Dads Don’t ‘Babysit’, It’s Called ‘Parenting’

Parenting is a two-person game.

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I can almost hear my husband's eyes rolling as I say this. 

I've always felt that being the one who carried all three of our children inside my body, the one who was cut open twice to get the little monsters out, who nearly died after giving birth to our twins, who will forever have a scar down there, whose boobs will never ever be perky again, who for months cried for no reason, who did not sleep, pee alone, or have a grown-up conversation for over a year — kind of gave me a few points over him in that secret competition between all couples called "who's the better parent."

I obviously realize it's not a fair playing field, I mean it's not as if he could have given birth even if he really wanted to (or breastfed, or been hormonal, or lost his flat tummy), but in this uneven playground called "parenthood," I kind of sometimes feel I have a right to be the captain of the team if I really want to.

Having said that, lately, I've been thinking a lot about his contribution to our parenting duo. You see, on most days, I look at us as a team, and when he does something "wrong" (I mean, how many times can I explain that rinsing their mouths out with just water is not "exactly like brushing their teeth"?), I get upset because I feel he hasn't met the standard of parenting we have set out to achieve.

But when I put down my "I'm such a perfectionist" tiara and really look at him, I see an amazing father who, in the past five years, has actually taught me so much more than I ever expected he would about parenting.

When Bella (our first child) was born, I was very protective. For the first three months of her life, I hardly trusted my husband to be able to do anything right. At that point, I was offered a role in a play, which meant I had to leave her with my husband every afternoon around 5 p.m., and return home after she was fed, bathed, and all tucked up in bed.

It was my husband who encouraged me to take the part in that play and just do it, while promising me it was no big deal and that he would manage.

On opening night, I wasn't even nervous about the performance. All I could think about was Bella and if she was okay. Before leaving the house, I obviously made lists of what he needed to do, I must have texted him at least ten times before going on stage, and I rushed back home as soon as the show was over, convinced that I would walk into a war zone, screaming baby and all, and that I would never be able to leave her alone with him, ever again.

Needless to say, that was not the case.

I walked into a calm and quiet house. Bella was fast asleep and my husband was watching football. Sure, the kitchen was a mess, bottles everywhere, he hadn't washed any of them (so annoying), the bathroom floor was covered with water (OMG, he could have slipped and dropped her), and it did look like it took him at least three nappies before he finally got it right (nappy came off her later that night, wee everywhere, obviously), but the point was that he managed.

I was in shock, but at the same time, I was also so relieved.

The realization that we were in this TOGETHER and that we were, in fact, equal partners started sinking in and so the next day, I left a bit earlier for my show. By the end of the run, I was staying out for drinks with the rest of the cast, forgetting to check my phone before I went on stage, as I was confident that Bella was in the best hands she could possibly be in.

The show flopped. But that experience was the best thing that could have happened to me as a first-time mom.

You know, they say that there is nothing like a mother's love and as a mom, I relate to this saying immensely. In my mind, there are deep emotions I have towards my children that I can't imagine anyone else having, not even him. After all, I know them from before they even took their first breath, from when they were still inside me. How can his love ever compare to mine?

But the truth is that over the past five years, we have shared EVERYTHING parenthood has to offer. We've both laughed, cried, been proud, changed nappies, been weed on, pooed on, cleaned vomit, been through the works and back with sleepless nights, resorted to alcohol and taken up smoking out of the sheer stress.

It's been magical …

My husband, the father of my children, has been there for our kids in every single way that I have, and in at least one more way that I haven't yet managed. You see, despite being there on the practical level with all the day to day boring stuff parents have to do, my husband also (somehow) gets to be there for them on a level that I can't seem to reach.

He is "silly daddy." The dad that fools around and every now and then conveniently "forgets" the routine and goes freestyle while I fume in the background. It can drive me up the wall when he does that, and all the parent guide books I've read come back to haunt me as I think to myself "this is awful, the kids need to see we are united, why am I always the bad guy," blah, blah, blah.

But when I look at my kids and see what having "silly daddy" means to them, it makes me think about my own dad, and about the part he played in my life as a parent when I was growing up.

Looking back, I know that my dad was not a "hands-on" parent. He worked a lot, traveled for work, and actually did not really spend that much time with us at all. In many ways, it was my mom who raised us and like many moms of that generation, she did it all by herself with little to no help from him.

Despite that we were very close and he managed, in the time he did spend with me, to give me so much, which just proves that the good old saying "quality over quantity" is oh-so-true when it comes to most things in life, parenting included. Somehow, and maybe it was just a romantic notion I had, but in my mind, he was the best dad ever.

To me, it didn't matter that he did not make it to all of my school outings, it did not matter to me that he never cooked for me. It made no difference that he never changed my nappies or fed me. All that mattered to me as a child was that I felt loved by him and his style of parenting (when he was there) influenced me a lot.

While I'm obviously happy that my girls are being raised by a father that attends their school plays, helps with their homework, and stays up at night when they are ill, at the same time, I'm equally happy that he has that "silly daddy" side, which I know they will cherish forever.

When I look at my husband, I see someone who is involved, present, and who actually wants to be there. He does not "babysit" our kids, he is parenting them and there's a massive difference between the two. Sure, he gets it "wrong" plenty and I'm sometimes amazed he hasn't killed any of them by mistake. But even these so-called imperfections in his parenting style are such a blessing for our girls.

I realize I should thank him every day for showing them (and me) that there is more than one way of doing things. More than one way of parenting. If it wasn't for him, my kids would have to take it from their perfectionist mother, who is obsessed with organizing and planning, whereas with him they get to have some (or rather a lot of) chaos and spontaneity.

I know many new moms find it hard to "trust" their partners with the kids for fear they will do things "wrong." As mentioned, it's something I, too, struggled with when we were new parents. The truth is that I realized a long time ago that, although he does things "his way" and it's not always how I like it, our kids LOVE his way, and it's actually me that needs to chill and get onboard, and not the other way round.

So here's to all the amazing dads out there, we are not grateful for your "help," we don't feel blessed for being born into a reality different to that of our mothers, we are simply happy that our children get to have you in their lives. For better, for worse, and with everything in between.

Cover photo courtesy of The Dad Network