6:00am. My husband and I are sound asleep and we hear, “Dadada, bababa, ahhhhhh,” coming from our 1 year old son’s room across the hall. My husband jumps out of bed to grab our son, thus begins our morning. He brings him into our bed for about five minutes until I am ready to get up, change a diaper, start the bottle, match our toddler’s endless energy, at which point, my husband lays back down in bed to rest and prepare for a busy work day.
This is our routine, morning after morning. Partly, this is simply our morning routine, and partly, as a mother, I see it as my responsibility to get up with our son. It is my responsibility to change that diaper, I am the one who knows how to make the bottle and how much milk he needs, I am the caretaker of the family. Yet, as the mornings continue, I find these motherly feelings mixed with annoyance, sometimes frustration, that I am the one up early in the morning while my husband gets to rest.
This morning, our routine unexpectedly flipped. Our son’s wake-up time was the same, but instead of me getting up with him, my husband asked if I would like to continue resting while he took him in the other room. Our family has been rather busy lately, and we have all felt the exhaustion, so this was a welcomed suggestion. As soon as they left the room, however, my mind instantly began to race: “Does he know he needs a bottle right now?” Does he know how much milk he gets?” What are they doing?” Did he change his diaper first?” It was amazing how quickly my mother-role kicked in. As a brief reminder, I poked my head into the living room, where they were sitting quietly, reading books. “Remember, he gets a bottle at 7:00am, and I give him 6 ounces.” And then I went back to the bedroom. My mind kept racing: “It is garbage day; will he remember to take out the garbage?” “If I do it when I wake up, will we miss the garbage truck?” Finally, I drifted back to sleep for another fifteen minutes. When I woke about 7:30am, it was lighter outside, and the house was surprisingly quiet. I walked into the hallway, only to meet my son’s big smile as he waddled toward me. As I approached the living room, there was soft music playing on the TV, a pile of toys on the floor, an empty bottle on the counter. AND…the garbage was sitting outside by the curb.
I learned a couple great lessons this morning, many of which I regularly encounter when counseling women and couples. As mothers, we tend to label childcare and much of the house tasks as “Mom Duties.” We have a specific way each is done, and we believe we are the ones who do it best. Oftentimes, we don’t ask our husbands to chip in, and husbands are afraid to ask, because if they aren’t done this specific way, they aren’t done correctly. This could be further from the truth. It is important, even healthy, to relinquish some of these “Mom Duties” on occasion, as I learned this morning. Our husbands are fully capable, and I have learned they may even have a more efficient way of completing these tasks. As wives and mothers, we need to ask for help. As husbands and fathers, help us relinquish this control and offer to take our load from time to time. If toys aren’t put back in their exact location, the floor is still clear. If a diaper isn’t changed before the bottle is started, the worst that can happen is the toddler waddles around with saggy pants.
Another multifaceted lesson is the importance of communication. Although we’ve considered getting the tattoo, “Super Mom,” we all get burnt out if we don’t ask for help. I learned how thankful I was for 30 extra minutes of sleep this morning and how rested I felt for the remainder of the day. If we don’t ask for help, our tanks run near empty and we aren’t giving our best toward our families. We get cranky, irritable, inefficient. It is not a weakness to admit when we need a break. And our husbands can’t read our minds (although sometimes we wish they could), so we need to ask. And as couples, it is important to communicate growing frustrations. As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I was the one who usually woke with our child, and I became frustrated when my husband relaxed in the bedroom. If I don’t communicate these frustrations, they will erupt in an unexpected moment. And husbands, you aren’t off the hook. If you recognize your wife appears stretched thin, tired, something is on her mind, simply ask. Ask if she needs a break, ask if she needs to talk, ask if you can chip in for the morning.
How did the rest of our morning go? Not only did I feel more rested, I was able to make breakfast for us all, I felt more prepared, ready to tackle the day, be more productive. And above all, I had a thankful heart! You better believe I will speak up for my needs more often…no, not abuse them…and more times than not, I will continue to fully embrace my mother role. But every now and then, my husband is allowed to wake up at 6:00am and play “Mr. Mom.”
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