A few weeks ago one of those Mommy Blog articles showed up in my Facebook newsfeed as a “suggested post” and it was all about Mommy Self Care. Curiosity got the best of me in that moment and I clicked, skimmed, and nodded my head. The author looked and sounded a little younger than me. In this blog, she went through the long list of ways her first two children ate her for lunch, physically, mentally, and emotionally. She also admitted the deep sense of guilt she lived with for several years for feeling tired, cranky, unloving, and not good enough. The blog concluded with her giving permission to her readers to be more selfish because it would be good for the entire family.
Sadly, the story was neither original, nor uncommon. Even sadder? I can’t relate.
I was born with an above-average sense of selfishness. I didn’t even have Facebook when I was a new mom, and in the absence of comparative psychology, I basically made demands straight from the heart.
This is how “Dadderday” was born.
I first became a stay at home mom when Eliott was a little over 2 and Carter was 18 months. Before this, when we were both working, John and I had fought our way to the perfect balance of powers, domestic duties versus parenting duties.
It started with cooking dinner. It didn’t take me long to discover that “I cook and you clean up,” meant that John had very little to clean up at the end of a meal but if he cooked, I had every pot and pan that we owned sitting in the kitchen sink already hard and crusty.
Dinner duty became a one-week-on and one-week-off chore, where the person who cooks also cleans up, and the other person stays out of the kitchen completely. Eventually, this break for the week was traded for bath and bedtime duty with kids, which often made both of us look forward to cooking even more.
This worked well for several months, until a hormone inspired meltdown had me crying and cursing over g-chat, explaining how stressful it was to get to the grocery store and if I didn’t remember to take something out of the freezer NOBODY remembered to take something out of the freezer, and how hard is making a meal that someone else basically perfectly planned and laid out for you to cook!?
This lead to dinner duty including planning meals and grocery shopping for the week.
Truth be told, John loved it. He started experimenting with different dinner ideas. He even agreed that cleaning up as you go is actually a genius habit. Sometimes bath duty seemed like a break. Sometimes dinner duty seemed like the break. It was, weirdly, one of the better things to come out of my overly-selfish taker tendencies.
But then we moved to Winston-Salem and I stopped working. It no longer seemed fair to make John figure out how to get to the grocery store when I was basically home all day and had the time to think of things to prepare for dinner. Not only that, but it became clear within mere weeks that right about 4:30pm, Mama needs a drink and the solace of sautéing onions alone. Dinner duty became my permanent duty, and John was happy to come home before dinner and declare, “Mommy is off duty! Leave her alone!”
This all sounds very heartwarming, I realize, and I apologize that it is so out of character, but the truth is, there are a couple things we do pretty well and you might be surprised to see that it isn’t all as dysfunctional as it sometimes seems.
Here’s the part, however, where you might decide to hate me.
I’m going to speak from both sides of the motherhood coin because I have been both a working mom AND a stay at home mom. They both come with an equal number of difficulties and I’m not about to debate the merits of one choice over another. Both choices? Equally damn hard.
While I was working, I felt like I was missing too many minutes of my kids’ lives and resented the fact that the only time I got to spend with them was the one time of day that nobody feels like being cute or patient. I revolved my life around making the most of the few awake hours and sincerely attempting to tune-in to their super cute little-kid moments. As a stay at home mom, I basically revolve my entire life around maximizing my kid-breaks, tuning-out the super annoying little-kid moments, and getting them in bed as early as possible.
And while pre-school and nap time do afford me several hours of “me time” every week, John realized before me that it simply wasn’t enough. Thus, Dadderday.
While I am responsible for the name, John is almost entirely responsible for the concept and execution of Dadderday. It starts on Friday night, actually, with the reminder that I can stay up as late as I want because I get to sleep in the next morning. At the first crack of light, John is up with the kids, some cartoons, and his iPad, meandering around the kitchen cooking breakfast. For several years it was eggs and grits, and I’m telling you, no matter how hard I try, the kids hate it that I cannot “make it like Daddy makes it!” More recently it has come to include other special Saturday-only foods, like bacon or sausage, pancakes, or breakfast burritos.
Sometimes at 9:30, but more often closer to 10:30, one of the kids will poke their head in my door and discover that my eyes are open. A few minutes later, John comes in with a cup of coffee.
(I’m spoiled. I continue to admit it.)
I pad downstairs in my PJ’s, eat a hot plate of breakfast that is waiting for me, and watch as my husband wrangles all the children into clothes and out the door.
They go to the gym. Every single Saturday. They go to the gym and then to Home Depot or sometimes Sam’s Club, and leave me all alone, to drink coffee and sit in my PJ’s all day, if I want.
And sometimes I do.
I’m not on the hook for anything on Saturday. No meals. No clean up. No discipline. In fact, if I want to sleep until 10:30 and then take a nap from 2-4, I get to do that.
It is exactly as blissful as it sounds, and since Avery was born, I’ve discovered (the hard way), exactly as life-giving as John knew it would be.
Avery was a
slightly stupidly difficult baby. Her unpredictable eating and sleeping schedule, for at least 6 months, put my Dadderday on hold for a while. And then elementary school life, and soccer, picked up. In the last fourteen months, I have not had a traditional Dadderday except for a handful of times.
Hence, no blog posts since July.
Hence, we hired a housekeeper because I’m now using preschool time to blog.
Hence, I complain a lot about having four kids. Four kids that I wanted. Four kids that many people couldn’t have but would take in a heartbeat. Four kids who are not bad kids but often feel like they are because I’m never fully recharging my batteries.
This was not intended to be a self-pity post. It is merely a reflection on making the important things important. I’m not going to outline the ways in which I keep my husband happy when he keeps me happy, but I didn’t actually marry a super-hero. There is an obvious give and take and knowing each other’s needs is where we excel when things are good, and cut each other to the core when things are not good.
I would be honored and you, blessed, if you want to steal the concept of Dadderday. Understand that it may manifest itself completely differently. Obviously the goal is the same.