"OK!" he says, and I
hear things clattering in the kitchen. I roll my eyes and try desperately to
concentrate on the words on my laptop screen. It's hard enough to string
together coherent thoughts without trying to walk Michael through basic
A minute or so later:
"Where's her bib and her burp cloth?"
I rest my face in my hands. I
lightly massage my temples. I try not to scream that he should actually look
around for them before asking me.
"I think I left them on the
Maybe a half hour later, there is
shouting from upstairs. "Augh! Argh!
Oh my god! Steph! Steph! I need your
I sigh, push back from my desk,
open my door and plod slowly up the stairs. I lean in the doorway of Em's
nursery and observe my husband standing in front of the changing table, hands
held out in front of him, eyes like a deer's in headlights. Em is laying back
on her changing pad, diaper open, legs bicycling in the air, looking proud of
herself and delighted to be alive.
"Poop. She pooped. It's
everywhere. She got it on her clothes."
I think of all the poop-splosions
I have dealt with singlehandedly, seeing the poop stain blooming across the
inside of her onesie, rushing her upstairs, wiping her down with approximately
a thousand wipes, tossing the mess into the diaper genie, rolling up her
clothing carefully so as to get her onesie off without smearing poop all over
her, putting her in her crib, running the dirty laundry downstairs to soak in
cold water, washing my hands, running back upstairs to put her into a new
outfit. And why is my husband incapable of doing this?
One day, without thinking, I
drank an entire pot's worth of coffee and neglected to switch over to the
bottle. Em was wired. Also, after opening up her poopy diaper, more poop flowed
out of her and, just when I thought she was done, she actually shot poop across
the length of the changing table, getting it on everything, including me. I was
so startled I screamed, at which point Em started screaming, too.
But I managed.
I'm not saying my husband doesn't
know how to take care of his daughter. And I'm not saying he doesn't help. Because
What annoys me more is that I am
considered the default, primary caregiver, even when he's around. As if the
work I'm trying to get done is not as important. As if other people aren't also
counting on me. As if I didn't go through the entirety of my first two
trimesters worried that I would somehow break my unborn baby, and then the
third trimester in a state of constant panic over how I would figure out how to
care for another human being and then, upon popping her out, feel terror at the
thought that my husband's two-week paternity leave would eventually end.
When he is taking care of her, why can't I fully press pause on the mommy thing so I can take care of other things?
It's a lot of responsibility to
have, on top of managing the housework and continuing to perform brilliantly for
my various clients. I mean, why are we assuming I'm the expert on raising our
daughter? How can he so cavalierly assume that these are all things I can
handle? And when he is taking care of
her, why can't I fully press pause on the mommy thing so I can take care of
other things? Why does he feel he can't rely on his own fatherly intuition?
But then again...
Last night, after a rousing
installment of pre-bedtime-feeding tubby time (Michael handles all of this, and
Em loves her tubby time more than anything else in the world ... probably even
more than she loves me), Michael tried to give her the usual evening bottle and
she started screaming. Poor Em was inconsolable. We witnessed her First Tear
Ever. And Michael was at a complete loss.
Finally, I took her, held her
facing out, and began dancing around the kitchen with her. Immediately, the
screams stopped. Eventually, trying a few other tactics I like to use during
the day, I had her laughing. And soon enough, I was successfully feeding her,
and her eyelids drooped.
I had just finished cooking dinner.
My dish — filled with London broil, potatoes, and broccoli rabe — was sitting
on the kitchen table, getting cold. But as I sat there pulled up to the kitchen
table, Em in my arms, finally drifting toward sleep, I felt satisfied.