This blog is Day 28 of my 30 days of motherhood blogging challenge. Every day, for 30 days, I’m sharing diary-style snippets of my life as a working mum to one cheeky toddler. Consider this part creative experiment, part self-therapy. Feel free to play along at home! You can read days one to 27 here.
Happy Mother’s Day!
If you’re a mama, I hope your heart felt especially full today. If you’re not a mama, I hope you enjoyed celebrating the wonderful mamas in your life.
I have mixed feelings about days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I embrace any reason to celebrate the people I love – but I also find these days a bit overwhelming, like there’s so much pressure for them to go a certain way.
This morning, I joked to Tom that I should stay off social media all day. I like to think I’m pretty grounded, but on days like this social media kind of explodes (in beautiful ways and in challenging ways) and it’s not always easy to avoid comparing yourself to others.
And Tom has many strengths, but significant days (such as Mother’s Day) are not his strong point!! I asked him a couple of times in the lead-up if he had anything up his sleeve but by last night I knew he had no surprises – other than an open mind and willingness to spend Mother’s Day “however I wanted”.
So, I asked Tom for what I truly wanted: a day off duty from being the ‘default parent’. I wanted to wake up and decide how to spend the day as it unfolded. I wanted to relax in the knowledge that he was on Zoey duty all day so I could spend an entire day without worrying about nappy changes, snacks or nap time. I wanted the freedom to make up plans on the fly. I knew I didn’t want to be away from Zoey the whole day (that wasn’t really what I was asking for) – I just wanted to enjoy her company without thinking about chores, nappies, and what’s for dinner.
Well, I enjoyed this day so much I think I should ask for it every week!! Passing the ‘default parent’ baton to Tom was an absolute gamechanger. I slept better last night than I have in months. I went to bed early knowing that when Zoey woke up, Tom was on duty. Funnily enough, she did actually wake up at 4 am and Tom got up and went straight to her. Normally, he sleeps through her night wakings. I always thought that was because he was a deep sleeper, but really it’s probably because he knows that I’m the one on duty.
I slept well last night because I could completely relax knowing Tom was in charge. That’s a gift I’ve given him for the majority of Zoey’s life – the ability to fall asleep and know that I’m first responder. Of course, he gets up and helps in the night if I ask and he’s definitely done his fair share of overnight settling. But the difference is, unless I’m physically out of the house, I’m the one ‘on alert’ for her cries. He can sleep knowing that I’ll wake him if I need him, not listening out for Zoey to wake him.
I don’t mean this to sound like I’m complaining about Tom or criticising him – not at all. He’s an incredible dad and partner. He’s just not often the default parent due to work commitments – I am. And the default parent role comes with certain responsibilities, a lot of which probably go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
What today taught me is that I don’t have to be the default parent all the time. It’s possible to pass the baton.
Tom is more than capable of guiding Zoey through her entire day and making sure she’s fed, watered and well-rested, while I do my own thing in the background. I’ve just never thought to explicitly ask him to do that before. Sure, I ask him to look after her for a few hours at a time (we tag team a lot). But a whole day where he’s in charge from sunrise to sunset regardless of whether or not I’m in the house? That’s a huge mental load lifted from me, freeing up time for true relaxation. And it’s a gift he can easily give me on a regular basis, and vice versa. I just have to get over my pride, hush my inner martyr, and let him take charge. I have to let go.
For the record, today Zoey slept in (after her 4 am antics) and so Tom and I both got up when she woke at around 7.30 am. (We’d already been awake since around 6.30 am – thanks body clock). I cooked breakfast for Zoey because we eat the same thing in the mornings (porridge) and it just made sense. But other than that, Tom was in charge. I did decide to go look around the mall, and the freedom to just get up and go was amazing. But what was even better was walking around the shops knowing that I didn’t need to switch straight back into ‘mum mode’ when I got back. Normally, when I take a few hours for myself on the weekend, I relieve Tom from default parent duty pretty much from the moment I get back in the door. But today I didn’t have to rush; the whole day was mine to spend however I wanted it.
There’s a lesson here: maybe we should spend less time tag-teaming from hour to hour and instead tag-team from day to day. It’s hard to truly relax in just a few hours; it’s too short. But a whole day? That’s different. It won’t be possible to achieve this every weekend or even every month, but I think it’s a goal within reach. I think we would both benefit enormously from having regular days when we’re not in charge of the more mundane aspects of parenting; meal planning, nappy changes, even toy selection.
So, thank you Tom for forgetting to plan ahead for Mother’s Day (haha). Because I think we just discovered that passing the default parent baton is going to be the gift that keeps on giving.