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What Father’s Day Taught Me about Motherhood

I ask for simple things each Mother’s Day: to sleep in until the family noise and smell of coffee call me down the stairs. I ask for quiet. A nap on the porch swing. Time to paint my toenails a cheerful shade of pink, and then repaint them because red has always suited me better.

Although I don’t explicitly come right out and say it, Mother’s Day, for me, is a break from the push and pull. It’s a respite. A time apart. It’s a day to reconnect with the person I am under three layers of motherhood.

Father’s Day in our house looks a little different. There’s a soccer ball being passed in the front yard grass, the smell of barbeque on the grill, and dinner on the patio. My husband’s at the helm of it all.

Instead of a break from his role of Dad, he wants to do a bellyflop from the diving board and swim in its waters for a day.

There are many reasons for this difference in approach. I’m the parent who takes the brunt of the parenting: the daily tantrums and the tattle-tales. I’m the one whose work is interrupted when preschool calls when fevers spike. When they wake at night they cry for me, and my lap is the one that’s not big enough to hold them all at daybreak.

My husband is hardly a deadbeat dad. My guess is that he’s far more involved than most. And while we consider ourselves a parenting team, the imbalance of time spent doing the hands-on work of parenting forces me to be its captain, not him.

In reflecting on all this as we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, I realized that I could stand to learn a thing or two from the way my husband spends his special day.


Lesson 1: Make it Fun

If I’m living in such a way that I constantly need a break, something has to give. Do I need to re-prioritize my time? Get more sleep? Take better care of myself somehow? Parenting is stressful- there’s no doubt about it- but I should be living as though my life is race to the finish.

My husband practices the art of FUN with our kids whenever he gets a chance. It recharges his parenting batteries and reminds him of what’s really important.

Lesson 2: Make Memories

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of living life as though we’re checking items off a list.

Nurse the baby. Check

Wash the dishes. Check

Make the appointments and don’t forget to pay the babysitter.  Check and check.

In the middle of all that checking, though, there are opportunities to make memories with our kids- even in the baby stage. We can get out the camera on a rainy day, capturing tiny toes and first smiles. We can write a letter to our children, or simply jot down a funny moment from the day.

Making memories doesn’t have to be an elaborate exercise. It’s all about the simple things.

Lesson 3: Make it Count

A favorite blogger of mine wrote a post recently she called 18 Summers.  She did a simple profile of each of her three boys and reminded herself how many more summers they each have at home. It reminded me of a favorite saying from Gretchen Rubin that really captures motherhood: The days are long but the years are short.

Our job is to try each day to make it count.

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The way I choose to spend the day that honors motherhood is telling, I think. Even on an ordinary day, when breakfast isn’t served in bed and hand-drawn construction paper cards do not litter the table, I can be mindful of these simple lessons. I may not do an all-out bellyflop, but perhaps I can start by getting my feet wet.

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