From the time we got married, I told my husband, Ben, about my desire to raise and care for our kids by staying home with them. Ben understands why this is important to me and has always supported and backed me up on this decision.
Being home, I am the parent that the kids see almost 24/7. On top of that, when my kids were babies (well, Breyen is still a baby), I breastfed them by latching on directly. Ben hardly ever had a chance to feed the kids as a result.
To create opportunities for Ben to bond with the kids, I would request for him to bath them. With baby Breyen, weekend baths are handled by Ben as long as he has the weekend off. Bedtime wipe downs are also handled by Ben if he is home from work before Breyen’s bedtime.
Phoebie is now four years old, and Ben has learnt to bond with her too. From diaper changes and bath time when she was a baby, to play time now, Ben has made much effort to spend time with Phoebie.
Why am I writing about this?
Because while I was nursing baby Breyen in the bedroom, I overheard a conversation between Ben and Phoebie. Phoebie knew I was busy with Breyen because I had told her, so when Ben came home, she wasted no time in engaging her father.
Watching this brought me back to a time when Phoebie was a few months old. Ben had to go for a work trip and was away for a couple of weeks. When he returned from the trip, I went to pick him up, with baby Phoebie in the car. The moment Ben got into the car, Phoebie screamed bloody murder, all the way home. The whole car ride took about 20 minutes and by the time we got home, my ears were ringing. Phoebie only stopped crying when I picked her up from the car seat.
Ben was upset that Phoebie didn’t recognize him and cried so hard when she saw him. It was then I reminded him that it was important for him to make extra effort to bond with Phoebie, however tired he might be from work.
As the stay home parent aka the face that the kids see all day all night, it’s probably only natural that the kids stick to me compared to Ben. So if Ben wanted to connect with the kids, it would take extra effort on his part. Even if it’s just 15 minutes a day, making that short time a quality time with the kids would make a great deal of difference.
One important thing I have learnt about this precious time Ben needs to spend with the kids, is to make sure he is alone with them. That way, the kids have no choice but to give him their attention.
Giving the working parent time alone with the kids also gives the stay home parent some much needed alone time. While Ben and Phoebie play, I am writing this, spending time doing what I like. It gives me time to regain some sanity after a crazy day with the kids, and Ben gets to know his daughter while Phoebie gets to know her father.
How has this worked out in my family? Let’s just say that, from that baby who screamed 20 minutes in the car because her father was next to her, Phoebie now adores her father.
Ben brings her out alone for meals and for short outings to the mall or to the playground. He is also the one who brings her to our church’s children programme and for her dance class when I have to stay home with Breyen.
I am thankful that Ben sees the importance to spend time alone with the kids to bond with them as much as I do. All that alone time has clearly given Phoebie a chance to get to know her father and to learn that she can rely on her father.
The best part about alone time for the working parent with the kids? The working parent learns the temperament of the kids and also learn that while he is tired from work, it isn’t easy and can sometimes be even more tiring looking after the kids.