When I took the family up to Maine for vacation last week, I thought I knew what to expect: lobster, farm stands, pond swimming. Maybe, I thought, I’d even get to relax a little. What I didn’t realize was that Jean and I were about to embark on our most intense 10 days of parenting since, well, since about when Sasha was born.
That is, here at home, Sasha’s in daycare from about 8:30 to 5:30 five days a week. The school takes care of all her meals and diaper changes. We get her up and dressed in the mornings, bathe her and put her to bed at night, and it’s only on the weekends that we get to do anything as a whole family. It makes life almost easy.
But this—this was nonstop, uninterrupted parenting, all day, every day. Meals, naps, diapers, playtime, everything Sasha needed to do from 6-ish till 8-ish. Not that I’m complaining. It wasn’t too difficult, but it did illuminate some heretofore hidden aspects of our family dynamic.
For one, gender roles came into play. Jean wound up doing a lot of the basic baby care, from getting Sasha up in the morning to changing her diapers in the car to bathing her in the evenings. There were (sort of) legitimate reasons for these—I can’t get up early, I was almost always driving, I was responsible for all food prep—but it still put us in the kind of traditional roles that we never imagined we’d take on. Here at home, the division of labor is a bit more even (though I still have trouble getting up in the mornings).
I tried to make up for Jean’s exertions by taking Sasha off her hands as often as possible, whether I was driving to the grocery store or just playing with a ball in the backyard. Sometimes it was just a matter of being the one to carry her during hikes in the woods or forays to the slippery, jagged rocks on the shore. It wasn’t much, and I don’t think I really conceived of this as Daddy Time, but it seems to have had that effect. Where before Sasha considered me “the boyfriend who occasionally spends the night,” I’m now a much more inextricable part of her life. She brings me my glasses in the morning, drags me to read her books, and if I leave the apartment without her to go running, she’ll cry at my absence. This is the kind of behavior she previously reserved only for her mother. I’m not quite at Jean’s level of indispensability, but I’ll get there one day, maybe after another vacation or two. Better start planning them now.