Parenting can be a fraught affair. Let’s face it, the sleep deprivation can start to do strange things to your mood. What would have been a minor issue which you may have laughed off, becomes the source of conflict which could spark World War 3!
Every couple will go through this – anyone who says they have kids and never quarrel are liars. I make no apology – they are, and they know it!
Recently my other half used the phrase ‘You’ll never understand what it’s like having two children who need you all day’
Innocuous? Yes. Likely to cause an argument in normal circumstances? No. Was it intended as criticism? Not really. More a statement of fact and frustration from a mum close to her limit. But on this particular day and after a stressful week, this statement really got under my skin and I went on the defensive big time.
I’ve always had a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to my parenting skills – I’m not one for claiming to be an incredible parent and there are times when I have to be reassured when the kids kick up for me and act like angels for the other half – however this felt like a deliberate dig. A little nudge in the ribs to say that the kids will never need me like they need her, which, let’s be honest, is true. If one of us were to shuffle off this mortal coil in the next few years, it’s safe to say that they would recover far quicker from my departure than hers.
Feeling wounded (and acting like a prize arse!) I lashed out, creating an argument that didn’t need to happen and generally adding tension where it wasn’t needed. Irrational and without reason; I felt I had been hard done by.
After I left the room to sulk (I’m not proud, I admit I do this!) and enough time had passed to try and apply some kind of rational thought to what had happened, it got me thinking – whilst I would never fully understand her side of this, equally she would never completely appreciate my situation.
She’ll never appreciate how much it hurts when your child screams for the other parent and leaves you feeling useless and incapable, when you can’t settle your child because they need to feed or gain comfort and only Mum will do.
And how bad you feel when she’s frustrated because she’s the only one they want to go to and she needs a break from time to time. But for you to take the child will only lead to a tantrum – more stressful than if she just keeps ploughing on.
She’ll never understand how hard it is working from home knowing that your favourite people are just downstairs; how challenging it can be to stick with what you’re doing when you can hear their laughter or tears.
The times when in the middle of doing something you’re asked ‘could you just give me a hand…?’ and the guilt if you really can’t. Guilt that you add, not her.
I want to be straight with you here – this is in no way a dig at her or justification for being argumentative or touchy. My other half is incredible at making sure I have the time and freedom to work, keeping the kids entertained while I’m tucked away upstairs. As a result, I feel dreadful whenever I have to turn a request for help down.
Luckily it’s only occasional – most of the time, a few minutes getting the kids in the car or helping her to get ready won’t hurt and means that everyone wins.
I refer to the mother of our children as my other half because she is. She’s the better half of me as a parent, and in many ways as a human being. What I lack in patience and understanding of what the children need; she has it, honed by the many hours she spends with them.
Where I can be a little too concerned about order and keeping things in a particular way, she’s flexible and adds the fun to our lives because she recognises that the time they are little and want to actually spend time with us is short.
The most frustrating thing about all of this is that I’ve been through a lot of this with two older children but I still feel like I’m doing it for the first time, whereas she has taken to parenting like the proverbial duck to water. I should be better than I am; more in control, less reliant on her to steer me in the right direction and more assured in my own ability. That’s not her fault, it’s my issue.
Ultimately she’s right about one thing; I really do have no idea. I have no idea about how she makes it look so effortless at times, how she does what she does so naturally or what any of us would ever do without her.
Hopefully, we’ll never have to find out.