Parenting is heavy. Not the literal kind that leaves your muscles shaking, the emotional kind that leaves you raw and vulnerable. They say it’s like walking around with your heart outside your body, and I didn’t want that to be true, but it is. And if you’re sensitive, be prepared to spend afternoons crying for things that have yet to happen. You’ll cry for the first time your child gets hurt, for the first time they realize not everyone is kind, for the first time they get their heart broken. And just when I think I’m at my breaking point, there he is.
He’s not a perfect man, in fact, before we met he didn’t even want to be a dad. But then it happened, and here he is embracing it, soaking up the seconds as they zip past us into memories. He’s there for the midnight diaper changes and late-night teething parties. He’s there with open arms when she just wants to be held and he’s there for me when I’ve just had too much.
Staying home with my daughter is the greatest gift anyone could have ever given me. It’s a 24/7 job on top of the full-time job I work at home during the day. Just when I think it’s over her usual nap is cut short and I’m holding her trying to desperately type around the chubby fingers pounding my keyboard. I smile in these moments because I know one day she won’t want to sit with me. She won’t be crying just to be in my arms.
But those days are also long. They are tiring and stressful. They seem to go on forever and in those moments I feel totally alone. Then it happens. My husband comes through the door with flowers. Or he comes home and sees my sloppy side bun and knows it’s been one of those days and sends me to the shower. Or he stops me in my new-mom flurry of doing everything, looks me in the eye and tells me what a good job I’m doing, and it’s just what I need to hear.
Before I met him I couldn’t tell you what made a good father. My own was never around, so fatherhood always felt like a mystery to me. In my thoughts, fatherhood was a simple act that mirrored all the TV fathers I had ever admired. It was about tucking your kids in a night, making sure they were behaving and providing for them.
Mothers get a lot of credit, but good fathers are often relegated to exceptionally qualified babysitters at best. My husband took on the role of father as if it was his life-long title. The day our daughter was born was the day he, too, would forever feel his heart walking around outside his body. It’s that vulnerability that draws us close and makes us untouchable partners in this crazy journey known as parenthood.
There’s lots of benchmarks today for fathers, but I think my husband has the most important one. He opened up his heart and soul to our family. He lets me in when things get hard for him and stands by my side when things get hard for me. He accepted the vulnerability that came with being a new parent, and so he gets it. We lift each other up, hold each other through the rough times and laugh together when our daughter is unbearably cute.
This vulnerability we share isn’t a downfall, it’s our rock. Although the days might be long and tears are sometimes shed, I know we’ll always have each other. And as our hearts walk around outside our bodies, we’ll become raw and exposed, but we’ll be beautiful. We’ll be more human that we could have ever hoped. We’ll be a family.