It doesn’t hurt my feelings when she shouts for Daddy.
“No, I don’t want Mama! I only want Daddy!”
My toddler’s recent preference for her father has gone from sub-textual to textual. She has no compunction about loudly pushing me away and requesting her dad instead. I’ve been reprimanded for even speaking to her on occasion — “Don’t talk to me, Mom! Don’t talk!”
As a stay-at-home mom fully dedicated to caring for this little creature’s every need, I would expect these rejections to sting terribly.
After all, I waited my whole life to be a mother. I had no idea what career I would have or whom (if anyone) I would marry, but I knew that becoming a parent was non-negotiable. I yearned for children, always.
When my husband and I were deciding whether I would return to work after my maternity leave, I was extremely torn, but one thing I knew without a doubt — either I would stay home with her or we would hire a caregiver. I would be envious beyond belief if my partner was the one home with her all the time. If anyone was going to be Star Parent, it was going to be me. (No, I’m not proud of these feelings, but I can acknowledge them). As my husband had no desire to leave his career, this was not an issue for us. I chose to stay home and launch a side business, and I never looked back.
My SAHM status combined with being Provider of the Nutrients (we almost exclusively breastfed) meant that I was pretty crucial to Bella’s life for some time. Thoroughly exhausting as it was, there was also a certain satisfaction in being needed so desperately. Baby won’t stop crying? Here, hand her to me. Me and my Magic Boobs can fix anything. I am The One.
At the same time, I loved catching glimpses of Bella bonding with her father.
Seeing the two of them hunched over a book or rolling a ball back and forth made my chest tight.
As she grew older and more verbal, their connection grew stronger. He was always willing to explain how something worked, or give her the name of that bird, or let her try the screwdriver.
As I slowly weaned Bella, the requirement that I be the one to put her to bed gradually lifted, and my life began to open up a bit more. I felt at oddly loose ends at first, wandering about the house while they went through the bedtime routine upstairs. I still sometimes feel compelled to do something productive during the time, getting dishes done or paying bills so we are both “contributing.”
Taking an actual break while my husband parents feels somehow subversive, no matter how often I do it.
My daughter is probably the only other person in the world who loves him as much as I do. There is no room for envy or jealousy there.
Of course, sometimes it’s impossible to look away from those two. He will take point on Bella for an evening so I can get some work done, but I find myself watching their antics together instead. Her uncontrollable giggles are gold — you can’t ignore the pure joy in her face as he flips her upside down, or spins her around the room.
Even today, a morning I set aside to write this piece, I found myself considering joining them on their trip to the mall, a trip designed to give me some time alone. But it sounds so fun!
He is definitely a Fun Dad. I can see why her face lights up at the sound of his footsteps, why she runs toward him as fast as her chubby feet can go, lifting her arms and shouting, “Can I pick you up?!” (Pronouns are confusing.)
He obliges and sets her on his shoulders, her favorite place in the world. She beams at me. “Do you see, Mom? Do you see?”
I do see. I see her adoration of this man and the joy they bring to each other. How could I not? My daughter is probably the only other person in the world who loves him as much as I do. There is no room for envy or jealousy there.
So, no, it doesn’t hurt my feelings when she shouts for Daddy.
I look at them and think, I picked a good one.
He is everything she needs him to be, which is exactly what I need him to be.
Plus… I didn’t particularly want to change that diaper anyway. Have fun, you two.