Menu
Dear husband: I *could* do this without you, but I wouldn’t want to

[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.]

Dear husband,

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?

I could.

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?

Of course.

But would I want to?

Not in a million years.

You might also like:

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

Our Partners

These kids dishes don’t look like kids dishes

And that's exactly why my toddler loves them. ❤️

My 4.5-year-old is, let's say, spirited in his opinions. He very clearly knows what he wants and doesn't want (oh to have the confidence of a stubborn preschooler!). And what he doesn't want right now is anything that looks too babyish. "That's for babies," he'll say if I give him anything with primary colors or looks too miniature. He doesn't want the baby fork and spoon, he wants what grown-ups use. He doesn't want the baby plastic cups and plates, he wants the glass and ceramic ones.

Well, you can see where this is going.

I had to find something that would satisfy his "not a baby" opinions but still not shatter to pieces if he accidentally drops it on the floor. I had to find him something that's made for kids but doesn't feel made for kids.

Keep reading Show less
Shop

Talking to kids can come so easily. They have thoughts about everything and stories for miles. They see the world in a completely different light, and could ask enough questions to fill an afternoon.

But sometimes finding the right words for talking to kids can be really, really challenging. When choosing how to respond to the marker on the wall, or the seemingly unending why-can't-I battle, or in simply keeping healthy communication open with kids who don't want to talk, the words don't seem to come so easily.

Keep reading Show less
Learn + Play