Yesterday morning, I walked out my front door and got into my car and drove off. Alone. It was the first time I was without my kids in tow in three months and as I turned left onto the main drag, I started to cry.
My twelve weeks of maternity leave had ended and I was heading back to work. My husband and I worked out a rather unconventional arrangement in which he would put his career on hold for a while – as I had done for several years – in order to be a stay-at-home-dad.
For a week leading up to my big first day back at work, I had been plying him with tips on how to deal with the intenseness of chasing two kids and an infant, cleaning the house, running the errands, and cooking meals that no one will claim they like and everyone will moan about ‘why can’t we eat pizza?!’
And then, before I knew it, I was sitting at my old desk, laughing with colleagues, and feeling woefully unprepared for the avalanche of emotions that would push and pull at my ability to focus. I texted my husband.
“Honey, I got this.” He texted back…repeatedly.
I was convinced that my older kids would be cranky and annoyed that I wasn’t there to negotiate with their random and wild ideas that so often included an element of danger.
I was convinced that my infant daughter would scream and cry and be totally inconsolable without me.
Would the house be a disaster when I got home?
Would my husband feel overwhelmed and want to drown out all the noise with alone time as I had wanted when I was the sole adult in a circus of children?
I texted him a few more times through out the day. I even called him. I’m not proud to admit this, but I felt obligated to check-in and I didn’t consider for a moment that my constant nagging to know if everyone was OK would be seen as dismissive of my husband’s ability to parent.
At five o’clock, I left work and headed home. The entire trip home felt painfully slow. My chest felt like it would explode from needing to nurse. My eyes stung with tears. When I pulled into the driveway, I don’t quite know what I was expecting, but what I found left me absolutely speechless.
The house was clean. The kids were quiet and amused. The baby was sleeping. And my husband? He didn’t look AT ALL stressed. I was a bit pissed. Here I was thinking all hell was breaking loose and that the solution to ending this horror was ME. Me, coming home and saving the day.
So, lesson learned. My husband is a pretty kick-ass parent, but I was acting like an over-worried mother and not giving him the credit he deserved. The world, as it turns out, does not revolve around me.
For twelve quiet weeks, I stayed home with my two sons and infant daughter where I nursed, read stories, watched my boys do kung fu in the backyard, and wondered how they could possibly get along without me. Not because I am egotistical, but because mother guilt is real and it is powerful. Any cry, sniffle, sad look, scraped knee, whatever it may be is enough to make me drop everything to help my kids. So, the thought of leaving them – even in the care of my husband – made me feel as though I was somehow betraying my kids.
I’m calming the heck down now, but man-oh-man, I miss nursing my baby. I miss smelling her head while the day slowly passes by.
And so, for now, my husband will get be to the center of the universe.