A couple of weeks ago, we took what is becoming our annual summer trip to the beach, when J takes a whole week off of work, we rent a house with friends, and we get to spend time as a family just having fun. Too often, I feel twinges of guilt as A and I are out together on normal weekdays enjoying some kind of kid-friendly adventure while my poor husband is stuck behind a desk.
Other SAHM friends have reminded me that the price I pay to stay at home is just as steep as my husband—nighttime feedings, rigid nap schedules, tantrum-inducing errands—and that I shouldn’t feel “guilt,” per say, but perhaps contentment and gratitude that I have the ability to be with my daughter and the perspective to realize how lucky I feel. It was during our beach week that I realized just how much my husband is missing on a daily basis—the good, the bad, and sometimes, the ugly.
Our week was going beautifully, and I relished the opportunity to watch my daughter bond with her father as he splashed her in the cool ocean water, they built castles with perfectly moist sand, and she nibbled on his sandwich each day during lunch. J treasured this time with his girl, and I could see him concocting ways to spoil her while we enjoyed our week away from reality, especially with nightly ice cream cones and her first carnival rides. And why shouldn’t their time together be like this? Fun.
We were all loving the time together, but I know my child well enough to know that she (and every child) can only take so many days of excitement, being off her precious routine, before it backfires. That day came for us on our last day of vacation, when A decided to make a game of disobeying every rule I have. And then, after she had already worn me down by testing me all morning, she thought it would be hysterical to make a game of running toward an open staircase with me chasing her, as I prayed that I would make it before she (or we) went tumbling down.
I caught her in time, but this was when I lost it. I did what I always do to punish her and tried (this time unsuccessfully) to put her in timeout. My husband looked on as I berated her for not listening and endangering both of us. My blood was boiling (I’ve never been more upset with A), and I kind of resented the fact that I was the only one who was madder than hell, and he could be so calm. Why wasn’t he trying to step in to punish A after what she had pulled that morning?
As I gave myself time to cool off, I kept thinking of the age-old threat: “Just wait until your father gets home”? Why was I turning out to be the disciplinarian—the “bad cop”? I couldn’t help but pose this question to my husband, who stated adamantly to all the parents in our company that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy. He doesn’t want to step in and save me the trouble of disciplining A, when I can clearly do it myself, and it wasn’t his battle in the first place. He said, “I get so little time with her, I don’t want it to be clouded by having to be the disciplinarian all the time.”
J wants to be the “fun parent.” I guess I understand his logic, but this just wasn’t the way I saw things going. Given the fact that mothers traditionally spend more time with children, “Should dads get to be more fun?” Is it fair that fathers have been thrust into the role of disciplinarian? With each new stage of parenting, we have to keep redefining our roles, so I’m interested to hear what balance you’ve created in your own marriage. Please share…