The fumbling around for the reassurance of rhythm after a new baby had begun to touch on normalcy. Every evening, I would scoop up our baby son, head downstairs, and put him to bed, while my daughter basked in individual attention from my husband – her daddy. One particular night, a semblance of life rhythm still new, I put myself to sleep while putting the baby down. Upon waking, I stumbled upstairs, bleary eyes seeking our curly-haired daughter to begin her bedtime routine, the next link in our daily loop. I’m making this work. I’m exhausted, but I’m doing it all, I told myself, marching up the stairs.
Establishing normalcy meant feeling as if our family could wrap our arms around life as a crew of four, and move forward; but this new life was also a tiring one, sometimes spent fumbling around from work to commitment to chores deeply tired, and with double the tiny humans we enjoyed had previously. My return from maternity leave the month prior had been marinated in tears (mine) and endless worry over how we would survive (also mine).
My tired mind often drifted to playing out the exhausting minutia: rise early, tackle housework, execute career work, enjoy children, manage housework, execute bedtime routine, enjoy husband time, prepare for bed, wake for midnight nursing, rise early and repeat. The “mom work” never truly stops, a constant hat worn underneath any other hat; on conference calls, during business trips, on date nights and at girls’ nights. Worrying, praying, listening, planning, tending, kissing, loving. In this return to work, I’d somehow altered the truth narrative; replaying the daily loop to myself, I found myself forgetting that the dad work never stops, either. It too is a constant hat worn underneath the other hats.
And then I spotted them.
My husband, still in his work clothes after hours already home, with his back to the stairs, facing the sink. My daughter, curls wild after a day of running free, standing beside him. She, tasked with drying the dishes he was washing, found hilarity in snatching the plates and dumping them back into the dishwater, watching the bubbles fly, the water spill, and the rewashing occur. Over and over–an endless loop of silly.
At the end of the (long) day, I would not have found this nearly as funny. But they were both laughing and teasing, repeating their joke like a comedic duo.
What I would have been tempted to cut short in favor of resting, my husband embraced as an opportunity to encourage our toddler to help with dishes, to establish she is special, and to foster silliness as she “helped.”
This. This is why the teamwork of parenting is paramount to creating the best rhythm of all, and the most detrimental of temptations is to believe otherwise, to bite into the narrative that we are carrying a heavier load, and to believe our partner isn’t pulling his weight.
Posted schedules, rigorous routines. Organization. Sometimes, in the happy chaos of raising littles, it’s tempting to orchestrate to feign control.
Some days, that posted schedule and executed routine is the only thing that makes me feel like I have control over the rhythm of the day. Wake up, get ready, clear the counters, nurse the baby. Work. Work. Work. Nurse. Work. Work. Work. Hug babies. Play. Walk. Make dinner. Feed babies. Bathe babies. Tuck babies in. Work. Talk to husband. Sleep. Repeat.
But sometimes my husband gets crazy ideas in his head. Like, what if we make a special dessert bedtime snack for our daughter?
Oh, but she didn’t eat her vegetables tonight.
Her eyes glowed, delighted, when they spotted two bites of pie. And then she ate a bite of broccoli in her glee.
Or, what if instead of the calming baby massage I planned for pajama time, we tickle the baby until he can’t laugh anymore?
He’s now wide awake, but he’s also inspired the whole family to a fit of giggles.
When I try to exclude my husband from the team, mentally or in reality, I rob our song of a key melody. Still, sometimes, that ugly urge to clutch all the duties in my micro-managing grasp, emerges as I become momentarily certain that only I, only mom, can do things exactly right. Sometimes, it requires chanting a little truth, letting the Pinterest standards, self-imposed requirements and roles, and drive for appearances to crumble away.
I’m not a failure as a mom, or a woman, or a wife, when my husband does the dishes nearly every night. We’re actually better as a team because my husband recognizes when the kids need some extra mom time, and grabs a dinner duty shift.
He’s not a failure as a dad, or a man, or a husband, when he’s had a crushing week and needs to sleep in, and I keep the kids downstairs to play until he wakes up naturally.
Only mom can breastfeed, but dad might make some legendary bedtime snacks.
Mom might give the best kisses to hurt little knees, but dad’s tickles might transform the tears into a fit of giggles instead.
This is the joy of being part of a team. Saturday mornings come early with a baby. I pass them snuggling, feeding, reading, just he and I until he’s ready to nap and the oldest wakes. She and I then bustle around the kitchen, sloshing ingredients across the counter as we pursue our objective: waffles. My husband sleeps until the aroma of fresh coffee and cooking batter stirs him from bed. We both win; I with a now-cherished tradition, he, with some extra sleep. I’ll say it again, so you don’t miss it: we both win. When we eschew bitterness, scorekeeping, and self-martyrdom and instead embrace grace, flexibility, and partnership, the sweet rhythm of family life blossoms into a melody nuanced with the beauty, joy, and humor only teamwork can bring. We really are better together.
Kelsi Roberts lives in Seattle, Washington, where she and her husband are raising their two kids (ages 3 and 1). Kelsi works full time from a home office. She strives to make space for the important things and model what it looks like to love Jesus, raise babies, and work full time for her observant little people. She has learned this requires a lot of grace and a lot of Pinterest fails. You can find her navigating this on Instagram or on her very occasional blog contributions: https://littlespacesblog.wordpress.com/