My Husband Is A Better Parent Than I Am
When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what every good soon-to-be-parent is expected to do, I signed up for a birthing and breastfeeding class. As the time for the classes drew near, I began to regret my decision. “They sound totally lame,” I told my husband, Dave. “Do we HAVE to go? Can I get ice cream instead?” I was positively petulant. Dave put his foot down.
And while I giggled over the fact that the forceps in the birthing class looked like salad tongs and made Soylent Green jokes in the breastfeeding class (“Formula is made of PEEEOPLE!”), Dave ignored me and took careful notes. These were my first clues that he would be the better parent. But I ignored them, believing that I would be able to listen to our child’s cries and be able to magically divine her needs. In sum, I thought I would have an innate instinct for raising our daughter.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. When she was born, I felt totally clueless and helpless. In the hospital, as I struggled to breastfeed , a nurse offered to send in the lactation consultant. The woman who walked into our room happened to be the same consultant who taught our class. Dave, of course, remembered everything and impressed her with his knowledge. I sat dumbly on the bed, holding my screaming daughter in one arm and my tortured boob in the other.
At least HE was paying attention,” the lactation consultant said as she wrangled me and my boob into proper position. I don’t think she liked my Soylent Green joke.
Now, two months into our journey as new parents, Dave is calmer, more patient, gentle and kind. He puts our daughter to bed, reads her stories, plays her classical music and has sworn off violent television shows . In fact, he rarely watches TV with her at all. Meanwhile, some days, all she and I have to show for our day are Kathie Lee and Hoda anecdotes. Furthermore, Dave has never once been heard yelling, “PLEASE, PLEASE, JUST GO TO FREAKING SLEEP!” Nor has he ever yelled at me, when out of sheer exhaustion I’ve snapped at him for holding the baby while I folded laundry. In fact, he offered to let me hold her while he finished folding.
And instead of being overjoyed as I watch my husband patiently endure tummy time cries, I often feel resentful. Here he is adjusting to being a new parent seamlessly and almost flawlessly , while I am a anxious wreck, who frequently screws up the schedule, forgets tummy time, makes our daughter listen to rap music, and when she was five days old, I’d already yelled at her six times.
Honestly, I feel competitive. Moms are supposed to be better. Moms are supposed to be the ones who know everything. But despite my best efforts, I am always secretly relieved to have Dave come home and scoop her up in his arms and ask about the schedule.
“She’s off schedule.” I say defensively when Dave gets home. “She was hungry. You don’t know what it’s like all day.”
“Okay,” he answers completely unfazed. And by bedtime she is back on track again.
Some days, I wish he would act superior so I could be justified in my frustration, but anytime I voice my concerns about my parenting, he offers a hug and reassurance. Frankly, it pisses me off.
While our daughter is too young to voice her opinion in the great parenting debate, I felt a little rejected when she snuggles in on his shoulder and falls asleep. I can’t really blame her. If I had to choose, I’d choose him too.
Then at 5am, after one particularly rough night, I woke up and shook my husband awake. “Dave, she’s waking up. Your turn.”
“But,” he said groggily, “I haven’t heard anything.”
“Just wait,” I said. And sure enough, there came her hunger cry through the monitor. “That’s amazing,” said Dave. “It’s like you know she’s hungry before she does.” That was the first night that I didn’t feel like the USS Maternal Instinct had sailed, leaving me stranded at the dock.
A week later, our daughter smiled for the first time. And she smiled at me. Big smiles, accompanied by adorable little coos. And while, intellectually, I know she is an infant, incapable of discernment or rational thought, it made me feel like maybe I didn’t suck so much after all.
I suppose the truth is our daughter needs us both. She needs him—calm and patient—and me—ebullient and enthusiastic. Dave will teach her what rules to follow and I’ll show her the rules to break. And blows to my ego aside, as our daughter gets older (and my anxiety meds kick in), I’m more than happy to let go of this idea of me as the “perfect mom” if it means I have a little girl who loves her daddy and grows up in a world where men aren’t absent, but active, loving and gentle. My husband is giving our daughter the gift of a world where she doesn’t have to distrust or fear men. It’s a better world than the one I had and isn’t that one of the best gifts a mother can give?