Besides the obvious reasons, like having another person around to help and vent to and simply be present, there are certain times you’ll be thankful for your parenting partner. There’s been a lot of conversation around the idea of husbands (or partners who don’t identify as “mom” in a family) who “help out” with the kids. Parents, male or female, are never “helping out,” in my opinion. It is the job, as a committed caregiver, to nurture, keep safe, teach, and love that person’s children. So, what I mean by “parenting partner” is someone who signed on to be one of however many people charged with the grave responsibility of raising a child. Not a babysitter.
Having a parenting partner goes way beyond sharing the menial and, sometimes, financial tasks of childrearing. For me, it means having someone with whom I share an emotional connection, outside of the connection we both have to our kids. My partner is instrumental to the support of our kids, but he also supports me, in non-material ways. His companionship is crucial to my ability to function as a mom, and continue to try to give the best pieces of myself to our children. Because he is my partner in parenting, he understands why I might not have a lot of juice left for our relationship at the end of the day. Someone with whom I was romantically involved, but who did not have a hand in raising my kids, would probably not be able to give that same kind of intellectual and emotional support (although it can be done).
My parenting partner is someone I respect and trust, who has our kids’ best interests at heart, who is committed to raising thoughtful, productive, engaged members of society. He shares my goals of having a full life with our own family, and though I don’t always say it when I feel it, these are the times I’m so thankful for my parenting partner, including the following:
When You Run Out Of Hands
Slippery toddler in the tub, bell ringing with diapers delivery, and infant squawking because it’s feeding time. I am so grateful to have a partner to divide and conquer.
When Your Patience Has Run Out
They remember to flush, but they don’t wash their hands. They finally eat a vegetable, but they don’t clear their plates. Then, of course, they lash out at me when I lash out at them because I can’t believe I need to remind my school age kids yet again to take care of their crap. I’ll end up saying something I’ll regret, because I'm angry and in the moment and essentially consumed with frustration. That’s when I need to tap out, which would be impossible without a supportive parenting partner.
When You Need A Time-Out
When the patience runs out, so does my rationality, and the ability to keep my voice down. I need to retreat into a bathroom, close the door and be by myself for a few minutes. Now that my kids are older — eight and six — I can do that whenever I need to. However, when they were younger I couldn’t get a much-needed time-out without another adult around. Without a parenting partner, how do moms like me, exasperated to the point of tears, give themselves a break without jeopardizing the safety of their kids? However you mothers do it, know that I'm in awe of you.
When You Can’t Read The Same Damn Book Over And Over And Over Again Anymore
My kids love to read, which is great, they just also happen to love to read the same things over and over (which is not so great). There is no way to psych myself up for the third consecutive reading of the same bedtime story. Luckily, my husband and I take turns, and he is the one making weekly trips to the library for the kids to pick out new books so nobody gets bored.
When You Have A Craving
I have the good fortune of living in New York City, and can have pretty much any kind of food delivered at any hour of the day or night. This is dangerous, for obvious reasons, but when I was pregnant and everything reviled me except for a very specific kind of Korean dish, it absolutely doesn’t suck that my husband was willing to pick it up for me so I wouldn’t have to wait.
When You Have No Idea What To Feed Anyone
I mean, if it were up to me, I’d just park myself in front of the open fridge with a spoon and go to town on the remnants of an expired jar of frosting. I don’t have any spare brain cells to give towards figuring out meals, other than packing my kids’ lunches, which I do on autopilot at this point. Thankfully, my husband happily takes on the tasks of meal planning and grocery shopping. The only downside is that I don’t get to complain about the fourth time we’re eating pasta in one week. I get what I get, and I don't get upset.
When You're Running Late Or Held Up
Nothing gives me more anxiety than getting held up on the way to pick up the kids from camp or daycare at the end of the day. There’s not always service on the subway, but when I was stuck in a tunnel underground recently, I managed to text my husband, still at work, who reached out to our neighborhood network. A friend was able to race the two blocks to grab my kids from camp when I was still a good 30 minutes outside the borough. I might not have gotten through to anyone if he wasn’t above ground making the calls.
When You Have A Work Trip
Not gonna lie: spending a couple of nights in my own hotel room, in another city, on somebody else’s dime is more than OK. Yes, I miss the kids. Yes, I battle the guilt (though I am working, and I tend to work more when I’m by myself since there are fewer distractions). Yes, I am so thankful that my kids have a co-parent so there is little interruption in their routines when I'm absent.
When You Need To Sleep
“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” is notoriously poor advice all new moms receive. It’s bad because I have yet to meet mother who follows it. So, when I would finally crash out, no matter what time it was, my partner totally understood and never, ever disturbed me when I managed to grab a nap. He was just as sleep-deprived, but not the one recovering from the physical feat of gestating, and then delivering, a fully-formed human being.
When You Can’t Sleep
When my kids were newborns, I remember moments when I was so overtired, I couldn’t get to sleep. It would make me so angry, like on top of feeling like sh*t, I couldn’t even will my body into getting the rest it needed to push past it. My brain was firing, figuring out what the emotion of the moment was, in the hormone tornado that is the aftermath of childbirth. It's safe to say my husband never fully understood what I was going through, but he never questioned the validity of what I was feeling, even if I couldn’t accurately express it.
When You Struggle With Feeling Like You're "Enough"
I never struggled with feeling like I wasn’t “enough” before I became a mother, and found myself stretched across so many people’s wants and needs. No one person can be all the things for somebody else. When my husband and I argue, I get upset because I worry that we don’t agree on certain things. When my kids and I are cranky after a full day of work and school and travel and other people needing things from us, I feel like I can’t give them one more inch of myself because I am so spent. All these feelings converge and it can make for an alarmingly empty sensation. Like, I can’t possibly be kinder, or more patient, or more energetic, or more loving, because I’m just so done. Nobody is spared from experiencing this low point. What helps me in these unavoidable moments, is knowing that the feeling won’t last forever. One of us will apologize. We’ll all catch up on sleep. The tension will break because the desire for household peace trumps the feeling of “winning” a family argument.
I won’t ever be “enough” if I hold that goal over my own head. Thankfully, my husband is smart enough to set a more reasonable bar. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t need to bring my A-game all the time. I will mess up, as will he. However, we took vows to hang on through the rough patches, and it’s still worth it to us to honor those vows. I know that’s not the case for all couples. People evolve, and may drift apart, and there's nothing wrong with realizing you're not longer compatible. At least for me, and when I’m feeling like I’m not “enough” for him, or my kids, I am not afraid that it will end us as a family.
When You Think You Suck At Parenting
When I hit a low point, it means everything to have someone to commiserate with, or someone to lift me up and tell me I’m actually not a failure as a mom, or someone who knows I don’t want to talk about it but is just there.
When It’s The Future And You Have Someone Who Shares Your Memories
I can’t predict what life will be like decades from now when I’m an empty-nester, but I know that some of my best nights with my oldest friends are either spent making memories, or sharing them. I want to look back on my life, and my time with my kids, with someone who shared the experience with me. That person will “get” me. They’ll know, without speaking, what I’ve been through, whether it’s been unbridled joy, or heart-piercing woe. To have a parenting partner now sets me up for the future, with a person to pat my hand and assure me that, yes, it was all worth it, even if the love between us has run out. I like that little picture of the two of us in my mind, at a time years from now when it’s just us again, transformed as childrearing veterans.