Three Kids Under Three? Your Wife Must Be Busy…
By Pat Albertson
“Poor woman” everybody thought when number three arrived in the Albertson family – with the first two still in their nappies. Of course, for Dad it’s all a piece of cake.
Our parenting story was somewhat unusual right from the start.
However, Janet and I had a couple more surprises in store for ourselves, and we discovered the first one about two days after our arrival back in Christchurch; our second baby was due to arrive into the world two weeks after the first birthday of our daughter Christine.
At this point in time I was still working a full 40 hour week, and so it was left to Janet to do the lion’s share of Christine’s child raising. That doesn’t mean business as usual for the working husband though, as I am sure everyone who has been in that situation is aware.
Our comfortable morning ritual was thrown into chaos with baby food to prepare, bottles to wash, nappies to change and babies to cuddle before rushing off in time for work. By the time I got to work I felt I was about ready for lunch already.
It seems like no parent can really understand what it is like for the other and that is when the “why don’t you pull your weight?” and “the grass is always greener” syndromes start to kick into gear.
Mum has been busy looking after the child(ren) all day and is eagerly awaiting dad’s arrival home so that she can hand over the kids, talk all about her day (since she has been starved of stimulating company for the last eight hours) and generally kick off her shoes.
Meanwhile, dad has come home after yet another incredibly stressful day and just wants to relax like he did in the old pre-family days. Oh course, after that comes the evening and night shift which is best left to the imagination….
The endless compromises continue during weekends where I desperately look forward to a few days off to recharge my batteries.
I have a mental list of family and personal things I want to do but for some reason very few of them seem to happen: We can’t go to the beach because it is just a bit too cold for the little ones, so let’s go for a short bushwalk instead.
Everything is all nicely packed in the car when….. what’s that strange smell? Okay, everybody out and down to the bathroom, followed by a trip to the laundry. Finally we arrive at Bottle Lake Forest and unpack the car, but now the kids are tired and want to go home.
After fifteen minutes of trying to jolly them along we give up and head for home.
Sunday evening soon arrives and it dawns on me that I have not achieved anything that I looked forward to and it is now five more stressful days until the next disappointing weekend!
We had always planned to have two kids and so when our son was born we had a sense of relief that our family was complete.
However, someone had other ideas, and when David turned one we found out that another little bundle of joy was on the way. We never never never use the word accident when talking about Michael because he is just as special to us as the rest of our children, for all that he was a bit of a surprise.
The idea still took a lot of getting used to, though, if only for logistical reasons: who was going to have to share rooms; why did we give all our baby clothes away; how many car seats can we fit into the back of our aging Toyota – and how much tertiary education can we now afford to provide?
All this doesn’t mean that our lives were an absolute misery from the moment the kids started arriving. In fact there were, and still are, plenty of good times when they would just bring joy and pride to our hearts.
However we still felt that we were only just coping and so had very mixed emotions up to the time that Michael was born. Mother and baby had to stay in hospital for a couple of weeks after the birth, and so I had a taste of the solo father routine (or lack of routine).
With the kids getting more and more restless the longer their mum was away, and me going in to the hospital two or three times a day, we lived on an unsteady diet of junk food and nervous energy with the chaos mounting inside the home.
I managed to pull things together a little bit for the day when Janet and Michael arrived home but by then we were both exhausted and in no condition to deal with this crying bundle of poohey nappies! I guess you never know what you are capable of until you are forced to do it.
I could easily cuddle one child or share her with Janet, and even two children could each balance on one knee or sit either side of me as I once again read them the thrilling and exciting adventures of Thomas the Tank Engine.
With the arrival of little Michael it all got that much more difficult for me and Janet to share our affections around and still have enough left for each other, and that’s when the jealousy thing comes in.
Maybe if I had the Wisdom of Solomon I would cut myself into quarters and give away one piece to each interested party!
When a friend with one child happened to see our three playing happily together (as they sometimes do) she told me how lucky we were to have three children, because it must be so much easier than having just one, who has no siblings to play with. When I hear statements like that I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry!
I realise that this account is largely focussed on my experiences and I have to say that in writing it, I don’t want to take anything away from my wonderful wife who has done so well in the joint bringing up of our three happy and much-loved children.
Indeed, it would be fair to say that she continues to be known as the primary caregiver, whatever that means. However, I regard my own input to be equally important, time/energy consuming, draining and ultimately rewarding.
To the many people out there who have said, “your wife must be so busy looking after three pre-kindergarten children”, I would just like to point out that it is not all plain sailing for Dad either!
Next: Fatherless America