February 22, 2008

Kirby Lou's Mom's Eye View

When Joe and I decided to have Annie, part of the plan was that Joe would stay home with her for at least a year, maybe longer. We were moving to Shreveport, and given that I had to work, this arrangement seemed like the best possible fit. And, for the most part, it has been. Joe loves staying home with Annie and he is an amazing dad. I have the freedom to go to work without worrying about having a stranger take care of my baby. This should be perfect, right?

For the most part, it is. I suppose I just never realized that I would feel so . . . usurped. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that I would have enjoyed being home with Annie as much as Joe does, or even at all. I was thrilled to go back to work and I know that I would begin to feel restless after only a few days of doing what Joe does. I know, in my heart, that Joe is much more suited to this role than I, and that we, as a family, are so lucky to have him be home.

Nonetheless, it is hard to acknowledge that in our family, the parent with the “mother’s intuition” is Joe, not me. It is he who knows best when Annie is hungry, bored, or tired, and he who can most easily put her to sleep. It is Joe, not I, who gets to say things like, “she only takes 5 ounces in her bottle, not six.” And it is Joe who tells me, “the best way to put her to sleep is to hold her like this.” And it is Joe, not me, who tells our friends, “we can come over for dinner, but we will need to leave by seven-thirty because Annie will start to get cranky.” These may seem like small things, but to me, they always seem like things I should be doing or saying, not Joe.

As a modern-era woman, I feel like I should not be tied to these notions of gender and parental roles. It seems hypocritical to want to work and want Joe to stay home, but at the same time to mourn the loss of not being the primary caregiver. But as much as I may try to convince myself, my logical sensibilities can’t overcome my feelings of envy towards Joe’s relationship with Annie.

This issue is something that I know I will continue to wrestle with. But, as issues go, I know it is one I am lucky to have. Unlike many fathers, Joe knows Annie as intimately and fully as I do. Annie is so fortunate to have him by her side as she grows and learns and plays. And in the end, I take solace in the fact that, whether or not I am home with Annie, I will always be her mother.



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