Because, mostly, if you’re lucky, you’re not doing it alone. Not really. Parenting is a partnership. And thank god for that.
I often talk about how important mothers are – how much of a support other mothers are, how much I couldn’t have done this without them, how motherhood is such an awe-inspiringly life-changingly epic journey that sometimes you feel as if you’re on it alone, that sometimes, it’s just you and this most important job in the whole world, and an awful lot of responsibility.
But it isn’t always this way. Recently, in my Mothers on Mothering column, the very eloquent Juliette Morton said this: “I couldn’t have survived the first three months without my husband – having very young children, especially tiny babies, is tough on relationships. It’s good to be able to shout at each other in the dark of the night then get up the next day and carry on regardless. Being able to let go is so important. He’s my rock and my friend.”
I don’t mind admitting that this made me cry. It is such a touching, honest way to convey all those pressures that young children put on a relationship. But also a reminder that if you are doing it together, however ugly and messy it might look at times, you’re still doing it together. I vividly remember many, many nights of whispered expletives in the dark, mutterings on the baby monitor, gestures at retreating backs. Followed by a good morning hug, and the feeling of our wriggling, giggling child in-between us, making us quickly forget the horrors of 1:45am (and 2am, 3:15am and 4:30am…)
I remember early days when R commuted for over five hours a day to London, returning to his sobbing, furious wife, and his sobbing, furious baby and never once giving me any idea of how tired he was or how bad his day was, or how much he wanted to join us in our sobbing, furious party. I remember text messages from the train every single night, asking how bedtime was going (I still get these sometimes and Munchkin is two). I remember assurances that when he got home that he would sort it out. And he did.
Now, as she’s older, there are happy days of watching them together, of listening to them chat to each other over supper, or quiet moments in the morning when Daddy reads Owl Babies for ninth time. And, best of all, there is that sound of happy giggles with Daddy that nothing else on this earth can compete with. It is my most favourite sound in the world. I could stand in cold hallways for the rest of my life and just listen to that. No-one makes her giggle like her Daddy.
Yes, of course he never packs properly for her when we go out, and mostly expects me to do it, and never folds her clothes up or puts them away etc etc. But these are things that, really, hardly matter. Not really. Not when there is so much joy to be had.
In honour of Father’s Day this weekend, I asked some of the lovely mothers from my column to share their thoughts about fathers. Below are theirs – and my – answers.
My children’s father is…
“A hair stylist, a nail painter, a comedian, a magician, a grazed knee fixer, a Lego builder, a human climbing frame, an argument mediator, a last minute school costume creator and a (secret) Taylor Swift fan. My children’s father is Simon Hooper and I wouldn’t want to raise our four daughters with anyone else.”
Clemmie Hooper, midwife and blogger at Gas and Air
“A brilliant Dad. When you marry someone you think you know they will be, but Doug really is. He generally has more patience and energy with them than I do, and will happily use his body and the furniture to recreate scenes from Ninja Warrior. Most nights he’ll look in on them, before coming to bed and sighing something like ‘I just love them so much’. “
Steph Douglas, founder of Dont Buy Her Flowers
“Up every morning to play with her and give me an extra hour in bed. He baths her every night. And he never complains about it. He’s the most hands-on and committed dad I know. The older you get, the more you realise that the only thing that really matters in life is your family. He is mine and I can count on him no matter what.”
Kerstin Kuhn, journalist, blogger and founder of Little Foodie Club
“A grafter, a cuddler, a ‘spiky’ (according to Mae) Papa. He’s a mate, someone who doesn’t grumble when I’m late; he’s got a nook made only for only us and an eyebrow that has a life of his own. He’s someone who creates stories like ‘Crackerjack the Crocodile’ – a reptile who tends to take on whatever naughty behaviour Mae has adopted and highlight why it’s not OK – on the spot and doesn’t realise I’m listening in to his literary prowess as he tucks Mae up at night. He’s the good guy packaged with a deceptively curmudgeonly brow and he’s someone that I still, after 10 years together, care about impressing. He’s the one that pushes me to stand alone and pioneer new career paths and inadvertently, in doing so, he’s teaching our daughter what it is to stand up and have her voice heard. He’s made us a family.”
Anna Whitehouse, blogger at Mother Pukka
“The safety net around us all. He worries about all the little (and big) things that I can’t be bothered to. He makes sure of things I haven’t even thought about. He is bank manager, gardener, car washer. He chases away the spiders, reaches things on high shelves and puts the bins out. He grows us vegetables and takes us for walks. He never gets bored of reading Stick Man, or Bear Hunt orWhere the Wild Things Are. He makes up ridiculous songs for Munchkin because he doesn’t know the words to anything. He knows all the best games that involves tickling, hanging upside down and jumping on soft furnishings. His favourite thing to do is sit in bed in the morning with Munchkin, eating a banana each and reading a book. He is a Daddy that Munchkin will always be able to count on, and the partner-in-crime I couldn’t do this without.”