by Ginger on August 15, 2010

in Mom Thoughts, Working Mom

One of the things I find myself struggling with as a working mom with a husband who is a stay at home dad is deferring to him as the primary caregiver.

I don’t mean that I defer Jackson’s care to N.C. of course–we talk through most of the decisions about J’s life, from the big picture to the minute details, and I am a fully vested partner in those choices. Additionally, we each have our areas of parenting where we have a slight edge on the other: I am the one who consoles, the soother, the comforter while N.C. is the play-fellow, the one who knows exactly how to elicit the largest, longest and deepest of laughs from my baby boy.

But on the aspects of LIVING the day to day, the tiny details of schedule and likes and dislikes–well, N.C. is the primary caregiver. Which, in my moments of doubting my own parenting and hating being away from my little boy, I have a hard time submitting to.

Yesterday was a good example–I wanted to do something one way, but it was a failure. N.C. pointed out how they normally do it, and I got all in a snit. I mean, Jackson is my baby too, I know how to take care of him, I’m a good mom, don’t tell me how to do it. (huff, huff, huff)


The truth is, I am not the one who knows these little ins and outs like the back of my hand. I’m not the one who lives the schedule  day by day by day. I come in on the weekends, an interloper in a dance that they have choreographed. I cut in, try to do my best to repeat the steps, but let’s be honest–it’s never the same when you are trying to copy someone else’s footsteps.

I try to not take it personally–that someone else knows it better than me–but it’s hard. It’s hard to defer to N.C., to ask “what do you normally do now?”, to let it not hurt my feelings. Sometimes it doesn’t matter–we get off schedule, we do things differently when I’m “in charge”, or we try a new way and it all works fine–and those are the easiest times. But then there are the times when it does matter, and when I need to adhere to the set way of things, even if it doesn’t fit what I would do ‘naturally’. In those moments, it feels wrong to defer to someone else, even if that someone is my husband (an amazing and wonderful father, btw).

I have to remind myself that it doesn’t say anything about my parenting that I don’t set the schedule, or that I sometimes have to ask how they’ve been doing something, or that sometimes “my way” doesn’t work because it’s not “their way”. It doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom, it doesn’t mean anything other than I’m not the primary caregiver.

But telling myself that and truly believing it are sometimes very different things.

Perpetua August 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

I’m glad you wrote about this because it helps me remember that, when I get annoyed with Wizard for “not doing it right,” he’s probably even more annoyed/sad because he’s not sure what “right” is.

I’m wondering if maybe it would help if you didn’t think of yourself as NOT primary caregiver? (Assuming NC would be okay with that, obviously.) The thing is, I’m in NC’s position–“primary,” in that I am home with E all day. But I don’t think of myself as primary and Wizard as secondary. He’s just a primary caregiver who isn’t home during the day. Like NC, I have my work. So in my mind, my husband and I are both primaries. We just have different schedules.

I guess my point is, don’t demote yourself. Sure, NC has his routine with J, but there are things you do/know/are responsible for that NC wouldn’t be able to do (just as, in my case, Wizard has his nighttime routine with E that I don’t know, a point that was nailed home when he went away this week and the baby was screaming his head off at 2 AM).

Ginger August 16, 2010 at 10:19 am

You know, 90% of the time, I don’t make the distinction–I’m just the mom, N.C.’s the dad, and we’re both doing what we have to for our family. But during that 10% (usually when I’m feeling low and small already, when I don’t feel like I’m doing anything right, and the worst of the self-mommy bashing comes out), there’s nothing I can tell myself that makes it better.

It drives N.C. crazy that I do this by the way–he doesn’t feel that way at all, it’s all me. He actually yells at me when I say things like that, because, like you say, we both have our areas. It’s just hard to listen to that in those moments of having to ask “what comes next?”, you know?

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks August 16, 2010 at 10:42 am

I think it’s amazing that both you and N.C. play a primary role in Jackson’s care. Whether it’s hands-on or behind the scenes making decisions, you are both devoted parents. And that’s something to be very proud of.

Ginger August 16, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Thanks Nilsa. Even when I’m down about stuff like this I KNOW how lucky I am that we’re both actively parenting Jackson. None of that dad “babysitting” business here!

Laura Lohr | My Beautiful Life August 16, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I think we all have our moments, where we question our roles as parents. Even being at home with my daughter, I always question whether or not I am doing enough with her.

You are incredibly lucky to have a devoted dad, that is not afraid to take an equal role in the rearing of your little boy. There are so many dads that would not even consider taking a strong role or staying home. It does not make you any less devoted to Jackson, but I understand those feelings—that guilt or second-guessing—whatever it may be. No matter our roles, I think a lot of moms have these same feelings. Why are we so hard on ourselves?

I think you are right, you are doing what is right for your family and you ARE contributing, in your own way.

Ginger August 16, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Seems like as moms we can’t win for losing–there’s always something to beat ourselves up about yeah? I work hard to get past it (and most of the time, I do).

But I AM (well, Jackson is) lucky that N.C. is such a devoted and involved dad. He loves being such a big part of J’s day to day life, and that’s pretty awesome.

Kate Ferry August 16, 2010 at 1:41 pm

This post brought back some thoughts for me from earlier this year when J was laid off from work for two months. He became the “daycare” because I was working full-time and he was home full-time. Beckett was just beginning to really, really, really talk and carry on conversations with people – but I couldn’t understand a word she said and I had to defer to him for translations on EVERYTHING. It made me jealous and then I would get all up in a tizzy… But, then I realized – holy cow! How lucky is this kiddo to have a father who wants to be home with her 24/7, loves her immensely and will shoulder that parenting burden/battle/adventure with me and love us both more for it? She lucky and I’m lucky.

Ginger August 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Yeah, there’s some jealousy there. Even when I know he’s lucky (and I’m lucky) that N.C. is such an involved dad, someone who shoulders his portion (and more) of the parenting duties–it still stings sometimes when I’m not the one you know?

Kate August 18, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Oh, yes – it does sting. Reasoning that you are lucky or your husband is a wonderful parent/guy/etc… definitely doesn’t make the pill any easier to swallow sometimes. I struggle with wanting to be a parent 100% of the time, needing my adult time, enjoying a career and finding that happy medium.

Megan August 16, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I can totally relate to this, in a way. I mean, I stay home with Charlotte, but Chris works nights, so he’s with us most of the day. And then I do things like go write or work out (Ha! Like, ONCE) and they get lots of alone tome together. So, like you, I’m the soother and consoler, but Daddy is the fun one. They have all these games and methods of playing, and when I try to do them with her during my i\time, she just looks at me and says “No.”

It’s can be so hard not to get my feelings hurt. And I suck at taking advice from Chris when he has a way of doing something that works better than my way. I feel (stupidly) that I’m the mom, and HE should be the one in the dark. But then I stop myself and realize that I am so lucky to be married to a man who is such a great father.

It sounds like you have a good handle on the situation, and you appreciate what a great dad N.C. is. Don’t beat yourself up, though, for feeling sad or inadequate. We all go through that, no matter what the situation. It’s okay to have those moments of weakness, as long as you truly realize that you are an amazing mom!

Ginger August 16, 2010 at 9:55 pm

What you said here:
“I feel (stupidly) that I’m the mom, and HE should be the one in the dark. But then I stop myself and realize that I am so lucky to be married to a man who is such a great father.”

Yeah. That. Both of those statements all rolled into one.

I’m trying to own those feelings–I can’t force myself to not feel sad, or upset, since emotions don’t work like that. But I try to remind myself that once that feeling passes I AM a good mom, whether I set the schedule or not!

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