As we celebrated our 19th anniversary on the 19th of August, I reflected on how my husband has been an integral partner in my balancing act. I remember before we had kids we had spirited discussions about who would have primary responsibility for child care when we became parents. We were both in demanding jobs. Our perspective then was colored by our backgrounds and assumptions. My mother stayed home when she had my three sisters and me. My perception was that she had to make many sacrifices because in her era there were less choices available and more expectations about what a mom should do when she had children. My husband was born and raised in Greece which is generally a patriarical society. He came to our relationship with preconceived notions of roles and responsiblities from his culture and his experience. His mother stayed home to raise him and his sister. He had a positive experience with this arrangement and he wanted his kids to enjoy something similar.
What we found was we both were changed profoundly through the experience of actually having children. During my first pregnancy, we made arrangements for me to return to work after 3 months and Michael to take on primary care giver duties during his summer break from teaching. This way Dimitri would go to an day care situation when he was around 7 months old. I loved being home with my new baby but found myself looking for outlets for the energy I normally put into my job. I made elaborate landscaping plans for our front and back yard that I executed myself. I also arranged and rearranged most of our possessions in our house. I had projects for Michael as well. At one point, he told me, "You need to go back to work." I wanted to believe jokingly but looking back I realize he was likely quite serious.
On a bit of a tangent, I was always a planner. I expected to be married by 25 (was a few months early on this one); have my first child at 30 (got that one); my second at 35 (was a year early) with an option for a third when I was 40 (was a couple years late on this one). I realized early on in our relationship that during basketball season Michael was pretty much sucked into that world from November until March. When thinking about starting our family, we decided we should try to avoid having a infant during that time of year. Both my sons were cooperative in terms of their due dates but both had the bad grace to arrive two weeks early. They share a birthday in mid-February which ironically ended up being during the play off season.
But the timing worked for Michael to take on caregiver duties for our sons during his summer. His summers with our two boys were pivotal in both our evolutions. He would strap them on his chest and coach his various camps and clinics. I also found out that sympathetic moms often helped him by holding or caring for one of my sons during those periods. At various events later in those years, women I never met would come up to me and greet my young son who was clearly familiar with them. I credit that experience in part to both sons' open and accepting natures.
Watching my Greek born husband struggle and persevere with diaper duty, getting out the door with all the required baby gear and lovingly care for our infant boys was an eye opener for me. I admired him for taking on the responsibility that clearly went against his heritage and did not come easily for him. He also shared with me that the process gave him a new respect for any parent who has primary caregiver duties.
As we brought our third child home, we joked about who would stay home with her. We had come full circle from the early days. Now we both had more of a desire to be the one at home rather the one who returned to work. In the end, we went with what worked well for us. We share parenting responsibilities as well as enjoy our lives and contributions outside the home. Because of his profession, our children all grew up to some degree in a gym - Leyla is no exception. Sharing some court side pictures from Leyla's first basketball season.
Since we became parents more than thirteen years ago, Michael is a full supporter and partner in my balancing act as he manages his own. Knowing his background and original position, I receive great comfort from his belief that I am a better mom to our kids (and wife) by continuing to work.