Why do I do this?

My post yesterday may have sounded a little panicked. That is because it was. I’ve had a lot to do lately, with copy-editing deadlines looming and a 1500-2000 article due in the next week. These are some of the first real things I’ve had to get done by a certain date since Monito was born and I’m finding it exceedingly difficult. I honestly don’t think I can stay on the magazine, especially not after I return to work, and it’s making me really sad. I love being a part of that group and I don’t want to leave, but I don’t feel it’s fair for me to stay on when there are entire days when I can’t get my work done. I don’t know what to do and I’m stressing out that I feel like I have to leave even when I don’t want to. I just didn’t think I’d be forced to give up the things that are important to me. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about it all later, I just wanted to explain a little what had inspired my freak out.

And now I will explain something else from my last post.

So yesterday I mentioned that I bring Monito with me when I go out so that Mi.Vida won’t be left alone with both kids. Josie asked me why I do this and I felt inclined not only to answer her, but to answer her in a separate post, instead of in the comment section. So here goes.

Why do I let Mi.Vida off the hook, ensuring that he’s never left alone with both kids? There are a lot of answers for that. First of all, it’s hard to be home alone with both kids. Really hard. I can do it, yes, but just barely. And I’d rather not. It stresses me out and I still haven’t figured out a system that works. Monito is still so young and he is not on any kind of schedule; it’s impossible to know when he’ll be sleeping and when he’ll be awake. When he’s awake, it’s hard to take care of him and meet Osita’s needs. And Osita is not in a place right now where her needs can wait. She is volatile and hard to manage, and when she sees that her needs are not being met because her brother’s needs are being met, she responds poorly. Once she starts spiraling out of control, it can take a lot to bring her back. If you end up with her melting down and Monito crying, it’s really stressful.

But I can deal with it, right? So why doesn’t Mi.Vida? It’s a valid question. I suppose the reason I don’t ask him to do it is I know he would really struggle with it. He is not as good in those kind of high stress situations. They just wear on him in ways they don’t to me. I can handle the chaos of a crying baby and crazy preschool better than he can. What is just hard for me feels impossible for him.

I also have way more practice with both kids, so I know how to manage them better. And I recognize that he will never get the practice if I don’t let him, but I’d rather he learn slowly, at a pace that feels comfortable for him. I worry that if he starts with really negative experiences, he will never feel confident in his abilities and he will set himself up for failure in future solo-parenting situations.

If I’m out and I know both kids are at home with Mi.Vida I will spend the entire time worrying how it’s going. I will probably check in on them multiple times to ensure that everything is going okay. Mi.Vida will also probably have to text or call me to ask where something is or how I usually tackle an obstacle he has never faced before. I will spend the whole time being afraid that it’s going horribly and that I’ll have to deal with the fallout when I get home.

And that is the number one reason I don’t leave Mi.Vida alone with the kids. I don’t want to deal with the fallout. Taking Monito with me and at least getting time and space away from my daughter is preferable to getting time completely alone but returning to a super-stressed husband who needs hours and hours to decompress from the chaos.

I’m sure people will read this post and think that Mi.Vida needs to suck it up and I need to give him the opportunity to do so. And those people probably aren’t wrong. I know I am creating our dynamic with the decisions that I make. But I also know my husband. I know what is he able to handle. I know what he is like when he’s put in situations that he doesn’t feel he is able to handle. My husband is a great man and a wonderful father, but he’s not with the kids as much as I am, he doesn’t know how to soothe them as easily as I do, he doesn’t have “mommy factor” on his side. He is always at a disadvantage with them, no matter what. Osita and Monito will always respond to him differently than they respond to me. I believe that would be true, even if they spend more time with him. At this point Osita spends as much time with Mi.Vida as she does with me and he meets more of her needs than I do, and yet she still obsesses about being with me because I’m her mom. There is something about “mothers,” and sometimes a father just won’t do.

So I have it inherently easier with them than he does. I also have more skills to bring to the table (a product of the countless hours I’ve spent with them during maternity leave and on my mid-year and summer breaks), making my experience with them even easier. It feels wrong for me to make him struggle doubly in situations that wouldn’t be as hard for me, especially when right now it’s so easy to carry Monito with me.

These are the same reasons I do all the night parenting. I have a system and I get it all done really quickly. I know how to read Monito’s cues so I can get his bottle ready when he’s still grunting, before he’s even escalated to full blown fuss. I can feed him and get him back down in a quick 20 minutes. And then I have to pump anyway. If Mi.Vida were to get up, it would take him 2-3 times as long as it takes me. And he’d probably make so much noise that I’d be up listening to him bungle around with the baby anyway. It doesn’t really make sense for us to both lose sleep, especially not when he has to go to work and use his brain, while I can more easily stay at home and be a zombie all day. Also, sleep deprivation affects me differently than it does Mi.Vida. He really, REALLY struggles with a lack of sleep. I’m able to manage it pretty well; I got VERY little sleep in high school and college and I was still very successful in my pursu

So that is the answer to the question why. You may think I’m making a mistake, and you’re welcome to tell me that (nicely), but I honestly doubt anything in this house is going to change. I know what I’m capable of and I know what Mi.Vida is capable of and I know what the consequences to certain choices will be. I make my decisions accordingly. And while I think that I could change the dynamic somewhat but requiring more of Mi.Vida, I also know that he will never feel as comfortable with kids as I do. Just like I will NEVER be able to clean my house as well, or as quickly, as my mom can, no matter how many times I do it myself, Mi.Vida will always feel more depleted after spending time with one or both kids, than I will.

I was the one who wanted kids. I was the one who begged Mi.Vida for years, dragging him to therapy, to get him to agree to have these babies with me. I’m the one who had over a decade of experience watching children, who has made educating children my life’s work. I’m the one who wanted this family more than anything. And I do believe that I owe it to my husband to support him in the ways he needs to be happy as a father. Right now I believe that means taking Monito with me so that he can feel confident in his parenting of our daughter. And when I do need to be away, I take comfort in the fact that his parents can help him manage both kids. Because it’s hard. And I don’t want him to be miserable. Because I know if he is miserable, I’ll end up being miserable too.

8 responses

  1. This makes sense. (And btw, I totally relate to what you said on your last post about having no time to comment!). I was thinking yesterday how in our society today we have this pressure to have everything split perfectly even, 50/50, down the middle. And I think I am much happier when I accept that the kids are primarily my responsibility, and take pride in my ability to handle them rather than being resentful. K does a lot of things, and I’m sure Mi.Vida does too (and I love how you said “my husband”). But it doesn’t have to be exactly 50% of each task. That seems a little like bean-counting, sometimes, and an extra layer of stress

  2. Two thoughts: first, have you asked if he would be willing to keep both kids on occasion? You might be surprised that sometimes he is willing to give you some time and space to yourself. I was considering taking a class with a week-long field trip about this time last year (the thinking, the actual field trip was in October) and if it had been reversed, I probably would have said NO WAY can I solo parent two kids for a whole week, but I asked anyway and my spouse said yes, go for it. So I think it matters that you communicate your need for personal time especially once you lose it to work. See if you get surprised!

    The other thing is that I think it matters for both parents to be able to care for both/all children at once in case of emergency. If you get sick and are in bed for a week, it helps them all immensely to have a groove already established from occasional time without you. And when I say “without you” that probably means with no check-ins or requests for help because I think it works best if they really fend for themselves. How kids work when alone with each parent is radically different and that’s fine. My expectations and boundaries are very different from my spouse’s and our 5 year old knows it and pushes us each at our own boundaries. Without giving Osita the chance to do this for MV alone, you risk her just blowing up because she has to test every boundary all at once.

    I think you are absolutely right that the insecurity MV feels is from lack of experience with both kids, and that it does take some time to get used to managing both kids. I just don’t think it’s necessarily fair to assume he wants less kid time or no solo kid time. I find it’s a lot easier to manage a non-mobile baby and a kid than it is to now manage a mobile baby and kid so it might be helpful in the long run to let the three of them work out things now before it gets tougher (which is not to say it will be easy, just that it might be important). I’m all about having a primary parent in most families. I think it’s smoother for everyone if you do but that doesn’t mean you have a parent and that other person who sometimes is part of the family. I think it’s reasonable as a team of parents to figure out how much free time you each need and to negotiate who will watch the kids during that time. It doesn’t need to be equal at all but it needs to be enough for each of you to stay sane. For us it works well to have the person going out take both kids so the person getting kid-free time can stay at home and being out distracts the kids from their worst behaviors and keeps them from throwing things around as much. I’m not sure how well it works but it’s what we mostly do. We also are trying to reverse it and that’s a little easier now that the baby is older and less in need of protecting from big sister affection/wrath that both come out more at home.

    AND are there new self-care things you could let Osita do so she doesn’t feel so abandoned? We got the kid a drawer of snacks at her level so if she is hungry and nobody is making her lunch, she can go get one herself. We put some cups in there too and taught her how to get a glass of water from the sink. It solved maybe 30-40% of her frustration with us to know she could care for herself some.

  3. I actually do get this. I agree with what others have said about confidence being part of it, and yes, if something were to happen—you got really sick—MV would have to take over. BUT that doesn’t mean he necessarily HAS to “practice” right now, if its not something he feels he can handle. I do agree with asking him what he thinks—you probably will hear that yes, he wouldn’t want to do it—but at least you’ve asked. You can even have a plan for the future, like: when Osita’s tantrums slow down, or Monito can entertain himself for a few minutes…then you will leave them both with him (so he can prepare himself and not assume that you will never ever leave him with both kids)

    I’ll just comment on some other stuff here, instead of the last post:
    1) things will change when Monito starts going to bed earlier. They will soon have the same bedtime, and you will have some time in the evening.
    2) you can still do SOME writing (here, or whatever is your top priority), but I do think you will need to drop either the magazine or editing. You can’t do it all right now. (RIGHT NOW. you can pick up everything again later, when things are more manageable)


  4. I should have made clear that I always ask him if he would like me to take Monito and he always says yes. Having said that, I have a four hour retreat this Saturday for the magazine and he told me I should absolutely go. He’ll probably spend that time with his parents but still, he wants me to do the things I want to do away from the kids and he 100% supports me on that. We’re lucky we have his (and my) parents in place to help with that.

    I do agree that he should start “practicing now” and I was hoping to start going to yoga one weekend morning a week again. I think that would be a good way to start solo stints because the weekend mornings aren’t so stressful and he is good at managing Isa at that time.

  5. Knowing what works for your family is all that matters. Now that we’ve been exposed to the irrationality of a preschooler, I can totally see why this arrangement works for you!

  6. Ok I’ll just say the one thing that’s bugging me here: yes you wanted the kids first, and he had to come around to it. But he agreed. You didn’t hold a gun to his head. He participated in creating them. In the end- this was your decision together. You shouldn’t feel guilty about it.

    • While sometimes I do feel guilty that I feel I pushed this life on my husband, it’s not guilt that informed those thoughts when it comes to leaving him (or not) alone with both kids, it’s more an acknowledgement that this was my dream, the way I wanted to spend my time, something I felt I could handle. It was never something he felt very confident about, so I’m trying to give him the time and space to build that confidence. If he were refusing to watch both kids, or if Osita were being more manageable, I would probably feel differently but right now I’m offering to take Monito to make things easier for him because I don’t want him to like he can’t handle the stress.

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