I’ve struggled with the idea of writing this blog post … but over the last few months, I’ve run into a few other friends and coworkers who have shared similar experiences. And since I always try to write about topics that my own “heart” would want and need to hear … well, here we are.
I’m talking about not being the favorite parent. It’s my fault really … for finding and falling in love with someone so fabulous in all ways. My husband, Chris, is kind, hysterically funny, patient, strong, creative, musically inclined and a lover of all things fast food. He is a child’s dream. He can engage in creative play for hours on end, strum out impromptu favorite songs on the guitar without having played them before, and then be just as excited to eat McDonalds as the children are as they shovel fistful of French fries from their Happy Meal boxes into their mouths.
Chris has always had a special bond with our now three year old daughter, Lucy, whose feet have rarely touched the ground since birth. Ever since she could speak, she pleads, “Up, up dada!” always wanting to be in the comfort of his arms. Their connection is unbreakable – as I always knew it would be when I saw Chris look at her for the first time in that hospital operating room in September 2015. Their mutual love is endearing and how could I blame them? My heart bursts when I look at each of them too.
In the fall of 2016, when I found out that I was pregnant with a little boy, my mind and heart flooded with the common visions of “mama’s boys”. I had heard that there is this unspoken connection that exists between sons and their mothers. I never grew up with boys, since my immediate and extended family consisted mainly of girls, but I definitely saw this indescribable bond displayed between my sister and her (then) two young boys. She, a working mom like me, who somehow has managed to solve the work-life balance equation despite her demanding job as an executive. Her boys constantly vying for her attention – their eyes twinkling every time they look at her. I was so excited to feel this same mutual connection.
Teddy: Enter Stage Left
My son, Theodore (“Teddy”) joined our family in April 2017 – and the four glorious months of special maternity leave time with him was over in what seemed like a sleepless blur. Add a relocation from Connecticut to Boston during that time and throw two new jobs in the mix and we’re lucky we knew what side was “up”. As if relying on our internal compass wasn’t enough, October of that year brought another “family milestone change” when we transitioned Lucy and Teddy from a full time nanny to day care. This was a significant change on many levels – new routines weren’t the only things being introduced to our lives as we begrudgingly saw every “tiny human germ” under the sun grace us (infect us?) with its presence. Lucy and Teddy both were sick for what felt like two months straight as Chris and I both tried to balance taking care of them along with our full time jobs.
Given the global nature of my role, I typically have early morning calls with Asia that fall directly during prime day care drop off time. That leaves Chris responsible for drop offs on most days – and on the days when I would accompany him, Lucy wouldn’t want me to hold her as we walked in. The same theme started happening during pick-ups, then tubby times and during evening routines – when Lucy would start to cry hysterically when I would try and take the lead. As this Lucy friction continued to be a theme, Teddy’s vocabulary started to develop and his favorite word? You guessed it: “dada”. Somewhere around this time, I learned I was pregnant with our third child, arriving in March 2019. A little girl.
Nothing to Offer – Other than Solidarity
I have confided in Chris as well as several family members and friends about the deep sadness that I feel about all of this. When my children are downstairs with me, yet crying for “dada” who is simply upstairs, it literally rips my heart into a thousand pieces. How did this happen to a mom like me? After all, in my heart of hearts, I know that I am a good (no, great) mom. I cook for them, play with them and have been known to bust out a silly song or two (granted, sans guitar) while dancing like a looney toon around the kitchen. I love my children more than I could love anyone in this life – and quite literally all that I do in this life is for them. As any mother would do, I have started to second guess myself (“I stopped breastfeeding too early”; “I shouldn’t be working so much”; “I shouldn’t be working at all”; “We shouldn’t have introduced a nanny so early”; “We put them into day care too soon”; etc.) I’ve planned special “Lucy/ Mommy” and “Teddy/ Mommy” dates, have bent “the rules” when I can to try to get in their good graces and have tried to convince myself that this is only “a phase”.
I come to you with no solution … no “lessons learned”. No magic aha moment or moving inspirational quote to be shared on Instagram. Rather, I am a mom sharing my experience and making myself incredibly vulnerable in the process. However, if there are other moms going through something similar, I want you to know that you’re not alone.