Last night I did the dishes while listening to stomping feet and giggles coming from upstairs. It’s the sound of bedtime at our house. This is my husband’s job.
He plays “Daddy Games” with them which consists of competitions like, “Who Can Scream the Loudest” or “Who Can Make the Silliest Face.”
The kids love it, of course, because my husband is the fun parent.
I am not the fun parent. I’m the parent who yells upstairs that it’s time to get in bed already and no you can’t skip brushing your teeth.
A few years ago, I fired myself from bedtime specifically because I am not the fun parent.
Bedtimes with mom usually start with nagging which quickly escalates into arguing and results in a grouchy mom and grouchy kids. I didn’t want this to be my last interaction with my kids and theirs with me, so I fired myself and my husband happily took over the job.
It’s not that I don’t want to be the fun parent.
On the nights my husband isn’t home I try to give my kids a fun bedtime. I head upstairs thinking up a fun story to tell them or brainstorming my own fun games to play but inevitably “mom brain” kicks in.
All it takes is the sight of their messy rooms to slap the fun right out of me. Responsibility and discipline take it’s place.
Fun is put to the back-burner as I nag my children to straighten up their rooms and ask them why it wasn’t done earlier.
As I sit on the bed and wait, responsibility and discipline are replaced with self-doubt.
I beat myself up because I haven’t done a good job teaching them to take care of their belongings.
I wonder if they are on their way to becoming hoarders when they grow up, how it will all be my fault, and how they’ll talk about me with their therapist.
And it’s not just bedtime either.
During dinner, my husband, the fun parent, tells jokes and silly stories.
I, on the other hand, notice a piece of food stuck in a child’s tooth and then remember the dentist told me they should be flossing more and oh wait, I need to reschedule their next check-up because we have a conflict with basketball practice, which reminds me I need to wash their basketball jerseys which reminds me that I have to switch the laundry and before you know it dinner’s over and I missed the jokes and the fun.
I think this is the mental load I keep hearing about.
So I’m not the fun parent. But I’m okay with that.
Because I’m the comfort parent- the one my kids come to when they are sick or hurt or sad and only a mommy hug will fix it.
I’m the planner parent-the one who invites friends over to play and signs them up for and gets them to the activities they love like basketball and acting and karate.
I’m the listening parent-the one they come to when they have a big problem or they had a rough day and need to talk it out.
I’m the rhythm parent-I keep us moving and keep us on our reliable, steady schedule.
I give them the sense of constancy which makes them feel secure. I set the tone of our home.
So do I wish I were the fun parent? Sometimes.
But instead of focusing on what I don’t give my kids, I choose to focus on all the wonderful things I do provide for them.
My husband and I both have our roles and I think it works for our family. Besides, if we were both the fun parent, the laundry would still be in the washer and we’d all have a lot more cavities.