Friday, February 27, 2009
What Daddies Do Best
I have had an epiphany. My life CAN go on without me. You see, I'm a prideful little thing and I have been operating under the assumption that I am the only one capable of doing what I do. Not so. Turns out my husband & children are far more capable than I have ever given them credit for. Last week, I developed a horrible kidney infection and ended up in the hospital. As I lay in that hospital bed, I was panicking about all of the things that I was supposed to do that week. It's a horrible feeling to be so sick that it's impossible to live up to the expectations that you put on yourself. I was certain that it was the end of the world as we knew it. Then, Daddy stepped up.
My husband isn't usually the splitting the housework / cooking / kids stuff responsibilities sort of guy. We have a fairly old fashioned dynamic. He prefers for me to stay home and let him handle the bread winning thing largely because he doesn't want to have to come home after work and work more. It's just convenient for me to stay home and make a mad attempt at domesticity. Ordinarily, I'm happy with the set-up. I've never been too worried about the evils of stereotyping or the women's rights agenda. Most days it just seems like we're both doing what we're best at and balancing our partner out. The only time that I get bent out of shape about it at all is when for some reason the thought, "What if I died?" runs through my head and I freak out at the thought of my husband being left with our four children and no mommy to supervise.
It's times like that when I spring random comments on him like, "Do you even know where the kids' doctor's office is?!" as the poor guy nervously backs away, cornered by my accusation that he couldn't ever hold it together without me. In my mind, it's a sad, sad scenario without me and I picture my children starving and filthy in the hands of the man who knows not the name of their home room teacher or the proper dosage of Tylenol to give them. Don't get me wrong, he's a great dad. He's just always been the fun one. He's the one who comes home from work and plays video games with them and comes up with the best ideas for building cool snow forts. He doesn't need to know if they're up to date on their vaccines or where I keep the birth certificates because I've always selfishly taken care of all of that. From the outside looking in, I've realized that I'm a control freak, a workaholic without a job with a monetary paycheck. All these years, it wasn't that he couldn't do it. It was that I never backed off enough to let him steal my glory.
The thing about being a stay at home mom, you don't really have a lot of chances to shine. Sure, I can pat myself on the back on the rare occasion that my kitchen floor is sparkly clean or I make my way to the bottom of the laundry pile. Overall though, it's a lonely, boring, thankless job. The only sources of pride and accomplishment that I really have come from watching my kids be healthy and happy or having my husband tell me that dinner was delicious. So, I grasp on to every little morsel of power that I can. I plan menus to ensure that all nutritional bases are covered and I volunteer in classrooms so that both the school and my kids get the message that I DO care about their education. I buy a plethora of books & subscribe to Highlights and National Geographic kids and Boys Life so that I can pat myself on the back knowing that they're reading. It's all really a little over the top & ridiculous once I've stepped back and looked at it.
So, it took me well over a week to get well enough to have energy to even get out of bed in the morning to get the kids off to school. I didn't know how they would manage to get on the bus on time or how on earth they would have a successful day at school without me making them a protein shake or helping them match their outfits. I was sure that home work wouldn't make it into backpacks and that by the end of the week they wouldn't even have any clean clothes to wear at all. Boy, was I wrong. Everything flowed beautifully. When they came home in the afternoon, I was amazed at how NICE they looked. What's more, my house looked nice too. All week long, I never lifted a finger and somehow my dishes got done. I never even heard any nagging or arguing. The kids did their homework. They brushed their teeth. Dustin took them all to the potluck for Tatton's soccer team (and made the food to bring) and took Brooke to the daddy-daughter dance. He not only fed them well, but delivered meals to me and made extra trips to the grocery store whenever I ran out of cranberry juice or anything else. He refilled prescriptions at the pharmacy. The only thing I noticed missing was the stress. When I do everything that he did, I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off. We're always rushing and I'm always nagging. I hate to say it, but I think he MAY be better at my job than I am. Surprisingly, that makes me happy.
My epiphany is that I've been way over complicating things. All of these years of futilely chasing supermom status has been silly. It's nice to know that I can afford to get sick and that my family will survive. While Dustin has happily slid back into his breadwinner role as I've gotten healthier, it's nice to know that I'm doing what I'm doing voluntarily to make his life easier and not because he's incapable of it. And I really appreciate what a good job he did of taking care of me when I was sick.