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All Parents Need Support


Last night Tom (my partner in crime and parenting) returned from a week and a half of travel.  During that time I did my part to hold down the fort and care for our two kids, make sure everyone ate enough, slept enough, got their teeth brushed, got dressed (eventually) and didn’t injure themselves or anyone else.  They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it also really made me appreciate all the things Tom does to help our household run smoothly.  I had no idea how often he brushed Beatrice’s teeth until he was gone and I had to brush them twice a day, every day.  I kept thinking, “Didn’t I just brush these teeth?”  So many little things went unnoticed until they suddenly reappeared on my to-do list.

This got me thinking about the role of dads in the parent vortex.  Some dads are indeed irresistibly engulfed by being a parent, some are stay-at-home dads, others have their daily or weekly routines that they do with their kids.  They brush teeth, they change nappies, they take kids to swimming or skating or soccer.  Today’s dads are involved, they are emotionally available, they are researching and reading and learning about parenting philosophies.  Just one generation ago it was not uncommon for dads to be completely uninvolved with childbirth and baby care, now they’re interviewing doulas and doing full-time diaper duty.

Parents often need more support than just each other to make their lives run smoothly.  Childcare providers, playgroups, preschool teachers, friends and extended family – all provide valuable support.  However, when our supports are working well they tend to become less visible.  Not necessarily taken for granted, but we just aren’t immediately aware of everything that they do to create space, time and energy for our own projects, for work and rest, for all the shoelaces that get tied when we’re not looking.  For the teeth that are brushed without us even noticing.

Who is your most valuable parenting support?  Why?

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  • Janet Lansbury March 26, 2010, 10:15 pm

    It’s true that times have changed in regard to dads and parenting. In the 17 years I have been a mom, my husband went from considering his time with the babies “babysitting” to being a full-time hands-on dad. Like H.Clinton, I believe it “Takes a Village…” and, unfortunately, many of us live far from relatives, grandparents, and are distanced from our neighbors. I feel blessed to have found a couple of amazing parenting mentors who have made all the difference, one of whom stayed with my younger two for a few hours, a couple of days a week, and had the most amazing observations to share with me.

    The parenting classes I took years ago, and now teach, provide a small support group that parents can ‘refuel’ with each week. I think there is pressure on moms today to be there 24-7 for their babies, and not rely on friends or relatives to help. It can create burnout, guilt and resentment. I hate the expression “me time,” but I do think moms need time away from babies. When we miss our baby a bit, we come back excited to see him again. That’s good for everybody. As your story demonstrates, sometimes we don’t know what we got ’til it’s gone.

  • Meagan Francis March 28, 2010, 7:58 pm

    Besides my husband, my mom friends and sister are my biggest support. I know I can always count on them if I need to, whether I have a child care emergency or just need somebody to meet me at the playground so I don’t have to stand there alone pushing the swing over and over. It took me a long time to seek out that kind of support–I just didn’t realize how important it was when my big kids were little. It has absolutely changed my life and the way I view motherhood.

    • michelle March 28, 2010, 9:51 pm

      Janet – it is definitely important to refuel, both with time away and with other parents who will listen and offer support. I always find it interesting how I see my baby differently when I’ve had a morning “off”. She comes home and I suddenly notice how she’s grown, how her hair is different now, etc.

      Meagan – very true! My mom friends certainly helped keep me from going batty inside the house with two little people and no adults to talk to while my husband was traveling. :)