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True life: I used to be a maternal gatekeeper

I was quick to show him the “right” way to bounce her and I just rocked her to sleep myself because it was easier.

True life: I used to be a maternal gatekeeper

When I gave birth to my first daughter almost four years ago, I was ecstatic. I had always wanted to be a mother, and there I was—after a long 40 weeks—holding my beautiful newborn baby in my arms. I was young, in love and scared, but really, really excited.


Oh, and also really, really protective.

The only way I know how to describe how I felt is to say that I went into Mama Bear mode. I had a hard time letting anyone else hold my daughter for longer than a couple of minutes. I needed her with me, near me. I needed to be accessible because I was the one who knew what she needed, right? I was the mom.

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And if I didn’t know what she needed, well, I was going to figure it out. By myself. Because that was my job. I, for some reason, felt like she was my responsibility. I was breastfeeding, I was staying home with her—I needed to figure this out.

So in those first few weeks of my husband and I trying to figure out how to be parents, I corrected, I interjected, I micromanaged, I criticized. With every diaper change my husband took on, I was breathing down his neck making sure he wiped her the correct way.

I was quick to show him the “right” way to bounce her and I just nursed and rocked her to sleep myself because it was easier.

I realize now that I was a hardcore maternal gatekeeper.

If you look up the definition of “gatekeeper” it says, “A person or thing that controls access to something.” This made me feel really sad. I was the person controlling my husband’s access to being a parent to his daughter!

That realization felt terrible. I never imagined myself being a mother like that. I imagined myself being laid back and carefree. Just sitting around swooning over my husband doing anything with or for our baby.

But I wasn’t—not initially. My perfectionism took over and that gate was closed more often than it was open. I felt that because I was the mother, I should know what I was doing—it should be easy to be “perfect” at this.

What a ridiculous thought, when I was brand new to this parenting thing, too. Just like my husband.

I wish I could say I cured my need to be the maternal gatekeeper quickly with my first child, but I didn’t. However, my desire to supervise every bit of my husband’s interactions with our kids lessened quite a bit with the birth of our second daughter.

I simply didn’t have as much time to worry about whether my husband knew exactly which crevice each specific item belonged in my diaper bag or what my snack time strategies were. So I naturally backed off a bit.

I gave him—them—some space together.

And now with the birth of our third daughter, I’m realizing that I pretty much forget what gatekeeping even feels like. I, quite honestly, need my husband’s teamwork more than ever.

I am grateful for him and fully trust his parenting skills. He is an amazing, confident father, and I am—in a way—a much calmer mama this time around. I’ve learned a lot about letting go.

In reflecting back on when my oldest daughter was a newborn, I’m realizing that somewhere along the way, I forgot that my husband wanted to figure things out for himself, too. That he was a very willing and able parent who wanted to participate, who wanted to be there.

And somewhere along the way he proved how capable and fun and responsible he is.

Once I opened the gate and traded in criticism for encouragement, my mindset shifted. I was no longer the only parent who knew how to do things “right.” I no longer had to worry about whether my husband was going to forget something or do something “wrong.”

Today, when my girls need something, I am quick to say “Your dad is right here—he’d love to help.” When I need time for myself, I am much better about letting go of the reigns and going to the gym or out with friends. I don’t even change their mismatched outfits that my husband tends to dress them in—I actually find it pretty adorable now.

I’ve realized that I needed to throw out these incredibly high standards of parenting I held myself and my husband to. No parent is—or needs to be—perfect. So now when he’s the one responsible, he’s responsible. I back off and enjoy some freedom off the clock.

(Although I will tell you a secret—I do still smooth the bumps in his ponytail masterpieces. But don’t tell!)

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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