Until recently, bedtime in my house was a relative breeze. While neither of my boys slept through the night until they were a year, as soon as they started, we sailed breezily through our evening routine with few bumps or battles. It was my one parental triumph, and you can be sure I let everyone know about it.
“What? Bedtime troubles. No not in our house. We are soooo fortunate, our boys go to bed without so much as a peep and most nights by 7. Oh yes, it’s soooo great.”
But I’ve had my comeuppance.
Over the last few weeks the tide has changed, and what was once an enjoyable part of our day filled with cuddles and chit chat, has become a rocky ride and an epic battle of wills. I freely admit it’s wearing us out. Because we are both up early, my husband at 4:30 and me by 5:15, we’re early to bed. The longer it takes to get our children to settle, the shorter our already compressed evening. I’m in bed at 9. There have been nights when my 5 year-old has literally tucked me in. I am not kidding.
A few nights again ago, while my husband went into our youngest who was calling “Daddy, tuck me in” for the umpteenth time, I had an epiphany. An important one.
I’ve always felt responsible for my husband’s happiness as a parent. It started from the moment my oldest was born, an instinctive obligation to gloss it over, make it easier for him, more fun. I believed I needed to protect him from the hard parts, so he wouldn’t get spooked, or overwhelmed and leave us. It’s irrational because my husband is the most supportive, willing and able father, but I can’t describe it any other way than to say that the feeling was primal.
As I sat in our living room, capitulating to the fact that I would probably lose it if I had to tuck in our 2 year old one more time, my anxiety was mounting. I rubbed my temples, worrying that he would blow a gasket, that I should make it easier for him by carrying the weight of our family, and guard him from the stress.
Perhaps because I was so tired and raw from a busy day, and the exhaustion of coming home to a frenetic household, but a light suddenly dawned bright. As it did I realized: This is his responsibility too. He’s my partner, their father, it’s our job together. He’s supposed to help me carry the load, and I can just let him, free of worry. I don’t need to protect him from them, he loves them and knows this is hard work. It’s okay.
With it came relief. In a moment I exhaled the weight of responsibility that I had been carrying for years.