My husband is a very hands-on dad. From the moment our babies were born, Michael has jumped feet first into parenting, always stepping up to do more than his fair share.
Sure, he has activities he prefers (managing the kids’ sports participation, being the gatekeeper on discipline) and duties that he’d love to avoid (endless parades of birthday parties and playdates, the struggles involved with homework), but there’s no doubt, he is fully engaged in his role as father.
So when I had to go out of town unexpectedly last week, I wasn’t overly worried about how the kids would fare in my absence. Michael took several days off from work, freeing himself up to do whatever was needed. I wrote out the schedule for the week, right down to when library books were due and which days lunches had to be packed from home instead of bought at school. No detail was too small, and the end of all the preparation, my husband felt confident he had everything he needed, and I was sure that all would go smoothly.
What is it they say about best laid plans?
Just about everything that could go wrong did, and then some. Michael found himself dealing with problems even I had never experienced in day-to-day caretaking, and since I was several states away dealing with other crises, I was of little help. I was forced to let go of my micromanaging, and he was left to take a deep breath and plunge into unknown waters. It was sink or swim.
Turns out Michael is an excellent swimmer. He deftly handled each and every issue, coming up with solutions that I’m not sure would have even occurred to me. The kids rolled with the punches, and when I finally returned home, they couldn’t wait to tell me about all the exciting things I missed and how different things were during their week with Dad. Sure they missed me, but they were perfectly fine with my having been away, problems and all.
I admit, I was secretly looking forward to Michael finding out for himself just how hard it is to do this Mom thing, day in and day out. And I certainly think he has a new respect for all that goes into running a household with kids. But this week away may have taught me the most valuable parenting lessons — to let go of trying to control every little detail, and to not be so fearful of change.
I think we’re all ready to get back to normal, to return to our daily routines. And we’ll do so with the knowledge that whatever challenges may arise, this family — all of us — will be just fine.
Jennifer is a mom of two and WRAL-TV assignment editor in Fayetteville. Her food obsession memoir, “Designated Fat Girl,” came out in 2010. Read more about Jennifer and her book on her website. Find her here on Go Ask Mom on Tuesdays.