On Being Incompetent – Just a Little Bit

I mentioned in my post here that the last minute trip back home for my grandmother’s funeral two weeks ago was the longest amount of time I have ever been away from my daughter (4 days/3 nights). When she was 9 months old, I spent one night away from her upon the insistence of my MIL and husband…and fully resented them & cried about it. However, once the first overnight was out of the way it got SO much easier to let her go, and she routinely does overnights at her Nana & Papa’s house now – usually once every week or two. Before Harvey came along, it was a great time for Charlie and I to reconnect as a couple without an adorable (demanding) toddler around. ONCE they kept her for 2 nights when I was pregnant & puking sick, but other than that, I’ve never left her for more than 1 night at a time. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but I guess between breastfeeding & being pregnant, I just haven’t had a reason to be away from her for longer.

That being said, leaving Stella alone with her Dad for those 4 days was a huge eye opener for me. Since she was born, I have been the main caregiver. Nature kind of sets it up that way with breastfeeding, and then it just happened that because I was home with her alone more often, I got better at soothing her and anticipating her needs… which meant I continued to take over most everything, and Charlie never really got that confidence built up as a parent when she was little.

Ozifrog wrote this fantastic post last week on “Making Space.” She wrote about how she recently made a concerted effort to step back, act a little incompetent, and force allow(?) her husband to get better at co-parenting, because “Our competence creates his incompetence.” She also had this great reminder – “I think you have to make space for co-parenting. Just get out of the way. Sometimes you are the primary caregiver. But sometimes, you’re just clutter in the way of a whole new way forward.”

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Having fun on Father’s Day while I was 1,100 miles away in Minnesota…

It was eye opening to me to leave Stella and Charlie alone for those 4 days and fully realize that he would step it up. Sure, he has solo parented for a few hours here and there, but not EVER for days at a time, and it was so good for all of us to let that happen.

They Skyped me every day, and surprise surpriseStella was happy and healthy every time we talked. When I got home, Stella looked up and saw me walk in — and started excitedly telling me about her friend’s green chair. No tears. No arms flung wide open running hugs & kisses. Just a supremely confident, well adjusted child who had spent 4 days having fun with her Dad and knowing that her Mom would come home.

Also, she was a total 2 year old shit at bedtime that night, and Charlie said, “she NEVER did this while you were gone – she just knows she can get away with it when you’re around.”

Touché, my dear, touché.

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33 comments

  1. Good for ALL of you!

    I am tasked with doing this in August. Brian says I need a girls trip with no kids. He’s right. I already get anxiety thinking about it.

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    1. Yep, I’m leaving both kids with my parents in August for 4 days / 3 nights and I am pretty freaked out about leaving Harvey for that long at just under 7 months old. EEK! It will be super fun to have a girls’ trip though!

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  2. jesicabrennan · · Reply

    I have yet to leave baby alone with dad overnight…i NEED to but circumstances haven’t come up where I need to leave. So true that our competence makes for their incompetence!

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    1. Ya, I was totally forced into it at first with Stella, but in retrospect I’m glad I did b/c it’s allowed us to have a lot more relaxed couple/friend time in the months and years since then.

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  3. Because I travel for work, it’s forced the co-parenting hand. And, X totally acts out a bit when I get back. He likes to let me know he doesn’t like it that I’m gone. Overall though, it ends up just like you describe. He’s happy, fed, sort of matches, and the house is a disaster. Was your house a disaster?

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    1. No, but Charlie admitted that they cleaned up the night before I got home after letting it go for 3 days. 🙂

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  4. Well put, I need to step back too. I just anticipate her needs soooo much better than my hubby does.
    Also she only shows her true crazy to me. Double edged sword.

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  5. This is the one thing I’ve noticed with dads of multiples: they seem a lot more confident in their abilities to parent and care for their children. I’ve had more twin/triplet dads give me their opinions on gear, daily routines, feeding tricks and even advice then I’ve ever experienced from dads with singletons. And I think it has to do with the fact that they have to step up.

    It’s hard to take that step back and trust. We get into a routine where we know what works and in a lot of ways it’s easier just to go with what works vs. floundering. But I think your point is so important. Because ownership is the only way people truly excel at something (no one likes to feel like the lacky). And there are times when by stepping back we learn something.

    Glad the time away was a bonding one for Charlie and Stella.

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    1. Ya, Charlie has definitely stepped it up with his parenting involvement since Harvey was born b/c I was often otherwise occupied with the newborn (or helping S and he’d grab H). It’s been a good change for all of us!

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  6. I love this post and this advice. Since Ryan is a teacher, he has the summer off, and I have consciously been going upstairs for long periods of time and leaving him with the kids. It’s fun to listen to him parent them from a distance and I think it’s made him more confident as a parent and feel more connected to them. I’m going to BlogHer next month for 4 days and he’ll be solo- sort of- Grayson’s nurse will be here- but I definitely am not as worried as I would have been a year ago.

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  7. My hubby has always been a wonderful caretaker, but for the first year and a half of Taylor’s life, I dictated her schedule (breastfeeding, eating, napping, bath time). At some point, I decided to back away and let him make some of these calls. Sure, sometimes her lunch is 3 proteins and no vegetable, but I know she’s not going to die or starve because of it. And it’s better for all of us!

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    1. Ya – yep! I totally dictated foods/naps/etc as well, and I relaxed on that a LOT the last 6 months, which has been really nice. 🙂

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  8. Good for you…. and good for Charlie for stepping up, although of course he would! 🙂 That is so great that you were able to go away this first time and now know in future, it really will be just fine. We have a similar situation over here with me realizing I actually need to step back and allow Anthony to do more since I just naturally take over everything.. oops! They have started going out on more little dates and walks together so that is a start. But I can’t imagine 4 days of the two of them!! Eek! Maybe someday! 😉 Although, like you found out, I am sure it would be just fine.

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  9. It’s true I totally got in the way of my children’s father when it came to parenting. Now he has to step up….and he’s not as good as me, but the kids are fed and happy. Sure there is always something destroyed, but things can be fixed. The time with their father is precious…..

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  10. mcmissis · · Reply

    Oh man, I have so much to say about this I could probably write an entire blog about it. Not a post, an entire blog 🙂

    I’m glad you all got to see what a truly great, competent, fun, messy, willing to rush around and clean it up, parent he is. Even though I’m sure he was exhausted and so much more appreciative of everything you do, I bet he felt so good afterward.

    McMister can take the big girls for as long as he would ever need to. He does great with them and has to since I have a 4-month-old to nurse. But I’ve never left them overnight. He did take Gracie camping (in the camper) once with his mom overnight. But that’s the thing, if I ever left him for more than a few hours at a time with them, he would no doubt about it, he’d tell you himself in a hot second, get his parents or my parents or my sister to come over and help. Also, I’ve NEVER left Poppy alone. Like not overnight, I mean NEVER for more than 15 minutes. And that was one time. One time, when she was a few weeks old, she had just fallen asleep in the swing when it was time to take Gracie to school (3 minutes away). So I left her and Lyla at home with him while he got ready for work. I could write an entire post about why I haven’t left her, but I’ve already written a boatload here, so I’ll just stop.

    Way to go, Stella’s Dad!

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    1. When I went back to work at 8 weeks with both of my kids, I had never left either more than once or twice for maybe 30-60 minutes. It kind of happens when you’re a SAHM I think, especially when you’re breastfeeding. That being said, it’s sure nice to get a break here and there now! Time for a girls night… 😉

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  11. Thanks this was exactly what I needed to read.

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  12. Yep, this makes perfect sense. In the last week I’ve gone up and watched tv in our room once D is down for bed and left JJ and C to do whatever they want. I never do that, but he takes time for himself (at home) all the time, so why shouldn’t I? I had no doubt that Charlie would do a great job with Stella, but I’m sure it’s reassuring now that it’s happened that you don’t have to worry about it again in the future. Now the big test would be leaving him home alone with BOTH kids for a few days! 🙂

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    1. Ya, I obviously knew he could do it, but it’s nice to REALLY know he can do it, you know? 🙂
      Alone with 2 kids for days? HA. We’ll wait a bit on that I think…

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  13. I still haven’t done an overnight yet, but I have actually started thinking about it for work, and I like feeling like it is possible now. I always thought I could with my sister, but not my husband. Now, I am totally sure he’d be completely fine. Do you know since our “daddy day care” days, he hasn’t cried ONCE being left at family daycare? In the five months until now, that NEVER happened.

    Plus, when I have him at home and he ends up in an ambulance, I’ve sort of lost the right to question HIM now!

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    1. Yeah, my SIL was alone with both our kids before Charlie was. It’s instinctual to trust a female more I think, right or not.

      What happened to you could happen to ANY of us lady!!

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  14. Such a good reminder! I find I am having trouble leaving K alone with both kids. Absolutely not because of any uncertainty I have that he wouldn’t be able to handle it, it’s just, I guess it seems ‘not fair’. Which is completely random, because I am alone with both kids all the time. I’ll have to think more about why I feel that way.

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    1. Yep, I’ve had the same feeling! Isn’t that weird? He (and I) thinks nothing him of going to play basketball on Monday nights, but I’d worry I’m inconveniencing him if I left one night a week to do something alone and he had the kids. Odd.

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  15. I definitely try to take over…to EVERYONE’S detriment. Sometimes I will watch him comforting or interacting with one of the girls and in my head I think, “Well THAT isn’t going to work.” and then…it does. And sometimes I naturally play the martyr…”I’ll get her!!!!” He doesn’t get her because I ALWAYS do. Not his fault. Mine Ok, I guess I’m noooooooot perfect. 😉

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  16. mandski · · Reply

    This is totally true. S watches the girls every day for two hours (and HAS to) and it really impacts the dynamic. I’m still the main go-to parent, but he is competent. He totally was not for the first month or so though. 😉 My competence really is a hindrance in that way, and I’m glad he has to be on his own for a period every day. Glad it went well for Charlie and Stella!

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  17. This “Also, she was a total 2 year old shit at bedtime that night, and Charlie said, “she NEVER did this while you were gone – she just knows she can get away with it when you’re around.””

    Sounds EXACTLY like my hubby when he watched Zoe as I stayed in the hospital giving birth to Brax.

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  18. This makes tons of sense to me and seems natural. But at the same time, I wonder why I didn’t ever experience this. I do have a pang of guilt when I go to do something fun and K stays home w the kids but I pretty much immediately dimiss the thoughts since I have them alone a lot too. And I didn’t want to leave either baby with anyone except k – but I really don’t think I ever had a second thought about leaving either or both kids with k for extended periods of time (other than worrying about breastfeeding/pumping/supply). In fact there were large chunks of time where K did 60% or more of the parenting duties. Perhaps I’m just extra lazy 😉 glad your trip I minn went well though and I hope to see you in august!

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  19. I’ve actually left DH with all three of the kids for a long weekend – and I have had MULTIPLE people be shocked by that. he doesn’t do everything the way I do… but as you say, they’re healthy and happy when I get back – I love your take on it being good for all of us 🙂

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    1. I left both kids with Char yesterday so I could walk down to the river fest and have some drinks with friends…. 3.5 hrs later, I’m getting texts and phone calls saying “I could really use a break Jos, he’s really fussy.” … and he had already given him THREE 3 ounce bottles since I had left (he normally would have had ONE in that time). It’s just … hard… to leave him with both at this point. :\

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  20. sifinalaska · · Reply

    I STILL struggle with leaving Cheeks. There have only been 2 nights, in her entire 16 months, we haven’t been together – and both were miserable for me. I am sure that is exasperated by the fact that it has only ever been just me, but I know I would have a really hard time stepping back and letting someone co-parent. And multiple nights in a row? Yeah… makes me hyperventilate just thinking about it! Still, I also know how special that father/daughter relationship can be – so it’s kind of nice to hear Charlie was able to step up when the time came and you were able to step back!

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  21. sifinalaska · · Reply

    Should have added, even if it was for a sad reason…

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  22. I’m behind on reading this post, but I also loved Ozifrog’s post and I love this one too. I do have twins but even still, my husband has never been with them both for more than a few hours. It’s time for a change – healthy for everyone.

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  23. […] learned that being a little incompetent would go a long ways towards helping my husband’s skills & competence in parenting our […]

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