I’m worried my husband is a better parent than I am. There, I said it. It seems like such a ridiculous thing to say out loud. This is not a competition. But for some reason, I feel an undeniable sense of guilt over it.
Maybe it’s because even though we are a team, equal partners in our relationship and parenting, we have unspoken defined roles and responsibilities. It’s not a competition over who is better, who does more. But anytime he picks up the slack, I am equally grateful and filled with a sense of inadequacy.
When we had our children, the plan was to have him continue to work full time while I stayed home with our babies. I underestimated the physical, mental, and emotional toll that being the primary caretaker would have on me. I envisioned having all day to tackle my to-do list. Caring for babies, cooking meals, playdates, working out, cleaning. I had all day, right? Famous last words. As most moms know, the hours feel more like minutes, and often by the time my husband got home, I would still be in the pajamas he left me in. Add a couple more babies to the mix. Rinse and repeat day after day, year after year.
I assumed as the babies grew into toddlers and eventually school-aged children, it would get a little easier. But my frazzled state just evolved from washing endless amounts of bottles and washing piles of onesies to being a constant mom taxi and helping with homework while washing bigger piles of laundry and trying to hold down a part-time job to feel some sense of myself.
I feel overwhelmed almost daily. When I get overwhelmed, I shut down. I know this is counterproductive, but I seem to start one task and get distracted by something else that needs to be done, essentially never finishing anything.
My husband does a great job of sensing my stress and will jump in to help out. He is a “fixer.” He will walk in from work and analyze what needs to be done, all with a smile on his face. Cooking dinner? Packing lunches? He’s on it. Grocery shopping? No problem. He sees the holes in the fabric of our day and mends us back together.
He never makes me feel bad about everything he does. There is never a guilt trip or finger-pointing at who does what. But my inner self-worth feels it. I worry I’m not enough. I’m not pulling my weight, holding up my end of the parenting bargain.
Deep down, I worry my kids will remember my husband as the primary parent, the main caretaker. And as a stay-at-home parent for most of their childhood, what does that mean for me? Does that erase all of the years I spent with them within their memory?
I know my guilt should be replaced with gratitude for everything he does for our family. Or better yet, figuring out a way to replace being overwhelmed with manageable tasks and expectations.
I’m trying to put myself in the shoes of what I would tell a friend who confided this to me. “Give yourself grace,” I would say. “You are doing your best and are contributing more than you realize.” But for some reason, when I tell myself those words, they feel empty.
When my children are grown, and out on their own, I want to look back and be able to say, “Job well done.” I guess I’m fearful that instead, I’ll look back and think of the ways I fell short. What I could have done better. That there will be resentment from what I didn’t do.
So, I’m going to do my best to take a deep breath and tackle one thing at a time. And learn to love myself. Because when my children look at me and wrap their little arms around my neck, I know they don’t think of me as less than parent. My unconditional love is enough for them. I hope I can learn that it’s enough for me too.