How I Learned To Let My Partner Parent
Most people often consider the mom as the lead parent, both physically and emotionally. Let me be the first to remind you that it takes TWO to have a baby! After all my body has been through with pregnancy, labor, and delivery; I still felt like I needed to be in control. “According to societal and cultural norms in the U.S., moms are caregiver superheroes capable of juggling all things and dads are just… expected to provide on some level while tagging along for the ride and waiting to be directed and/or criticized.” Still in all, I think of my partner as equally capable: he can make a bottle, rock a baby carrier, change diapers, and pretty impressively still feed the baby while multitasking dinner. I’ve realized this sense of trust and expectation toward my co-parent is sometimes viewed with surprise.
During these first two months of our life as brand new parents, I’ve went out with friends, went to work, had pampering days, etc. Was it weird to leave and not be in control? Yes. Was it refreshing to leave and not be in control? HELL yes. However, when a well-meaning friend or family member asked, “Who’s watching the baby?” I had to laugh. “Uh, his dad,” I’d reply. “You know, his other parent.”
I believe as a mom when you give your co-parent the opportunity to be the one calling the parenthood shots, it actually benefits everyone: your partner, your kid(s), your relationship, and your sense of self. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve combined googled parenting related questions with my pediatricians advice, my mom’s opinion and my own voice of reason searching for answers to diagnose my baby when I thought something was wrong lol. Not to mention, PRACTICE! I only learned how to gauge the difference from a mad cry and hungry cry through all the times I frantically walked my baby around the house at 11pm, alternating between playing soothing baby music and feeding him. I only learned how to change diapers from helping take care of my younger sister. I only learned how to avoid getting peed on by a newborn baby boy by getting peed on a few times lol and now realizing I need to be quicker with the cover up. Pretty much what I’m saying is these are all learning experiences and if I didn’t fail or go through the motions, I wouldn’t know how to care for my baby.
The same is true for dads or anyone who isn’t always in the lead parenting role. We expect moms to take charge with mothering because they’re supposedly biologically hardwired for doing so. In reality, they just get more practice doing so, and exposure breeds familiarity. I can’t trust my partner’s parenting instincts if he never gets a chance to test them out, and he can’t ever get comfortable winging it unless he has positive and negative experiences to draw from as a parent. Of course, it’s vital that dads take initiative, but in the same breath, I’ve seen too many dads who aren’t even given the opportunity to try and do because of moms worried about letting go of control, or worried about dads being confident/skilled/thoughtful/invested/whatever enough to handle parenting on their own. So, instead of always jumping in to fix or solve or manage literally every single parenting situation possible(which is so hard) but I practiced something different: I held back. I purposefully gave my partner space to figure it out on his own, to do it his way. I let him parent, because he’s only going to learn how to be a parent by practicing over and over again, just like me.
Will my co-parent do everything the way I expect or planned? Absolutely not. Does it matter? NOPE. Newsflash, moms: It’s okay if it’s not done your way. Grocery shopping, bedtime, dinner routines, errands — you fill in the blank. Over time, I’ve started to care less about when or how something gets done and be more grateful that it gets done in the first place and that I’m not the one who has to do it. It’s tempting to play the self-sacrificing mom role, but honestly? I’m tired, and I want help. Besides, even when you plan everything perfectly and micromanage down to the 9th degree, shit still happens, sometimes literally. If moms gotta deal with that, so can dads.
Truthfully, I do have high expectations of my partner as a parent and as a person. Why not expect him to be a good father? that’s why I had a child with him. I expect that he will be actively involved with our child and bond with him in his own way, which may look very different than how I connect with him. I expect that he’ll step up when life gets challenging or overwhelming, just as he knows I’ll do the same for him. I expect that he’ll do his fair share of chores, of wiping tears and butts, of time-out drama, and creating priceless moments as well. I have high expectations, and that’s a good thing. Because when I let my partner parent, it’s an act of trust in our co-parenting team of two.