When I found out that my wife was invited on a Caribbean Cruise with her sister I knew I had my work cut out for me but I didn’t give it too much thought. After all, I had been with the kids by myself before. When Jake was born I had taken Paid Family Leave, one day a week for 7 months. So every week I had that one day where I could be with the kids.
It wasn’t until a few days before she was leaving that I started to feel the anxiety. I wasn’t sure what I was anxious about in particularly. I think it might of had to do with the pressure of it all though. When my wife would assure me that I would be fine, I knew I would be but it was an emotional response not a rational one. Perhaps it was just the pressure of knowing I was the only one relied on should something go wrong.
Maybe, I didn’t trust that I was responsible enough to be relied on 24/7.
Maybe, I’m just lazy and didn’t want to take on all that responsibility.
Maybe, I’m just a very socially depenent person and not having my wife around would mean I’d be alone sans, “Why do I have to go to bed now?”, conversations.
I suppose there could be truth in all those statements. I will say that the first several days were hard. Not hard from changing diapers, not hard from constantly watching Jake to make sure something toxic wasn’t in his mouth but because I really missed my wife. I mean, I was downright sad…depressed. It was the same feeling I would’ve had if she left me. I mean I was in the dumps over it.
I’m not sure what came over me. My wife and I have been apart on many occasions. However, most every other time I was the one doing the traveling. This time I was the one at home with the kids while she was gone. It didn’t dawn on me why I was so sad until after my wife returned. Before she left my feelings were:
I’m a confident father.
I can parent as good as any mom or dad out there.
I completely have everything under control.
Taking care of my children along with household chores is never a problem.
Whatever needs to get done, gets done.
So the reason I had these feelings is not because they are true. Well they are true but not for the reasons you may think. I quickly realized that I only feel those ways when my wife is home. I have many weaknesses both as a person and as a parent. My wife fills those holes and together we make up those feelings of confidence. I realized when she left that all those holes were exposed again. I never felt them before when I traveled because I didn’t have the kids or the house to worry about. Here I was alone at the house and with the kids for a whole week.
What happened was that I was here all exposed with my open holes and weaknesses, totally vulnerable to a, “Wild Man”, 21 month old and my ever energetic 3 year old. My truth, my vulnerability was exposed those first few days. It wasn’t until after those days in the beginning of the week that I accepted the things I wasn’t going to change and changed those I knew I could. I got a routine down with the kids which really helped. I also started something I had done before but more on a routine basis. I would tell O what the day had in store for us. She asked me to repeat everything I would tell her the plan. I would say, “are you ready for the story?” She would say, “Yes, Daddy” and then ask me to repeat at least 3 times afterwards. Hearing what was going to happen during the day gave her comfort so hearing about it over and over really helped. While I felt confident and under control in these moments of “parenting” I felt totally insecure after the kids were asleep and I had thoughts to myself.
What I realized was that I am the Father I am because of my wife. I am not the Father that I am because of my parenting alone. I am the Father I am because my wife fills in those missing gaps, the weaknesses, and the things I overlook on my own. I realized the confident, secure Father I normally am is only that way when the person who allows me to feel that way is around, my wife. For without her I would not even be close to the Father I am. Perhaps if I were a single parent (whom I now have a whole new level of respect and appreciation for) I’d be able to fill in these gaps. For now, I’m thankful she’s home and now with a whole new realization of what she means to me, being the Father I am.