Magazine article Working Mother

Make Room for Daddy

Magazine article Working Mother

Make Room for Daddy

Article excerpt

Back when having a baby was the furthest thought from my mind, I got my husband, George, who is a fashion and beauty photographer, to promise me that if we ever did have a child he would be actively involved in our little one's life. Since George had been the favorite uncle, godfather, friend and playmate to everybody else's kids, it would be a cinch for him to do it for our own child, I thought. Otherwise, why would I even entertain the idea of parenthood? I couldn't imagine being able to juggle marriage, work (I'm an advice columnist, author and life coach) and a child without his help. When I eventually became pregnant and was sharing this line of thinking with a group of my women friends, an older pal pulled me aside and said, "The problem is not going to be whether your husband wants to help. It'll be whether you let him." I scoffed at her comment, assuring her that she didn't understand. We were different, I insisted.

Postbaby, though, I do have to admit that while George is more hands-on than my father ever was, I've been the one to stand in the way of my husband's having more autonomy in his relationship with our daughter, Carrie, who turns 2 in November. The person who was the most shocked by my behavior during our baby's first year of life was-me! Who would have ever imagined enthusiastic working mom Harriette Cole as a hoverer? Yes, I wanted Daddy to change diapers, "but not like that, honey!" Yes, I wanted Daddy to rock her to sleep sometimes, "but watch how you hold her head!" Yes, I wanted Daddy to bathe her, "but be careful, please." And the list went on, since he was pretty clumsy at first and didn't seem to understand how wobbly her infant neck was and that his chest wasn't nearly as cushy as mine. From Carrie's first day on the planet, my litany of "buts" has definitely been enough to send him running countless times. Thankfully, his skin's been thick enough to weather the blows of my frequent objections.

Frankly, I think that George once had his own doubts about whether he could care for Carrie without my help. The few occasions when he and Carrie did spend time alone together early on, George virtually hurled her into my arms as soon as I stepped in the door. A couple of times he even called me to get my ETA because our little angel was screaming her head off, and only Mommy could quiet her down. The biggest test came when I had to go out of town for a few days and it became clear that Carrie couldn't go with me. I went into a full-scale panic because I'd never spent the night away from my child. At 8 weeks old she flew with me to Chicago when I had to do an interview on Oprah. She sat in the green room charming other guests while I was on the air. And after that she traveled with me to countless speaking engagements and events.

So how was it going to work the first time her daddy was totally in charge? Did I actually trust George to watch her for four nights in a row while I was away? Just the thought of it made me shudder. You see, ingenue parents that we are, we have yet to teach Carrie to sleep in her crib. At least half of each night, I stand guard, so to speak, cradling her so that her daddy-who is a deep sleeper-doesn't crush her little arms or legs. How could I possibly leave her with him? Would George (the one whose sleeping ability I envy) be able to stay halfawake, as I've done every night since Carrie was born? Would he be able to get her to eat at night when, up until that moment, she would only take a bottle from the babysitter? …

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