The Sacred Mother
I was happy and also annoyed to see this article in Babble on equal parenting. In typical Babble style, it splays out the raw feelings of its author - a woman whose husband does almost all the cooking and is a highly involved father. She is clearly appreciative of his family role, but feels threatened by both his sheer usefulness (and her clumsiness in the kitchen) and by his closeness with their daughter.
I could comment on the first 'threat', but my big beef is with the second. When our partners manage to establish deep and lasting bonds with our children, we can do one of two things. We can rejoice for our children, knowing that both of their parents are rocks of comfort, stability and love for them. Or we can be jealous and feel robbed of our rights to that age-old sacred mother-child bond. Which of these choices is about us, and which is about our kids?
The author of this story does say that she values her husband's partnership and involvement more than she regrets not being the sole Number 1 with her daughter, but she still feels left out when their little girl runs to be comforted by Daddy.
I remember distinctly one day when Marc and I were at a birthday party of one of M's friends. M must have been about 2 years old at the time. Right there, in front all the other moms tending to their kids, my M fell off the swingset and ran crying right past me to get a hug from Marc. It was a classic equally shared parenting moment. I could have felt useless and jealous. And maybe I did feel a twinge of embarrassment when I thought the other moms might be judging me. But what I really felt was 'we did it'. And I was happy for M, knowing that she has both of us to choose from when she needs comfort.
Now, if M always favored Marc over me, it would be another story - a symptom of my lesser involvement. But that is not the case. She waffles back and forth, sometimes preferring me for stretches of time and sometimes being closer to Marc. Often, her preference depends on the activity. I'm sure the same will happen with T, who is not yet old enough to show these preference swings. We take care not to pigeon-hole either of us into a specific role, however, so both of our kids know we're capable and interested in all aspects of the family life. This preserves our equal status.
So, I take issue with the whole idea that mothers get to hog the stronger bond with their kids. Wanting or needing this is about the mother. Kids are not here to complete us; rather, we're here to nurture and teach and raise our children to be happy and socially functional adults.
On a separate note, here is an excellent blog entry on equally shared parenting from Working Writing Wailing Mama. Enjoy!