Do you remember the woman I described to you, soaking in every second of her daughter's ballet class with delight?
She is living her dream career. These are the moments that her desires point her to, that she has been yearning for and shaping her steps towards.
But in that moment, her husband didn't see it. They may have better communication other days, but he is missing all the signs, verbal and non-verbal this time.
A few weeks into ballet class the woman's husband was able to come watch because his flight for work was canceled. She shared the moments with him, explaining what typically occurred and laughing together over the sweet picture their daughter made as she twirled and engaged on and off in the class; she is still young. Further on into class that day, he and I engaged in conversation, with his wife coming in and out of the discussion as she dealt with their infant son. He shared with me how excited he is to think about the day, not too far away, when the children can be in school and/or daycare and he and his wife can both "actively pursue their careers once again," mentioning the burden that will take off him to provide and the higher income level they will be able to achieve.
Their bodies spoke such disparate stories in that moment. His face alight with anticipation at the improved financial position his family will be in. Hers, slightly behind him and to his side, as she stepped back in to join us, the light fading in her eyes, crestfallen, her words not agreeing but also not arguing the point. She wants to stay home and raise the children as her main focus.
I knew from prior conversations that she does not have any particular "career" she is returning to. She explained she had had a series of jobs, none leading anywhere in particular, and that care giving brings her joy. She grew up care giving for her sibling with special needs, was a caregiver as employment for awhile with an "adult child" and now happily has arrived at her time as a mother, pouring this gift for care giving into her own two little lives.
He doesn't see it. He didn't notice the "ballet class glow" leave her face as she rejoined our conversation. I didn't know them well enough to feel justified in saying anything, but I have thought of her and him often since, with a twinge of sorrow mixed with prayer.
Please, please talk about it! We arrive or stumble into parenthood carrying piles of preconceived notions of what it will all look like. Our partner may arrive with ideas that are entirely different. Even if similar when we start, those ideas and desires about parenting may change, frequently! Don't trap your partner into playing a role they do not want. It harms you, them, your relationship, their thoughts about themself, their thoughts about life and their relationship with your children, as well as your children's perception of their parents.
Babies are meant to be loved, cared for, safe, comforted, happy and so much more. A caregiver coming to the parent role from the place they want to, has such a greater reservoir of love, comfort and acceptance to give, because they can feel love, peace and acceptance for themself first!
In my earlier article (link at bottom of page) I talked about the dramatically different range of lifestyles people can parent from and yet still be a wonderful, loving parent. I believe just as firmly that people should set up their lives to parent how they dream to, to the absolute best of their ability to do so and given the limitations of their family situation.
A mother who dreams of also being a practicing physician, will not thrive in the muddle of diaper changing, naps, snacks, playgrounds, and routine of "stay at home" life. She wants her children, but appreciates the nannies and daycare workers who keep her children happy, stimulated and safe until she arrives for them in the evening and over the weekends.
A mother who dreams of staying home will have her heart broken every time she drops her child at daycare and they protest in the slightest. She will succeed in her career but will perhaps see the accolades as shallow and empty, remembering the cuddling, playing, story reading, errands together, and daily minutiae of child life that she missed to earn them.
Talk about it! Ask your spouse, your partner, your significant other, whoever you are raising your children with. Ask them what they want! And be ready to listen. Please do not assume that an opinion expressed before children, or even a year ago, still stands today just because it remains your current set up. They may have changed their mind. They may not know how to tell you without sounding ungrateful, or like they are rejecting parenthood or asking you to take on too much of a financial burden. Please, please talk about it!
I wish you all the joy in the world as you continue to figure parenting life out together!
P.S. Here is the previous post I mentioned:
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