[Editor's note: This story is a letter from a woman to her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]
At one point, early in our parenthood journey together, you confided something to me that I'll never forget. You said, partially with awe, partially with trepidation, "I know you could do this by yourself..."
And you know what?
At the time when you said this, I was exclusively breastfeeding. You woke to help with diapers, but I was the one glued to the glider, rocking our little guy back to sleep all night long.
Every weekday you left at the crack of dawn for work, and it was just me and our son and all those empty hours looming in front of us. But I slowly built a schedule for our days.
You traveled frequently, and I found myself staring down weeks at a time of absence. But I learned to adapt, make do, and rely on our friends and family for a helping hand.
So I could. I could do it without you. For nights and days and weeks, apparently.
In fact, whenever you were around, it was often easier if I just did it. I was faster, more adept, less clumsy. I would gently nudge you aside—"Here, let me." What I failed to see was that the more I took upon myself, the "less" I made you feel. Less confident ... less capable ... less needed.
Less sure of your place in this new life that we had created for ourselves. A life that you were somehow not fully part of, simply by nature of not always being there when I was.
But me? I was so determined to prove something.
To prove that I was still a strong, independent woman, despite the fact that I was feeling more tied down and dependent than ever.
To prove that I was a good mom, despite the fact that I questioned this fact on a daily basis.
To prove that I had everything under control, despite all evidence to the contrary.
To prove that I knew exactly what I was doing, even though I was learning on the job.
I'm embarrassed to say that it took more than one meltdown to change anything. (To be honest, it took many.) Meltdowns that make me look back and cringe to think of that disheveled, hysterical woman standing in front of you in her undershirt wrinkled from dried-up milk stains, and crying over the wails of a distraught baby.
Crying because of how tired I was and how overwhelmed I was and how resentful I was.
Crying because I could do it by myself, but I was so miserable doing so.
It was only then that I remembered the second part of what you had told me. "I know you could do this by yourself," you said, "but you don't have to." And I finally realized that you were right.
I started leaving the room when I was tempted to hover and criticize and tsk.
I started to relax, to let go, to breathe.
I started going out by myself and letting you boys fend for yourselves. And of course, you were fine. You were more than fine.
I started allowing you to be the daddy you wanted to be instead of the daddy I thought you should be. I started letting you be "more" instead of "less."
And slowly, things started to get better. Not perfect. But better.
So… could I do it without you?
But would I want to?
Not in a million years.