I must confess, I spend a lot of my time convinced that everyone out there is a far better parent than I am.
Everywhere I go, I am assailed by images of family bliss. The young man walking with his newly pregnant wife, who is serenely working away at an ice cream cone. The new parents cautiously pushing their (of course) sleeping baby in the Bugaboo. The seasoned parents working the local park -- throwing a frisbee to the older child while simultaneously wearing the newborn in a sling and hanging on to the dog's leash, talking on the cell phone and drinking a grande Starbucks something-or-other. It's a thing of beauty. It's inspiring, really. It's a large part of why we moved to this neck of the woods. So why is the reality so far from the image?
The Husband and I are no slouches when it comes to parenting. We work hard at it and we are sincerely trying to do our best by The Boy. But it has recently been brought to my attention that there is a potentially serious flaw in our approach. We are rarely both with The Boy at the same time. We are Polkaroo Parents.
Yes, that Polkaroo. The large, vaguely kangaroo-like thing wearing a polka-dot muumuu, and appearing weekly on Polka Dot Door. Now, there was nothing much to Polkaroo other than the surprising fact that at no time did the two hosts of the show ever see him at the same time.
Every couple has to work out a way to deal with the addition of their new little bundle of joy to their lives. Some parents "cut bait" and set adrift their old lives and become completely focused on the baby. Some parents try to recapture their former lives as if nothing has changed. We have tried, I think, to do a bit of both. When we're home with The Boy, we're 100% present -- playing, singing, laughing. Obedient to every command of "Mummy...sit!" or "Daddy...(your) turn!". But when we are gone, we're gone. The Husband is starring in a musical, and I am going to school part-time.
The end result, as mentioned, is that we're rarely both spending time with The Boy simultaneously. There's a lot of "Okay, I can pick The Boy up, take him home, give him dinner, if you can make sure that you're home by 7pm pm at the latest so that I can get to such-and-such a place on time".
I don't know if this how families usually work, but so far, it's what works for us. It allows to thoroughly enjoy our time with The Boy, without feeling like we're giving up our selves. But I do worry that we're not often a full family unit. I don't want The Boy to grow up thinking that if he is with one parent, it necessarily means that the other parent isn't going to be there. I don't want his first sentence to be the classic Polka Dot Door line: "Aw, I missed him again."
To assuage my guilt and soothe my nerves, I try to remember that it's all a part of my Theory that Everything I Needed to Know I Learnt from Family Ties: if the parents are loving, happy and fulfilled then everything else will just fall into place. And, heck... if it worked for the Keatons, it can't be all bad....Right?