When I gave birth to my first child I, like many new mothers, operated under the belief that only I could care for him in the way that he needed. That’s not to say I didn’t suffer from my own share of insecurities as a mother or that I didn’t worry if I was doing things correctly. I did plenty of that.
Is he getting enough to eat? Did I burp him for long enough? Is he too warm? His toes are cold. He’s cold. I knew it. Why didn’t I put socks on him?
But despite that nagging voice in the back of my head questioning my every move, I still believed that my worst attempts at parenting were better than, say, my mother-in-law’s best. After all, my son and I shared a sacred bond. A bond that rendered me clearly superior at interpreting his cries, wiping his spit up, and changing his diaper.
Unfortunately, this assumption was not one that I reserved only for in-laws and extended relatives. In those first few months I did not discriminate. When I reluctantly handed my newborn son off to another person, I never quelled the urge to remind them to be careful! Support his neck!
“Don’t drop him!” I told my husband one morning when he lifted a 3-month-old Anders from his crib.
I will never forget the way he sighed, so exasperated, the way he gently laid our son back down, turned to me, put both hands on my shoulders and said, “I love him. I love him as much as you do. I’m his dad. Let me do this. Your way of doing things is not my way, but that doesn’t make it the wrong way.”
It was an illuminating moment in that I realized that by being exhaustively critical of the help offered by others I was running myself ragged and even worse, in my husband’s case, I was undermining his ability to parent.
Since that day I’ve made a conscious effort to accept help, to recognize that my way of caring for our children is wonderful, but not the only conditions under which they can thrive. I’ve even come to realize that some of my husband’s tactics are more effective than my own.
I always come back to this moment when preparing for a business trip. There’s nothing like a few days away from my family to make me regress to the days of childcare micro-managing. I want to write down all the things, cook all the meals, pack all the school bags!!! What if my husband forgets something critical?!
Then I remind myself of that moment in the nursery all those years ago and I whisper under my breath, “It’s okay. He’s not going to drop them.”
And he never has.