It’s 10 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I have a two year old slung on my hip while my three year old and six year old each wrap themselves around a leg, the oldest waving dismissively. We’re watching their daddy pull the car out of the driveway and disappear. I turn towards the playroom, a thick layer of My Little Pony, Hot Wheels and Magna Tiles looks back at me. How did this happen I think to myself. How am I the one at home entertaining all three kids while he gets to run errands. Alone.
I want to brood a bit. Take a few minutes to feel all “poor me.” But it doesn’t last long as I remember the first rule of coparenting: taking one for the team. That’s right. This is one of those times when I’m taking one for the team for the sake of the sanity of my partner. It’s just one of the million times that he or I will do it this week. In ways we’ve never imagined. We throw each other shade, we barter with one another, play coy, all in the hopes that the other one will be that parent. Right now, it’s me: The Stay at Home Parent.
But it doesn’t end there. We do this song and dance all week as we take on the undesirable parent roles. Some are better than others. There are certain roles one of us may tolerate more than the other, but ultimately, they’re the undesirables, cast off. These parenting roles don’t get written about in parenting books, but they exist. And I’m not going to hide them anymore; instead, I’m going to highlight a sample of those parents who take one for the team.
The Gross Hug Parent: When my three year old wakes up scared and covered in his own vomit, he needs a hug. Now. Not when he’s cleaned up. Now. And there ain’t nobody who wants that job, but someone has to take it.
The Elf on the Shelf Parent: It’s three o’clock in the morning and in a cold sweat we simultaneously wake up. Something is amiss. Neither of us has moved the elves. But it’s so cold outside of the covers. And even colder downstairs. And who has time to make them seem mischievous? Neither one of us, unfortunately.
The iPhone Parent: When my little people get bored, it can get a bit messy. Most of the time, we’re prepared for boredom, but in the off chance we aren’t, iPhones can be miracle workers. The problem is neither one of us want to give our phones to tiny little hands, hands that are often covered in a mix of peanut butter, jelly, snot, and tears. But one of us has too.
The Pool Parent: Outdoor pools can be cold. Really cold. And when it’s the middle of February, they can be crazy cold, even if we’re in Florida. But, like most kids, mine believe themselves to be part mermaid and part dolphin, so not going in the water is simply not an option. And they need a grown up to suck it up and get in that water, that cold, cold water, with them.
The Passenger Seat Parent: Before kids, driving the car on road trips was the task. It meant staying awake and paying attention. The passenger got to take care of the music, relax, sleep. It was a golden time for a road trip passenger. Then kids came. And that passenger role is the least coveted seat in the house now. It is breaking up fights, tossing out snacks, scraping Lovies from the floor. It is gathering trash and handing out entertainment. It is taking one for the team.
The Dinner Lap Parent: It always seems for us that at least one of our kids much prefers to eat our food than their own. Said child will creep up into a parent’s lap, and this parent knows that their food is no longer their own. But, on the up side, they will get to eat the chewed on chicken nuggets that are soaking in spilled water on our child’s plate.
The Lap Child Parent: Speaking of laps, there is one parent both my husband and I will do anything to avoid being: the parent who lets the under two year old sit on their lap the entire plane ride to or from a destination (we have limits on the length of the flight though; we’re not that crazy). This parent endures hair pulling, drink spilling, and mouth inspecting. All while confined to a 18 inch seat. Who wants to take that on?
The Sippy Cup Cleaning Parent: Why can’t those fancy sippy cups just go in the dishwasher? Why do we have to break them into 12 tiny pieces just to get them clean? Why are some of the nooks and crannies of said cups so teeny that we have to use cotton swabs just to clean them out? We avoid this job, until we can’t. And when those cups pile up and our children still need to drink, one of us has to take this undesirable role.
The Diaper Changing Parent: In this battle, my husband and I will often quite loudly mention that our son needs a new diaper and then get “caught up” in some other, very necessary, task, requiring the other to simply have to be the parent who changes the diaper. It is a true battle of wills here. But one of us has to win, right?
The Bath Time Parent: Every few nights (or really all of them), my husband and I find ourselves wondering how it got to be so late by the time we get our kids into bed. But we really know why. Neither one of us wants to be the parent who initiates baths. So we don’t. Until there is no option. Because it is so ridiculously late.
The Pack-Mule Parent: Kids need things. And kids want things. So when we head out of our home, it always seems the amount of things we’re dragging with us takes up more space than the children do. (And of course we will not need anything that we brought and they will not want anything that they brought, so, there’s that). Neither one of us wants to make the 452 trips it takes to load and unload the car just to drive an hour away. It’s a thankless, untidy job. But it’s got to get done.
Living with another human means compromising continuously, but parenting with one? We find ourselves compromising on things we never thought we’d have to. It involves a lot of pretending not to hear each other or slinking out of the room at the most appropriate (or inappropriate) times. It means knowing my husband can’t handle stomach bugs as well as I can. And falling asleep confident in the knowledge that tomorrow, he’ll take all the bags to the car and bring them back in. Because I just won’t. (Unless I really have to because I’m taking one for the team).