Mike took my boys camping for a night last weekend. It is too long and boring of a story to explain how that came to pass, but it did. You would think there would have been great rejoicing on my end for a night to myself, to be alone in the house for 24hours, something that has not happened since Mike and I met.
The first couple hours I spent feeling guilty. (darn Catholic upbringing) And then I moved on to feeling like I was missing out on some great experience or memory that might be forming out in the wilderness that night.
The second concern doesn't bother me so much. I miss out on many experiences they have at school and when they are with their aunts, so I got over that one rather quickly. It is the guilt that pisses me off.
When Henry was a baby and I would talk about going to book group, a night out with the girls, or a movie I had seen there was always a coworker who would say; "Wow, so Bob babysat the baby?"
"No, Bob did not 'babysit' the baby, he parented his son," was my usual reply.
I don't have that same feeling with Mike and the boys. I always feel he is doing me some huge favor if he stays home with the boys while I go to book group or go out for wine with a girlfriend. I don't feel he is parenting as much as he is staying home with my boys.
If it were Bob that took the boys camping would I have felt the same guilt? I don't think so. I think I still might have had a twinge of sadness that I was missing out on something, because I do like to camp, but I would have felt like it was some daddy/son time, a little male bonding in the woods. Instead I felt gratitude that Mike was willing to take them.
This feeling of gratitude is something I struggle with, the nagging feeling that I should be so thankful that Mike is willing to spend time with my kids, like I owe him a big favor in return. There is a sense of imbalance to it. With Bob I never felt the imbalance. I was grateful to have Bob and thankful he was such an awesome dad but there was no feeling like he was doing me a favor that I needed to repay, he was simply being a dad, being a co-parent.
With Bob I felt the responsibility of parenting as a 50/50 endeavor. With Mike I feel I have 100% of the responsibility and I should feel grateful when he can help me out. This is no fault of Mikes, I take much of the blame for this set up really. Frankly, I don't always want to ask Mike's opinion on parenting issues, I want the bottom line with my boys.
Certainly, if Bob had lived we would not see eye to eye on every decision and I would not have had the bottom line or gotten everything I wanted. When he was dying I spent most of my grieving efforts freaking out about parenting alone, feeling all that burden. But after he died I realized the privilege of making all the decisions on my own. It is a blessing and a curse. One of the benefits of being widowed versus being divorced.
Is this fair? Is it the best thing for everyone? We lost so much, is it wrong to try and hold on to a little bit of control, even though we all know control is an illusion? Does having the bottom line come at a cost to me, to the boys, to Mike? It is exhausting I know that.
Will I ever feel like I am co-parenting with Mike?
I don't know, I hope so, but I also don't hope so. Yikes, does the grieving work ever end?
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