If I’m being brutally honest, James wasn’t the father I was hoping he would be when Finn was born.
I fully expected him to be nurturing, protective, engaged and hands on. I had countless conversations with friendly acquaintances who echoed my sentiments; that he’d make an “incredible” dad.
He possessed all of the qualities that I looked for in a man, when I unconsciously, on a biological level, scanned for such a mate.
He had flaws too, as we all do, but I truly believed that his role as “Father” would be his time for his strengths to shine.
I had very high expectations.
When Finn arrived, he was awakened, as was I. He was adoring of not only Finn, but me as well. Like he was when we fell in love. I could see it in his eyes, something that had been missing for a long, long time.
But after the hype of bringing home our rainbow baby died down & the reality of sleep deprivation took hold, the cracks in the relationship started to show and his flaws, as a father became apparent.
At his worst he was completely incapable of empathy (towards Finn when he cried); it’s as if he couldn’t stand to be near him. If I’m being real, I didn’t want him near the baby when he was like that anyways, for fear of Finn picking up on such negative and unforgiving energy. He was intolerant and impatient most of the time and unsupportive and distant at best.
He decided that he’d sleep in the spare room indefinitely, because he “needed” sleep because he worked (like my sleep was less important?).
He left early every day to go to the gym because he “needed” to for his mental health (but no consideration for mine?).
I knew though. I knew.
What he really needed, was to escape.
Escape the chaos that is a newborn baby. Escape the chaos of a struggling relationship.
The more I nagged him about “helping” me, the more distant he became. The more I screamed at him “YOU FUCKING DO IT FOR ONCE” in the middle of the night after the 10th wake up without so much of a “hey, are you doing ok? Is there anything I can do to help?”, the more intolerant he was. And the more I begged him for support, the more alone I felt.
There were times I thought that being a single mum would be so much easier. At least I wouldn’t ever expect him to be emotionally available. You can’t get disappointed by somebody who ain’t there.
Only he was there. He just wasn’t there for me.
It wasn’t until Finn was about 10 months old, when I started working (nights) and he was forced to spend time on his own with Finn that I began to see a shift in how he treated him.
By virtue of spending time with Finn without me there to take charge, James began to realise what he’d been missing out on all along. He got to know his little boy. They bonded. Connected.
He began to discover what made Finn laugh and what it took to stop him crying. He learnt how to handle Finn’s energy and what it took to get him to sleep. He learnt to tackle meal time and shower one handed. All the things I had mastered – not because of natural inclination or gender roles, but because of the amount of time I was privileged to spend with him.
James eventually found his groove and even implemented (much more affectively than I – because he’s the agent of order and I am the agent of chaos in our partnership) a successful nighttime routine which is still going strong today. So much so that on the nights I am home, James prefers me not to interfere coz they have such a good thing going on. Mama messes up their mojo! Lol
The more time they spent together, alone, the more confident James became as a father & caregiver. His nurturing side began to blossom and his sensitive side began to shine.
As I watched their beautiful relationship unfold, I realised that the father I had expected him to be, was there all along. It’s just that in the beginning, James felt helpless & useless. He felt inadequate & lacked confidence.
He didn’t have the courage to try things on his own and was never given the opportunity to test his strengths.
James would never expect me to deadlift 100kgs although I’m sure if he coached me and encouraged me (and fed me – #bulking), over time, it might be possible for me to do so. Yet I unforgivingly expected him to be a naturally nurturing, sensitive & empathetic father and expected him to be so without any encouragement or patience from me.
I was disappointed that he didn’t posses the strengths I needed him to (that were in fact my own. Perhaps I wasn’t confident in my own strengths & I projected that onto him?) and I discounted that he had unique strengths of his own.
In fact his weaknesses were topic of conversation (if you could call it that), almost daily and It was a relentless and revolving door of blame.
Today, Finn lights UP when he see’s his daddy walk into the room and I’ve never seen a man so happy then when Finn is beaming at him. James has the energy, the stamina, the cheekiness and the childlike playfulness to keep up with our busy toddler. He is gentle and fun and predictable and stable. He is patient and engaged and hands on and fully present in every moment he spends with his son, which is something I struggle with at times, if I’m honest.
So although it took some time, he has become the incredible dad I always knew he would be.
I do wish I felt more supported by him in those early days as much as I wish I encouraged him more and held more space for him to explore his role as much as I was exploring mine.
I also wish I knew how to shush, pat, bounce or rock a baby to sleep. That would’ve been kinda handy! Ya know?