It’s no secret that Don and I have always been a bit unconventional. We’d officially been a thing for a few weeks before going on our first date, and had spent only a handful of nights apart by the time we decided to move in together, just three months into our relationship. After rushing into cohabitation, we waited nearly eight years to make it official and when it did finally come time to get married, I handed him a stack of cash and a photo of the ring I wanted custom-made. As for wedding vows… well, we both sort of forgot to write them so we just made them up on the spot. Given our history, it just makes sense that when it comes to domestic duties and raising a family, we’d take a bit of a non-traditional approach there, too.
Almost a year ago now, Don gave his notice at a job he only kinda-sorta liked, and I accepted a job that I hands-down love. I went back to work full-time, and Don said good-bye to the corporate world and hello to CBC Kids. His official title on Facebook now reads: Hausband at The Sunshine Brigade.
And it’s a role he’s wholly embraced.
While I’m off at work talking to grown-ups and earning a paycheque, Don is home doing the most important job ever: raising Nyana. From morning ’til night, it’s daddy/daughter time; Nyana and Don getting breakfast together, going grocery shopping, going to doctors’ appointments, going to the park. From first light until the middle of the night, she and I are his number one priority, and the upkeep of the house, his second. He does it all, and I do very little. If I were to draft a chart outlining household responsibilities, you would find “bath time”, “dinner dishes”, and “managing finances” beside my name. Beside Dons, everything else. Everything. I go to work and pay the bills; he raises our child manages the home. It’s very much a role reversal.
So as you can imagine, Saturday and Sunday are often mama/daughter days. I get to dress her and do her hair and take her grocery shopping and to the park. Sometimes we go on transit adventures into the city and sometimes we have shopping lunch dates at the mall. I get to give Don a bit of a break from his non-stop job—who am I kidding, he vacuums on Saturdays when Nyana and I go out—but most importantly, I get to feel like her mum for 48 hours. It’s not how I’d imagined my life as a mother; when I was growing up my mum ran a daycare out of our home and there were always handfuls of kids around our house. I grew up believing I was great with kids and I that loved them dearly and that I would have at least four of my own. I would be a stay-at-home-mum until the kids were in school and I’d fill my days making playdough and brownies and family meals. I always saw myself as a working mother eventually, but I never imagined myself as the sole breadwinner for the children’s earliest years.
Not that I’m complaining. I think back to those days in the NICU when I was so impatient to get her home, and then when we did finally get her home, how impatient I was with her and her tackle and the lack of normalcy that surrounded us. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful having her home, but in retrospect there was a lot of frustration and unhappiness on my part, being home alone with her and her BPD and her machines that kept her alive. In those months between us bringing her home and me going back to work, I learned that while I am a great mum, I am not a great stay-at-home mum.
And I’m OK with that, as I look around the playground at the other weekend parents; mostly dads who work full-time to support their families like I do and so often miss out on the mundane day-to-day bonding moments between parent and child. Sure, it means I often fumble through my time with Ny—I don’t know her wants and needs the way Don does, I don’t speak her language the way he does, I almost always screw up routines that he’s so meticulously put in place and I frequently contradict his parenting styles—but it also means that I get to squeeze a whole week of love into 48 hours and a few after-work cuddles. And no, it’s not easy to step aside five days a week and let her be a daddy’s girl, to let go of the internal maternal instinct and let Don run the show, but it’s ultimately what’s best for Nyana and best for our family. One of us has to be the weekend parent, and it just happens that in our house, that parent is me. And as long as Nyana is OK with that, then yeah, I’m OK with that too.