My husband recently took our nine-month-old daughter along on some errands. They picked up dog food, went to the grocery store, and stopped by a bakery. At each location, he received praise and amazement that he, a young dad, was out and about with his baby. “It was kind of funny–older ladies came up to me at every store, sometimes multiple times at each store. They couldn’t believe I was out alone with the baby,” he told me.
He had been gone for one hour. One single hour of running errands with his child in tow. Do you think, as a woman, I would have gotten the same reactions? How many moms are running errands with their kids at this very moment?
Our culture still expects moms to be the number one parent. We’re expected to work a little harder, give a little more of ourselves, and make bigger and more tangible sacrifices. But you know what? I am not the number one parent, and I’m fine with it.
Since the moment Lyra was born, my husband has been happy to take the lead on caring for her. He handled most of the diapers, woke up with us every few hours, and gingerly changed our sweet newborn into adorably tiny clothing. He even helped me figure out my breast pump, assisting me in getting it set up and taking on the duty of washing pump parts without being asked.
Of course, I pulled my weight. I took the lead on setting up the nursery, creating our registries, finding a pediatrician, signing up for birthing classes, writing our birth plan, registering for infant care classes, reading and analyzing parenting books, and researching breastfeeding. Perhaps it was my Wikipedia-like brain, chock-full of useful baby info, that helped my husband feel so comfortable and confident in his new role. We’re a great team; we play to our strengths to divide and conquer. I’m Head of Strategy, and my husband is Vice President of Execution, moonlighting as Crisis Plan Consultant. This dynamic transferred well to our new role as parents.
My husband got five weeks of paternity leave, so he was hands-on from the very beginning. I found myself making comments about how “spoiled” I was to have his help for five whole weeks. When he returned to work, my mother-in-law stayed with us to help ease the transition. My first week flying solo, I felt panicked: How could I care for the baby ALL ALONE?? I was her mother–shouldn’t this all come naturally? I shouldn’t be relying on my husband so much–he should feel helpless without ME! Clearly I was missing the mothering gene.
Men are allowed to add “Parent” to their long list of identities and balance it accordingly. For women, once you are a mother, it should be your primary identity. All other identities must fall in line.
I’m complex and multi-faceted, with lots of strengths and just as many weaknesses. Becoming a mother didn’t change any of that. I kept waiting to be magically transformed into a domestic goddess, and it never happened. My husband and I are just like we always were–just with a baby.
Let’s confront the Supermom myth for what it is–another way our society controls and suppresses women. My daughter is extremely important to me, but I will never sacrifice my identity in the name of raising her. I hope by the time she is grown, I am someone she wants to know–not just as her mom, but as a woman with passions, goals, and dreams of her own.