My toddler is going through a bit of a ‘Mammy Phase’ at the moment. He wants me all the time, and hey it’s great to be wanted, right? As cynical as I am, I have to admit when he comes over and takes my hand and says ‘mammy come,’ and brings me over to his toys or more likely the fridge to point out some snack he wants, my heart does melt a little.
In fact, it’s lovely. Even on the days where I’m knackered and just want maybe five minutes of alone time to drink a semi-hot cuppa, I still smile inside, because I know there will come a day when he won’t want me like that. He’ll have his friends, his devices, his games or a million and one other interests to occupy him.
As lovely as it is, it is fucking exhausting though. He wants me to do everything all the time… even when daddy is there. So the concept of daddy taking over when he gets in from work and me getting a rest has gone right out the window. He wants me to do the bath, to put on his PJs, to play with him in the evening instead of his daddy.
And here comes the cliché; I’m quite sure it’s a phase and in a few weeks it could be the reverse situation.
But that said, being the ‘primary carer’ who spends most of the time with him, we do just have this special connection. We have a short-hand with each other. My husband often looks to me for answers because I know just by our son’s body language what he wants… I can make out his 'toddler-ese' quicker than my husband can. I know which shoes he likes to wear, those jeans he won’t put on, the way he likes his muesli made in the morning and a million and one idiosyncrasies only I know about because I am there every day.
And yet it got me thinking… what it would be like if the tables were turned? What would it be like if I was the one going outside of the home to work five days a week, gone all day and only seeing my son for an hour or so in the evening, it would be my husband who would become the primary career. He’d be the one with all the tips and tricks, the inside track, he’d be the one my son would want all the time… wouldn’t he?
Then I came across a blog post by DaddyPoppins who asked, would you take parental advice from a dad?
It stopped me in my tracks.
I’ve blogged before many times about how I hate the over-the-top celebrating of dads for doing very basic things like changing a nappy or bringing their kids to the park. There’s no need to break out the brass band when a dad does things like this, and yet we do. We say, ‘oh look at that dad doing the shopping with this kids in toe, good on him.’ Yet we see a mum doing the same thing and it’s not referred to.
But by the same token, would I ignore the advice of a dad, because somehow I think he knows less? Am I guilty of being dismissive of my husband because he’s not a mum or a stay at home parent? And let’s face it, he didn’t carry the baby for nine (and something!) months. He didn’t have the morning sickness, the PUPPP rash, the sore back, the aching hips, the huge belly, the stretch marks, the bladder getting danced on, the constant indigestion, the swollen ankles and he didn’t push a large pumpkin sized human out of his nether regions.
But does that mean his opinions or insights are less valid than mine?
Not in my book.
In fact, yesterday we went out for an early dinner with the little dude, to a noisy restaurant. He had a complete panic attack and wouldn’t sit down. Nothing I did worked, and I looked to my husband for help and immediately he knew what to do. He took him for a walk, talked to him and within five minutes we were all sitting down at the table.
For me, I think, it all comes down to effort and the love put into the child when they are here. Taking work commitments out of the equation, parenthood boils down to wanting to care for a child; listening to them, laughing with them, playing with them, helping them, teaching them, reading to them, running around the house with them; tickles, tears, tantrums, giggles. The good and the bad. The days when you want to do it and even more so the days when you don’t’.
You’ve got to be there in the moment. Even if those moments are short. Even if you only get to spend an hour or so with your child in the evening before bed, if you make that hour solely about the pair of your, no phones, no distractions, just parent and child spending real time together, that is what matters.
And in my book, that qualifies you to pontificate with the rest of us, because let’s face none of us, mum or dad, has a bloody clue what we’re doing anyway!