Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Parenting: A Team Effort

As parents, we love our children with every essence of our beings, especially when they first come in to our lives. We likely thought that when we brought our precious little bundles into this world, we could do it all, at least as far as parenting goes.

Boy, was I sadly mistaken.  How about you?

I remember when Daniel and I first came home from the hospital with Sarah. We asked family and friends to give us at least a day or two to settle in on our own before the they arrived to meet our special addition.  As we stood there in the silence and calm of our apartment, staring at Sarah, then at our cat, and back at each other, we knew that life from then on was going to be different.  We also thought, and said out loud to each other, "what are we supposed to do now...where's the manual on how she works?"

As the days, weeks and months went by enamored by this little person in our lives, the amount of responsibility also grew exponentially.  Fortunately, Daniel was really sweet and supportive, especially since I was nursing Sarah. He often said, "my job is to take care of you and your job is take care of Sarah."

He didn't mean that I would change all the diapers or do all the baths. Instead, he knew that as a fiercely independent woman I needed time to get into a groove with Sarah, especially since we were nursing and she was dictating the schedule. He knew full well that I needed to do this before he could step in to help, where I really needed it.

Daniel did everything to help us. The first few weeks alone I sent him all around town picking up supplies, many times things we didn't likely end up needing, but being new parents we gave into it all.  He supported us all right, and I couldn't think of what it would have been like to do it alone.

I then thought of my mom raising my brother, sister and I, pretty much all by herself. Let's just say there were a lot of baby sitters.  She couldn't have done it fully alone. She did need some help. After having Sarah, I applauded her many times for doing an amazing job with us all.  We had a good childhood, nothing too out of the ordinary, and we all turned out relatively okay. We are loving, fun and hard working adults, and have not been arrested.

As time went on parenting got even harder. New milestones and new experiences.  Just when I was getting the hang of things it would change. Just when I found a size that fit Sarah it would change again.  Forget about switching out her clothes in her closet seasonally. I was changing them out monthly.

All this time Daniel was there supporting us, helping to run errands, and doing everything I asked him to do to help out. He got his hands dirty too. He willingly changed Sarah's diaper, bathed her, put her to sleep, and many, many, many times carried her face down on his forearm to comfort her from what was likely gas symptoms which erupted during the witching hour in the early evenings. He even got tendinitis in his arm as a result.

Fast forward a few years and I can unequivocally say that life with Sarah, and being a parent, has been an awesome, fun, exciting, exhausting, challenging and amazing ride. It's been an overall life-altering experience that I wouldn't change for anything in the world.

One of the most important things that rings true in this experience is that while parents, partners and others helping to care for a child, the responsibilities are rarely split equally.  For parents who are doing it solo, I bow down to you as this is indeed the toughest job I have ever had to do.  I am just thankful to G-d for my husband, who is a loving and wonderful man who has and continues to be incredibly loving and supportive especially when it comes to the care of our daughter.

This past weekend Daniel asked me, "Caren, do you ever have doubts as a parent?"

At first I paused thinking, hum, did Daniel have a rough day with Sarah?  Then I said, somewhat with a laugh and gasp, "Yes, most of the time." 

He then said, and something I did not at all expect, "because I don't have ANY doubts about you as a parent."

I was fully expecting Daniel to say that parenting is difficult and sometimes even more challenging than he anticipated. And, that maybe today was one of his tougher days with Sarah, although it didn't seem to be.

Not for a second did I expect what he said to me today, and he took my breath away.

Having a partner to share in the parenting responsibilities with you is tremendous. To have a partner who recognizes the incredibly hard job you do, that's priceless.  In that moment I wanted to cry, which I didn't, because I was truly touched by these words.

Sometimes as parents, because this job is incredibly stressful, challenging and ever-changing, we have doubts about the lessons we teach, the amount of time we spend with our kids and the examples we set for our children to follow.

Even with this sweet and adoring comment from Daniel, I will likely continue to doubt myself as a parent, and put pressure on myself to do the best job I can to raise our amazing little girl. What can I say? I am a Virgo. However, knowing that I have the support from my husband, all around, makes this job as parent that much more rewarding as I have him there to lean on, parent with and share my life with celebrating milestones, experiences parenting challenges and growing and learning together to raise a strong solid woman in Sarah.

While I am fortunate to have my spouse as my parenting partner in crime I am also fortunate to rely on family and friends to help as well when I need it because it's okay to say we can't do it all, or that we need help.

Here are some wise words from Henry Ford that I feel help sum up the importance of teamwork in any business, including the job of parenting, "Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success."

Do you ask for help? Who supports you when you need it? Who is on your team?

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