On Tuesday I go back to work, full-time. The day-to-day care of my 4-month-old will go to his father, who is a graduate student, and to a part-time nanny. I trust them both implicitly, and I know that my baby will thrive in their care. Yet as I prepare for this change, I can’t help think back to the end of a long-term relationship I had many years ago. Like that separation, this one is painful, stretched out, sadly inevitable…and likely to lead to growth and happiness all around.
My husband is extremely excited to begin his tenure as part-time stay-at-home dad. For the past few months the baby has really been my domain. Now he’ll have the same opportunity to play and bond with a baby who is getting more and more interactive and exciting every day–without me correcting, judging, and interfering. It’s his turn.
I love this situation, and yet I hate it, too. On the one hand, how wonderful to have the luxury to have your child cared for by a parent! And to have a husband who wants to be so fully engaged in every part of family life! On the other hand, how horrible that it’s going to be him, and not me, by that baby’s side every day. Though he’s no stranger, I can’t help but feel estranged.
This all came to a head last week when I made the suggestion that, since he’s going to be home every morning, he should take over the family dinners (instead of us switching off week-to-week). He tentatively assented, and I thought I had really scored one, liberating myself from the drudgery of the dinnertime rush. But surprisingly, I soon found myself even sadder than I’d been before. He’ll do the babycare, he’ll cook, and I’ll…what? Dutifully bring home the bulk of the bacon and do the dinnertime dishes like some quasi-helpful husband from a decade gone by?
In the end, I reclaimed my share of the dinners. The minute I did so, my body (and mind) relaxed, and I began to feel much more hopeful about my future role in the family. I don’t know what boiling pasta or throwing together a tofu stir-fry has to do with my sense of motherhood and femininity, but yet, there it is. To be a mother, I have to mother, in all the most familiar ways. Let my feminism–and all my aspirations to have the most equitable household in the world–be damned.