I Thought I Knew What My Family Was Capable Of — Then I Had Knee Surgery
By Natasha Chiam
PHOTOGRAPHY BY @darby/Twenty20
May 9, 2017
Our family's routine was turned upside down when I had total knee replacement surgery last fall. I was in hospital for four days, and then recovering at home, unable to drive or walk without crutches, for six more weeks. And we only had about five weeks of lead time to prepare for Operation Mom Down.
So I had to laugh when, the day after the March on Washington, the New York Times published an article about dads stepping up in a despairing New Jersey town. The women had gone to the march, leaving the fathers of the town to (gasp!) parent their own children. The dads had to feed their children, and take them to sports games and dance classes. The whole article reeks of gender bias and utter nonsense. It’s 2017 and I am so done with the lazy and sexist “doofus daddy” trope.
Here is what I learned about how my family can cope when a parent is sick.
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Your kids and partner can do much more than you give them credit for
Everyone got a quick laundry lesson before I went to the hospital, and it stuck! Now everyone helps on laundry day. And while I always used to leave a detailed to-do list for my husband and a fridge full of ready-to-go meals, I learned that this is completely unnecessary. My very capable partner actually does know where the grocery store is, how to read a recipe and how the oven works.
You do not have to do everything
This is where we shoot ourselves in the foot, moms. We can sometimes believe that we are the only ones who can manage the minutiae of our kids' daily lives. We know little Tristan always needs to pee right before going in the pool, or how Malia will have a meltdown if we are late for school. And we guard this knowledge. We have to let this go and share all those intimate details with our partners so it's not a special occasion if they take them to school, soccer practice or guitar lessons — it’s just normal parenting.
We rearranged our kids activities when I was unable to drive, and have since decided to keep this new routine in place. It evens out the amount of time and commitment each of us dedicate to extracurriculars, so no one feels burned out.
In fact, your partner is likely better at certain tasks
I hate making the kids' lunches. I left it to the last minute, and our mornings were rushed and anxious. My husband, on the other hand, continues to make the lunches the night before. Our mornings have never been calmer!
(He also insists on cleaning the toilets because, according to him, I don’t do it right. I am totally okay with this!)
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Absence does make the heart grow fonder
My kids told me they missed our cuddles the most when I was in the hospital, and my husband said it was lonely at night. I missed them too. And while my husband gladly did the laundry, he admitted this was the one job that had him feeling overwhelmed. He was very happy when I was able to resume laundry duties again. (I only gave him a little bit of side-eye about that one.)
No special cookies for parenting — that's the job
My husband stepped up and into my role while still going to work. He made sure everyone was fed, dressed, loved and where they needed to be. End of story. That’s what needed to happen. No one needs to get extra kudos for doing the job they signed up for — both as a partner and as a parent.
Now if only mainstream media and legislators would stop perpetuating gender-based stereotypes, then maybe, just maybe, the mommies won't have to march for equality for all of us. We could all get back to raising capable human beings who don’t see a binary world.
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