Last weekend, before the tail end of the tropical cyclone doused Perth and the South West with unseasonable rains, we experienced a unique family situation. It had been a beautiful, hot day in the Geographe region, approximately 34 degrees, and we were now sweltering and fidgeting, trying to get to sleep in the mezzanine of a tin beach shelter with no air conditioning. Little M. had three-quarters of a double bed, I had a quarter and hubby had a single mattress on the floor, which he had previously lugged up the stairs from the bunk bed arrangement in the second bedroom. The double was pressed up against the wall, so the little one was safe and I clung to the edge of the bed with one hand. The other draped over the side to grasp hubby’s hand. We giggled at the ridiculousness of the situation. “Thanks for a lovely day”, he whispered, trying not to wake M. even though we both knew she’d be awake anyway in about an hour’s time.
This was our first break away, just the three of us, since Little M. arrived on the scene. A much appreciated Christmas gift from my parents. It was actually hubby’s first week’s holiday in nearly a year. It is difficult for him to get time off, but also holiday pay never includes all the over time hours. Another one of those things that isn’t really spoken about, or truly prepared for, prior to having a bub. The impact of another mouth, be it a small one, and the reduction from two wages to one and a bit is tangible. But this break was much-needed, not only to enable hubby to recuperate after nearly a year of work, but also to give us the time to reconnect. There are no issues in our relationship, but we have had no time to just be together since having M. We have chosen to live far from family and so must live with the difficulties that this can sometimes bring. This time together was precious and longed for.
It was during this moment of realisation over how M. controlled even our sleeping arrangements whilst away, that I recognised the sacrifices hubby had made over these past two years. I am always going on about how much I have had to give up and change. How absolutely no element of my life is the same – friends, work, social life, spending capacity, free time – as it was before she came into our world. But I have rarely given a second thought to what hubby has also given up. And he has done it without complaint.
I hadn’t heard of Attachment Parenting before having M. I did a hell of a lot of reading about having a baby, but not about parenting a baby. It was only once I had her that I instinctively did certain things that I then researched and discovered where my parenting style ‘fitted’. I could never leave her to cry, wore her nearly all the time and slept with her for many months before I learnt about Attachment parenting and Attachment Theory. Then, the more I read about it and spoke to others, the more I recognised that this was the path for me and her. Not once did I speak to hubby to see how he felt about it. I just bombarded him with information in the evenings and sent him links to sites to read whilst he was at work. I know the Gentle Parenting approach is part of his nature too, but I instigated and ‘ran’ with it. Not once has he objected or disagreed with anything that this requires. He knows how much this is benefiting our daughter and he sees her growth in confidence and personality due to the choices we have made. As I lay there, not bothering to try to sleep in the unbearable heat, I thought, how amazing is this man. He has never complained about having to share his bed with a frequently waking baby and now squirmy toddler, even though he has to get up at 3 am to go to work. Not once has he suggested she move into her own room. He has never made comment about the fact that she is still demand breastfeeding. He has never complained when I drop everything, even our conversations, to dash to her or play with her or read to her, whenever she asks me too. He has never moaned about her being attached to my hip most of the time so that he often can’t get a hug in with just me. I suddenly got it. He has given up a lot too, he has given up being the centre of my world for over 10 years, and he has done it without me even knowing.
Yes, we women sacrifice so much when we become mothers. We are never prepared for the amount we have to give up and change and we know we will never be the same as we were. But these men in our life’s, these fathers and partners, also lose things. I know in this era of new age feminism, this is a very unfashionable point of view, but it how I feel after having the space to see and reflect on how the dynamics of our family have formed. That is why I haven’t written for the past week. I believe that I owed my hubby that, my attention 100 percent, for the week of his holiday. And I gave it with love and gratitude for who he is and what he does.
On the last night of our holiday, after M. was asleep, we turned on the TV in the beach shack for the first time and discovered that it had Foxtel films. What a treat! But instead of curling up to watch “ Star Trek: Beyond” in silence, I suggested we turn off the TV and do what we had been doing every night since we came away. That was to sit outside on the loungers, drink wine, laugh and talk. We discussed how we’d reno the shack, what we’d spend the lottery win on if we were ever that lucky, and played our favourite game of “ Remember when….?” This involves dragging a random as possible memory from our 10 years of round the world travel and revelling in the warmth of the shared recollection. We had definitely reconnected. Who knows when we will get this time to be just us together again or when a game of “ Remember when?” may give us the chance to relive the time we were in a sweaty beach shack with a fidgeting toddler and a mattress on the floor.