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Why I Still Count Down the Minutes Until Daddy Is Home

Photograph by Getty Images

I opened up the text file with my to-do list and scanned through the items there:

  • Write blog posts for three of my clients: check
  • Create an outline for that other article: check
  • Write a blog post for my personal blog: check
  • Do three loads of laundry
  • Run to the market
  • Refill the prescription for the cat meds

Check, check, check.

I saved the entire thing, closed it down and then glanced at the time: 5:25 p.m. Late enough for my husband to have possibly left work. But not definitely.

I clicked over to Gmail. His name was still there in the Gchat window. Damn it!

I sighed. Paused. Looked over to my right. Em stared at me from her rock n' play, eyes wide and beatific.

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I looked back at my screen.

I slumped in my seat, thinking for a few moments. Then I brought my hands to the keyboard.

Me: You should come home now.

Michael: It's only 5:25!

Me: You leave this early sometimes. When are you leaving?

Michael: I'm working on something

Michael: I'll leave in a bit

me: When's a bit!?

What followed was a period of time during which I scrolled through Twitter, shook a rattle at Em, read a book to Em, responded to emails, helped Em practice standing ... all interspersed with glances at Gchat to see if Michael had signed off yet.

Once he did, I did the math in my head. It'll take him about a half hour to walk to the Port Authority. Maybe 15 minutes to get on the bus. 45 minutes to get to the Park n' Ride. And 10-15 minutes from there to get home.

I recently read a piece (I can't remember where) by a mother who counted down the minutes until her husband came home. Not because she didn't enjoy spending time with her baby. That wasn't it at all. But she looked forward to the time when her husband could take over so she could have some time to herself.

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility I have to this tiny human who relies on me for everything. Everything.

My heart leapt with immediate understanding when I started reading. I, too, counted down the minutes until Michael was due home so I could pass him Em. Once the handover happened, he would give Em her bath, give her the final feeding of the day and then put her to bed. During that time, I would do something mindless, like catch up on Twitter, or I would settle down with a good book. After that, my husband and I would eat dinner together while watching one of our favorite shows, and then pass out.

It wasn't much of a reprieve. But it worked.

So I was thrilled to see I wasn't the only mom who did the countdown. By the end of the piece, though, the author had experienced a complete turnaround, having learned the lesson that she should feel grateful for every moment she had with her child. And instead of counting down the hours, the minutes, looking toward the future, she should just allow herself to be present for every giggle and gurgle and poop.

I sighed and rolled my eyes. Screw that.

Don't misunderstand me. I feel guilty for every minute spent working at my computer, when I could instead be engaging with Em. I take frequent breaks to read aloud to her, to do tummy time with her, to swoop her up into the air and let her pretend she's Supergirl. My heart explodes with every giggle. With every gurgle. With every poop. (OK, Maybe not with every poop, but she does make this hilarious croaking sound that alerts me to poop situations.)

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But I still can't help counting down the minutes to Daddy. And not just because I could use the help. Hell, most days, Em is a saint, and juggling work stuff and house stuff and childcare is a piece of cake. (Or at least not terrible.)

More than needing help, or even needing time to myself, I look forward to my husband's arrival home because it means that, at long last, I'm not the only one responsible for her well-being.

Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility I have to this tiny human who relies on me for everything. Everything. Who trusts me implicitly. Who smiles with delight whenever she sees me walk into a room. It's terrifying!

At least when my husband is home, this responsibility doesn't lie so heavily upon my shoulders. At least when he's home, she can look to us both.

Knowing this just makes me feel lighter. And I know it doesn't mean I love her any less.

So that other mom's epiphany aside, I think I'll continue counting down the minutes.

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