Two days a fortnight…
Friends urge me to drink copious amounts of wine when my little boy visits his dad. I can go to the cinema, or to the pub; on a weekday. I went to bed at eleven last night and slept ALL night. I will not lie and say that the freedom to put on makeup and go to work without porridge in my hair isn’t nice. Things are peaceful and relaxed, and god do I need a rest.
But I am not the person I was before mummy hood, who had hour long bubble baths and could watch an entire Netflix series in a night. Pre-parent you do not appreciate the freedom of time; it goes so slowly and smoothly. Not in an endless battle to put on shoes or eat peas. Yet now without my son, whilst I relish this me time, I find myself glancing at the clock and wondering how long it will be until he is home. I miss him. I am happy; getting to spend some much needed and enjoyed time with my other half. We eat food that is not beige. But there is an empty space in the house, a shouty, cape-wearing three foot hole.
I want to call every hour to check he is happy and safe; I worry constantly and quietly to myself. There is an invisible something between he and I, which stretches across distance. Sometimes it pulls at me so hard I feel the need to go and clasp my son’s teddy tight. I have learnt to turn my control freak button on off. Let it go, the world is not going to end if at daddy’s he watches an extra hour more TV than I would allow.
There is a little voice in my head, a dark spiky voice that worries he will enjoy being with his dad more. I have to put my jealousy, envy and ego in a box. I also put away my guilt that little boy has to be in a shared parenting situation. He is not just my son but ours and has enough love for both his parents and we are both important. But what’s more important than a mother little voice says? He needs us both I say back; you don’t need a parental crown.
My dad was absent in my life, perhaps that colours my anxiety as I do not have a template for a ‘good’ dad. Then I think of my grandfather, my partner, their quiet constancy and I know that having supportive, loving male role models do matter. Many dads successfully share custody and are tuned into their children’s lives and needs, children live solely with their loving, dedicated fathers, and others desperately want to see their children more but cant.
I advocate for equality but inside my own family I know I can be biased and short-sighted which is sometimes unfair and unhelpful. That said, my concerns are founded in empty promises, my son’s behaviour on his return, his cries as he goes at the door. It is difficult. We work hard to provide reassurance, to talk positively, to write ‘to do’ lists about what little boy wants to do with daddy. If he sees his dad as the ‘fun one’ and am the boring ‘everything else’ parent I guess I can live with that. I want them to create positive moments. It is both of their right, and I am glad he has the opportunity.
Mummy and daddy are both ‘y’ words. This is not about mums vs. dads, men vs. women. It is about my boy, his needs and my clumsy uphill struggle to be as best a parent as I can.