the things that I was terrified we would have to deal with when we had our first… but we handled it, just like every parent is forced to do when they have a baby screaming at 4am: you deal, you cope; you have to. And again, because I need to have control, I took ownership of making sure that when the baby was crying, there was a pacifier in my hand. Not because my husband didn’t want to, but because I NEEDED to. But time was passing and I knew that I was going to have to give ALL of that control to my husband AGAIN. I was headed back to work and HE was going to have to wake up with the baby and take over the morning routine that I had become so comfortable with. HE was going to have to feed him, change him and feed him again, all while doing the morning routine that he had gotten used to with our daughter.

 

I was terrified. Not only because I was giving up all this control, but if I am being completely honest, I really didn’t think that my husband was capable of doing all of this without losing his mind, losing control and completely resenting me in the process. I mean, he didn’t really know what having a “real” baby was like (neither of us did).  They’re not all like our daughter. In fact most of them aren’t anything like our happy –go-lucky, easy-going daughter. But the day was quickly approaching and I was going to have to let my husband take the reins whether I liked it or not… and I REALLY did NOT! So I decided to test him a little.

 

A few nights before I had to return to work I decided that I was going to let my husband have the “control.” He was back in charge, sleeping on the couch (so I could get a full night’s sleep) and taking over baby duty. And so our son started crying at around 3am (which isn’t unusual). I heard it INSTANTLY (call it mother’s intuition, call it being used to the routine, call it me being a light sleeper, call it whatever the heck you want… I heard it RIGHT AWAY), but I didn’t go running to him. I waited… and I waited. The cries got louder and my type “A” personality grew more and more impatient. Where the HELL was my husband?!?! How could he not hear the baby screaming while they were in the same bloody room?? Was he deaf? Was he comatose? Was he alive?? No, he was sleeping. He was sleeping soundly and he didn’t hear a thing. So I got out of bed, ran to calm the baby and  put him back to bed. I then threw a pillow at my husband’s head. And, using all the swear words I know (and I know a LOT of swear words), I decided to ask him a few questions: “What the hell? How can you not hear him when he’s right next to you? How in the world am I going to be confident leaving the house every morning knowing that you can’t hear our son screaming two feet away from you?!?!”

 

My husband, half asleep, and clearly not thinking,  told me to “relax” and if you’re anything like me… hell, if you’re a woman with a pulse, the word “relax” ALWAYS forces out the opposite reaction. “RELAX???  I said. “How can you tell me to relax when our poor child is going to end up in therapy in 10 years with abandonment issues because he was left to cry for hours on end alone with no one to comfort him?” (Oh, did I mention that I was a little bit dramatic?).

 

“Jessica (that’s me)” he said. “When you’re not here, I KNOW you’re not here and my brain works differently. Don’t worry. When he cries, I’ll wake up and take care of it. TRUST ME. I just need to get used to mornings again.”

 

“Trust me?” I wailed “Ummm, have you met me? I just know you’re going to screw this up and I am going to be sitting at work all morning knowing that my poor son is being neglected at home. My poor sweet son is going to be ignored by my dumbass, heavy sleeping husband.” “Sweetie” he said “Stop screaming… you just woke up the baby again.” (It’s true. I did). Infuriated, I stomped back to bed and spent the rest of the night KNOWING that there’s no way my husband was going to be able to do thison his own… like NO WAY!!

 

But the day quickly came and on the morning that I had to leave for work, I had no choice but to leave my house and hope for the best (while honestly expecting the worst). I spent the entire morning worried that my husband wasn’t going to be able to handle it. I pictured my son crying for hours on end while my husband snored (yes, he snores) the hours away. I pictured his cries waking my daughter up, the dogs up, the neighbors up… everyone up… EXCEPT for my husband. I pictured my poor child starving for food, starving for attention, starving for a clean diaper while my husband dreamed of the girls in the playboy magazines that I know he hides in the bathroom for “light reading.”. (Yes dear, I know they’re there… I’ve read them and you REALLY need to update your collection. I’m pretty sure Cindy Crawford doesn’t look like she did in 1992 anymore).

 

Now, like all of you, I read my husband’s blog and Facebook updates every day, and on that morning I eagerly awaited some sort of news regarding “his wife’s first day back at work” and the goings on at the house.  And to my surprise (and by surprise I mean complete and utter shock and amazement) I saw that he posted this: “Morning one of my wife going back to work. I can finally have the bathroom door open again... "Freeeeeedommmmmm!" ... Oh, and both kids are fine. One needed to be tucked back in. The other is on his play mat gleefully screaming up a storm. 20 minutes to myself and then get them both ready. Piece of cake. :)”

 

I couldn’t believe it. But at the very same time, for some weird reason, I could. I was relieved. And I would be lying if I also didn’t admit that I was a little bit jealous. It turned out that I’m apparently NOT the baby whisper. I’m not the be all and end all to making my son happy. I’m not the ONLY person who can handle my screaming child. You know what I am? I’m a light sleeper… that’s it. So how can I blame my husband for taking advantage of that over the last 4 and a half months? He knows I’m going to get up. He knows I will run at the first sign of a tear so when I’m home his brain can turn off. (because he knows I’m going to push him out of the way if he doesn’t move fast enough for me).

 

You see, my husband started this blog/page with the desire to “prove” that fathers are just as capable as mothers, that fathers are just as loving as mothers, that fathers are just as much a parent as mothers. And even I, the wife of a father blogger, needed this experience to be reminded of that. He got both the kids up, fed and dressed with time to spare (apparently that time was spent with the bathroom door open… umm, GROSS). I had to learn once again that next to breastfeeding and giving birth, there really is nothing I can do that my husband can’t. Now, I’m sure that there will be days that don’t go as planned (I’ve had MANY). I’m sure that he’ll have moments of frustration  (I’ve had a MILLION). I’m sure that there will be times when he’ll (according to my standards)  make mistakes (I made like 20 just yesterday). And don’t think I won’t chastise him for it,  because I will, it’s in my nature. I can’t help it. But he knew that going into this relationship and he went ahead anyway- probably because I’m so pretty. But at the end of the day, EVERY parent makes their fair share of mistakes (one of mine was assuming that my husband couldn’t handle it) and the ones that take the parenting challenge, whether they’re a man OR a woman, should be commended and appreciated.

 

So dear husband, I want to thank you for everything that you do (and don’t do) every single day. Our kids have a loving neurotic control freak for a mother, and a super cool involved advocate for a father. And for those things and so many more, they will be better people for it. I believe in you, and (against all my better judgment) I TRUST you. I will still tell you when I think you’re doing it “wrong” because I will never change. But you will still do it your “own” way because you will never change either. And that’s the way we work.

 

So tomorrow morning, when I leave the house, I will leave with confidence, knowing that you’re going to do what needs to be done in order to get the kids ready for the day. You’ll wake them up, you’ll feed them, you’ll dress them and you’ll do it your way. The right way. The Fodder 4 Fathers way. And when I walk over to you to say goodbye in the morning from now on, I’ll kiss your forehead and gently whisper in your ear, “ have a good morning with the kids babe… don’t f**k it up!” Old habits die hard.


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Reader Comments (7)

Excellent! Mommy Blogosphere LOOK OUT! I will remind you though, Jessica, just one neurotic futzin' with the mind of another(because it's amusing), you do realize that FB posts don't necessarily mean reality, right? I mean, he could have a complete disaster of a morning, but post up unicorn poop and rainbows... And he just might, to save his wonderful control freak wife from the stress of worry. (And perhaps to save his balls from that swift kick from you after rushing home at lunch.)

March 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterConcretin Nik

That's an easy fix, Nick... I'll just film it for everyone to see. ;-)

March 28, 2013 | Registered CommenterFodder4Fathers.Com

We are starting this exact situation next week. I would love to get my wife to share her thoughts like this. Excellent post.

March 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Loved this post! So well written and so inspiring!

March 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn Coppola

This was awesome and I'm so glad Jessica was able to admit that Hubs can care for the little ones like a champ. Turns out my own Hubs and I are just like the 2 of you. In fact, he was much better with the kids when they were babies than I was and I was so grateful to have his calm, laid back personality. You two are perfectly matched and your kids will thrive because of it.

Great post!!

This was a great post. I really love it when a spouse gets in on the blog action, and in this case, it just goes another step to demonstrate two people that have goals in common, who are both striving and celebrating in the right directions. I don't get over here often enough, but I was glad to pop over this time.

March 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterneal

I love this post! I can totally relate!! My husband decided he wanted to stay home with our kids after too many years deployed as active duty military. After essentially being a single parent to two kids for many years, I lacked confidence in my husband's ability to raise our children. How could you go from super army guy to diaper-changing, spit-up wiping guy?? Men are surprisingly capable, despite our female brains!! They may even be better than women (shhhh!). Well, prob not better, just different and that's what makes it so much fun. Thanks for sharing your perspective; it's reassuring to know I am not the only one.

March 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

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