When I returned to work after a year of paid parental leave from my awe-inspiring employer, Tyler assumed morning duty on the home front while I took on the pick-up and dinner brigade. A majority of the time, I head to work or an exercise class before Addie even wakes up (a difficult choice made less prickly with a two minute FaceTime at the breakfast table). Tyler is on his own to get her dressed, continue to carry the valiant torch of potty training, make her breakfast, find his own left shoe (which she loves to hide) and get her to daycare (ahem, school) before starting his own workday as a bustling real estate broker.
Pause… I am so grateful that a) I have a husband and co-parent which is not a given b) that the nature of Tyler’s career allows for this morning flexibility and c) he chose to incorporate this into his career, his life, and his partnership with me. When I read Lean In shortly after returning to work, I was struck by the chapter called, “Make Your Partner A Real Partner,” in which Sandberg says:
“I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is. I don’t know of a single woman in a leadership position whose life partner is not fully—and I mean fully—supportive of her career. No exceptions… and contrary to the popular notion that only unmarried women can make it to the top, the majority of the most successful female business leaders have partners.”
When Tyler takes care of Addie in the morning, it has not only supported me and my career, it’s developed a unique relationship between father and daughter. I will admit… those first few weeks back at work after caring for Addie full time for a year, I often thought, “Can anyone care for Addie the way I did?” Drilling this down a bit, I was actually quite convinced that I had figured out the “right” way to raise Addie and worried that anyone else would be 2nd string. Will he do breakfasts the same way I do? Does he choose the same outfits I would? When she asks a question or toes a line, will he say the same things I do? The answer is no. And that’s not “wrong.”
Tyler caring for Addie in the mornings not only affords me the ability to pursue my career, it has also humbled me as a parent. Tyler parents and cares for Addie in his own unique way… and it’s taken me awhile to realize that she’s better off for it. While we do try to stay aligned on the big-ticket items in parenting, most things (like how her ponytail is styled) are subjective. Daily, I feel a calling to surrender my own arrogance as a parent and recognize that I am not a better at loving Addie. And she’s is more well-rounded little person because of it.