Shortly before our daughter was born, my wife and I sat down to put the finishing touches on our looming child-care situation. It was a no-brainer. I was already a full-time house husband, having left my job as a journalist to nurture my fledgling songwriting career; my wife had cultivated a successful dental practice. Unless we wanted to live close to the poverty line, she would be the one supporting the family. I would stay home with our baby.
On paper it sounded great, and indeed it was. I dutifully took care of the home front, writing music and lyrics in between feedings, changes and naps. By the time my wife came home from work, I was exhausted, splattered with breast milk and ready to shed my skin, but otherwise gratified that I had given our daughter the best day I could.
But before I could nominate myself for Homemaker of the Year, a curious thing happened: My wife began to correct my work—small-ticket things that didn’t quite pass muster. On one occasion I discovered that she had put an undershirt on our baby, never mind that the temperature in our home was on a par with Equatorial Guinea. On another, she decided that our daughter needed to be held upright for ten minutes after a bottle feed, rather than the five minutes I had routinely been holding her. Other times, I wasn’t pretreating the stains on the Onesies properly before putting them in the wash.
My wife is the first to admit that she can micromanage. But it hurt my feelings to think that my decisions weren’t being appreciated. Not only that, it stirred up gauzy childhood memories of my older sister taking me to task for dressing her dolls as ninja warriors.
My newfound maternal mojo, which had been firing on all cylinders, was beginning to sputter. “Listen, honey,” I told her, “I don’t come to your office and redrill your patients’ teeth. Why do you feel the need to redo the work I’ve done at home?”
My wife explained that she longed to have a hand in the day-to-day care of our daughter, but couldn’t because she was the working parent. She envied my role as primary caregiver. Her “corrections,” she said, were just her way of asserting herself at a mom.
As in all good partnerships, discord eventually yielded to practicality and domestic harmony. I realized that my wife wasn’t knocking my parenting skills. It was simply nature taking its course. That understanding was the first step in letting go of the feeling that I was being overruled. My anger, which had flared during those head-to-head moments, morphed into sympathy, and I began to hang back and let my wife enjoy being a mom.
These days, when my wife redresses our child, it’s a nonissue. And given her superior fashion sensibilities, another benefit has emerged: There’s little chance our daughter will grow up dressing like a ninja warrior.
When Mommy Comes First
There are times when it’s essential to hang back and let my wife take the reins.
1. After work. A charging bull has nothing on my wife when she’s rushing home to see our daughter. I’ve learned not to wear anything red.
2. When the baby is in “mommy mode.” I know when it’s time to make myself scarce.
3. During the playoffs. Distraction can be a beautiful thing.