As I continue to recover from my recent surgery, I have realised in the last week how important my partner's role is for our son's development. Of course, I have always known that my son needs his daddy but when your partner works offshore and you are the one running the household, often alone raising your child it is easy to forget. My partner has always been a great hands on dad, but when it came to the nitty gritty of caring for our son, I have always been the decision maker. Everything is run by me, his routine, his meals, his sleep times, his feeding times, you name it, I have it down pat!
But with my recent endo crisis, my partner was forced to take charge while I was in hospital, meaning that he would spend his first time alone with his son since he was born, almost a year ago. Wondering how he will handle having to get up all night for our son who still doesn't sleep through the night, I felt anxious for my boy. He wasn't used to being away from me, how would he react? Unfortunately for my partner, the day that I had been admitted to hospital was also the day that Gabriel developed a high fever and was diagnosed with tonsillitis. Our baby was at his worst and with me not there to calm the situation my partner had to do his best to soothe our son on his own.
Anxious to get home and see how my baby was doing, I was taken aback when for the first time ever my son seemed to prefer being in his father's arms than mine. What was this? Surely he hasn't forgotten me in two days? But as the day progressed, I noticed that Gabriel seemed to be more independent than usual and instead of feeling joy and relief, I had a ball in my stomach. Does this mean he doesn't need me anymore? Have I gone from being his number one to his number two or worse? Months of moaning about how clingy the baby was to me, when he started to show signs of becoming more independent, I hated it. However, despite my feelings of rejection, I noticed something that I had never seen before, a calmness and silent understanding between by son and my partner. It was clear that their relationship had stepped up another level, and I could see in Gabriel a confidence he had not had before. They had bonded
Of course, they had bonded before. Gabriel knew who is daddy was and was always eager to play with him whenever he arrived home from offshore but this was different. It was as if the absence of me had paved the way for them to connect with each other on a deeper level. Without me being there, my partner had had to step up and care for our son in a way he had never done before, showing him that he was not just a fun toy to play with but that he was also a parent, capable of loving and caring for him just like mummy. When I arrived back from the hospital I have to admit I struggled. As happy as I was to see this positive change, I found it difficult to let go. As a mother my life is now centred around my darling baby, I carried him, breastfed him, wake up every night for him, do everything for him. I didn't want to step back, I didn't want to be put aside.
After a few days with me back in the house and slowly getting back into routine things seemed to adjust between us. Going to pick Gabriel up from nursery I wondered if his usual reaction when he saw us would be different given his new found confidence. As soon as he saw us walk through the door Gabriel cried and made a beeline to me, covering me in baby kisses and cuddles, just like he always does. I felt elated and special again! But as I tried to pass him over to say hello to his father, Gabriel refused to go or even acknowledge him and I felt a sadness for my partner. His dad was yet again non existent and for the first time I felt and understood the pain it must cause my partner.
All those times when Gabriel clearly preferred me to his daddy, how he would only sleep after having one last cuddle with mummy, how when he was unwell or out of sorts he would come straight to me for comfort, all those times I took for granted unaware of how painful it can be to be parent number two, I thought it was normal, I am his mother after all. But as I look over the last few days I can't help but ask myself if I had unknowingly hindered my partner's and my son's relationship. I have always been there, in the background ready to sweep in when necessary, never really giving my partner an opportunity to take hold of the parenting wheel. As mothers we often resent the pressure to be super mum without realising the perks that come with being the 'go to' parent. It is easy to get caught up in our selves and our own needs, especially when you are tired from being with your child all day and night but we need to step back and learn to let go.
After these last days I have seen how important it is for me to let go and let my partner take over once and awhile. Not only for him, but also for our son who has learned to see his dad as a parent. I know as a mother that it is hard to let go, we grew them in our bellies, birthed them, fed them, loved them, that bond can never break but we also need to step aside to allow our partners to feel that special connection we have with our children once in a while.
So go out tonight mummies, take some time to yourself, or organise a weekend away amongst the girls, it will truly benefit all three of you.
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