Where does the parenting split begin and end? 

It’s supposed to be a natural give and take scenario and a fair split: moms and dads sharing parenting duties, but sometimes it’s not an equal split of time that comes naturally but rather an equal split of value.

Just like tonight: I finished work, then did grocery shopping, then made dinner and did Maddox’s bedtime. My husband had a full day of meetings, got home before me, did some home admin and then put his feet up and relaxed on the couch chatting to a friend on the phone while I did bedtime for Maddox and dinner for us.

I guess an equal split would have been him not having that relaxing time and rather doing dinner or bedtime. Completely share the load right?

Well the realisation came when, after Maddox went to bed, he called me back on 3 separate occasions due to:

1. An invisible owie on his arm that supposedly needed mountains of medicine to fix

2. Simply expressing that he did NOT want to sleep now (Honest and ballsy – I’ll give him that)

3. There was a funny smell in his room – to be clear, there was no such thing (although with his strong will he could have summoned a fart from within to make a new excuse like that)

On all 3 occasions, I went upstairs and firmly told him that it was bedtime and there was no negotiation and came back down to finish dinner.

Then, came the tantrum. I heard a positively demonic sound coming from upstairs which meant Maddox was losing his temper and yelling in frustration. I had had enough. I interrupted my husbands’s phone call and told him that he needed to deal with this one. I usually give him some hints or tips on how to deal with this from things I have read online but I was so fed up with Maddox not going to sleep that I had nothing. No ideas, no strategies, nada.

And so, I let my husband handle it solo. I expected a stern voice and some warnings but to my surprise, I heard thumping coming from upstairs. At first I thought it had gone wrong, maybe Maddox had got his first smack (we promised never to give those) or Maddox had lost it completely and was hitting and kicking things.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. My husband (not one naturally blessed with patience) had hit a home run and used comedy to diffuse the tantrum. He was pretending to slip on the newly polished floors and that was the thumping sound. I heard screams of laughter from Maddox and not an ounce of anger or one complaint. My husband casually came back downstairs 3 minutes later and I haven’t heard a peep from Maddox since.

The lesson I learnt was that, the time it took me to do dinner, or bedtime or anything that added extra time to my share of the load, was equal to the 3-4 minutes where my husband stepped in and subdued our little darling’s tantrum. Those situations are way harder to deal with than the extra minutes spent on a mundane task and it takes a lot more from you, mentally and emotionally. And also, that was when I really needed him. Just like sometimes, he really needs me.

Our philosophy is equal parenting in value not in time.

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Pick your battles, including with yourself.

Let’s start off by setting the scene and the tone of the day. Maddox was an angel today. We went off this morning to look for pumpkins for Halloween decor. (Sidenote: Fruit & Veg City has average looking pumpkins for R99 each and Woolworths has beautiful ones for R40 each. Well played Woolies.) We had the most lovely morning and lunchtime and came back home for the regular post-lunch nap.

Maddox went to sleep nicely at about 15h30 so I decided to treat myself to an afternoon nap as well, since I’m hitting the town for a girls night out tonight. The only glitch in this situation is that our baby monitor was playing up and that I sleep like the dead. I figured I would be able to hear Maddox due the fact that his room is about 2 meters away from mine.

Unfortunately not. At 19h15, my husband comes busting into our room with Maddox saying that I didn’t hear him calling for ages and my half conscious mind went into a flat spin. I went into classic mommy emotional states: “Oh my god, I’m a terrible mother, I didn’t hear my baby calling me”. “Shiiiiiiiiiiiit, bedtime was at 7, now everything is out of sync, how do I get back on track?”,  and a general plethora of panic swearwords plus the usual tears and confusion that come from a nap that was too long.

I managed to get my mind back on track after 15 minutes using self-persuasion that everything was ok and this wasn’t a big deal, plus a teensy bit of vodka.

Next: Dinner. What was the quickest and healthy-ish dinner that I could whip together for my little one? Avo on toast. A classic winner. Except for the fact that I only had my healthy linseed bread left.

To anyone who believes that the type of bread that you serve a pre-schooler isn’t an issue, I openly invite you over to my house to witness the impact that this “minor change” has.

I approached the topic with Maddox from an availability perspective saying that this was the only kind of bread we have left and that the alternative was something awful like no dinner at all. It worked (#winning), and he agreed to the linseed bread. I happily trotted down the stairs to make avo on toast, remembering the instructions from Maddox to cut the toast in half.

I returned with his dinner and the tears started. I hadn’t cut the toast length ways as well. It was the biggest deal to him. THE BIGGEST. He was so upset that I hadn’t checked how many times he wanted the toast cut. I tried to reason with him and said that it was ok, it will taste the same. No response and more tears.

Eventually, I simply decided that actually, I might be giving in to his whims but actually, f**k it. I needed to get this little one to bed, and if that meant going back downstairs to get a knife to cut that blimming toast again, so be it.

I might have lost this battle,  which could be seen as giving into a pre-schooler’s tantrum, but actually, at that moment in time, I didn’t care and I just wanted him to have his dinner and get to bed at a fairly reasonable time. If this was a battle about something serious, like hitting another child or manners ( I never budge), then chilled but, in this case, I think it was actually a win-win in the end. Well, that’s what I’m telling myself anyway.

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The Swimming Saga

This afternoon, at Maddox’s swimming lesson, I was that mom. The one that other mothers look at with a sort of sad smile. A mixture of pity and understanding.

We paid for the term’s swimming lessons upfront and Maddox and I set off to today’s lesson with genuine excitement, goals, and hope (from my side).

Last week didn’t go so well – picture all others swimming and Maddox standing on the side crying – so we had a good chat and Maddox and I set goals for today: feet will be in the water and he will splash as much as possible. A realistic goal, I thought. Gentle intro to the pool and a bit of fun mixed in, I thought.

Well, apparently, I set the bar too high. 20 minutes of negotiations and tears just to get the swimming costume on. Then, using my unreal powers of distraction and annoyingly excited voice, I managed to carry him to the pool. More negotiations. All mothers staring at us through the glass window. Me accidentally flashing my arse to them but not caring during the negotiation.

And finally, my little boy crying and frozen with fear, broke my heart and we went back to the changing room and left.

Today’s lesson? For Maddox, it’s to keep trying, gently, until you succeed. For me, according to my own parenting style (we are all different), I refuse to force (nothing wrong with a bit of coaxing) anything on Maddox. His fear was real, albeit irrational, and sometimes the tough love approach just isn’t worth it. I want to create memories of love and happiness, not fear.

Next week’s goal? Getting Maddox into his swimming costume in under 15 minutes.

Last week’s situation:

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