Over the weekend, I was talking with my younger brother who is engaged to a wonderful woman who has a 4-year-old daughter. My brother is pretty interesting. While many guys his age would flee the scene upon finding out their girlfriend has a child, my brother doesn’t mind. He understands that it will add a level of complexity to the relationship, but he loves kids and doesn’t consider it a barrier.
He recently had back surgery, so the recovery left him at home for several weeks. He viewed it as an opportunity to save some money on daycare for the child, so she started going maybe part-time during the week. In addition to the money savings, it kept my brother from getting bored. This arrangement has worked well, but he and his significant other recently had a fight about it.
The eruption happened after he had had a bad day with the child. Her behavior was horrible, he was having a difficult time keeping a handle on it, he was by himself most of the day, and when mom came home, she pulled out of it. My soon-to-be sister-in-law wants my brother to be her dad even though her ex-husband is her real dad. She knows how much my brother loves her daughter, sees how willing he is to parent along side her, and just wants him to consider himself dad. But, as my brother points out – he isn’t one of the rock stars in her life. He is the disciplinarian, the caregiver, the nutritionist, and the nurse. When her mom comes home or her dad comes to pick her up, they get the hugs, the smiles, and her joy. This is something he doesn’t get. Combine that with the fact he spends all of the time with her, and he is frustrated.
I congratulated him on being a true dad. I told him his feelings and frustrations and desire for a night off where not because he isn’t her dad, but because he is being her dad. It is no different than if he were her real dad and staying home with her full-time. I mean, being the parent doesn’t necessarily mean being the recognized rock star in their life. I threw my own daughter off when she declared me the “worst mommy ever”, and I cheered. As I explained to her later, sometimes being a good mommy means not making her happy. It may mean I have to make her eat her veggies, clean her room, apologize to her sister, or do her homework. This is what mommies (and daddies) do. As I told my brother, his soon-to-be stepdaughter will have memories with him that she won’t have with her mom and dad. And, those memories will make him a rock star too. He may just have to wait a bit longer for it.
It’s funny how much pressure we put on ourselves as parents. We want to be everything to our kids – and we want to give them everything. Sometimes we forget that the biggest thing we can do is be the parent. Being a parent doesn’t mean being popular, it means doing the right thing to make sure your kids grow up well. Your recognition comes when you least expect it. It could be when someone tells you how great of a help your child was in a certain situation, or it could be when you see them achieve something they have been working towards. In the meantime, I’m fine with the Worst Mommy Ever award – it means I’m doing something right every once in a while.