For a couple of relationally progressive folks, our family set-up is rather traditional. I tend the young and the home while my partner, Randy, goes out into the wild to provide.
This past week I attended my third residency for my MFA program at Queens University. Most work is done online but for one full week—Sunday through Saturday—twice per year, I’m on campus like higher education is my only calling. Instead of leaving for work, Randy sets up camp at home and I pack my bags and head out into the world. It’s like Freaky Friday meets domestic partnership.
And it was hard.
The first evening when I got home I was greeted maniacally by the baby and the dog, both waiting eagerly at the baby gate, reaching their arms and paws through the bars, yelping in elation. Normally if the baby’s not snoozing by 8:30 I’m quoting some portion of the book “Go the F*ck to Sleep,” but she was up with me until about 10:30.
I found myself drinking in those moments instead of craving the quiet of the night.
As the week went on, the house got messier. Randy was working full-time to my part-time, able to do little other than take conference calls with a tired and sometimes crying baby. I had only the emotional energy to work while on campus and come home each night and crash.
And as the week went on I got more and more mopey, missing my little fam and swearing to them I would never, ever leave. (Not that I’d ever really leave but we’ve all had the escape fantasy, right?)
I began to notice things changing that likely would not have happened otherwise. I began getting these epiphany texts from Randy, both individually and within a group, saying things like “this is really hard” and “props to all the moms on this text. I didn’t realize how much you do.”
While he’s sending these texts out, I’m in a classroom listening to wonderful seminars about vertical versus horizontal narration, beginning to realize how hard it is to leave each day and how much I miss my family when I’m gone. The whole family expects me to be here always, able to meet their needs and sit on the floor and play. The whole family expects me to be fully available and engaged with them at all times.
While I love this role, I have certainly spent time begrudging it. Meanwhile, Randy would tell me he wished he had the opportunity to stay home with the kids more.
Then he got his opportunity. A different bond began to grow with him and the baby that hadn’t been there previously. Normally reaching for me when in the arms of anyone else, she began to crawl off my lap and into his arms. He began to realize how in sync he is with her and what it’s like to anticipate her needs and how fulfilling it is to meet them.
This morning, as I sit here writing this, I’m doing work in sweatpants while the baby is sleeping and Randy is packing a lunch to head back to his corporate America cubicle. Both of us love what we do but have each been profoundly impacted by being in the shoes of the other, our love and appreciation for one another deepening unexpectedly because of a week of grad school that I almost didn’t attend.
Randy says “props to all the moms” (which I totally agree—keep it up, you badasses), and I say props to all you parents out there in your routines with your hectic schedules and your busy lives.
Props to the moms who leave the house daily, to the dads who stay home, to the parents dropping their kids off at daycare and with nannies. We can all get really stuck in our routines and it’s good to remember that no matter which side you’re on, the other almost always looks brighter.
Photo: Liz Logan