This revelation presented itself one morning when the small one announced that he did not want me to take him to school. He wanted daddy. It was devastating.
There was no clue that heartbreak would be imminent. In fact, the day had started as usual – in the dark of night, as his nimble little fingers lifted my tee and his lips locked onto my breast.
Half an hour later, when the alarm rang, he unlatched, performed his usual welcome to the dawn ritual dance on my pee-distended belly, then hopped off to play with his cars. Like I said, it was a perfectly normal morning.
This lasted all the way until we were at the door, ready to leave for school. He turned and said, “I don’t want mummy, I want daddy”.
We asked him several times if he was sure. “Yes! I want daddy!” he nodded, then repeated it in Mandarin while shooting us with his best oh-thou-art-stupid-parents look. The father got dressed, took the boys and left, as my heart plummeted to my bowels.
A year or so ago, when the firstborn decided to follow daddy in all things instead of mummy, I capitulated. He was growing up and he wanted to be a man. There was still the koala kid – then an infant – for me to baby.
Up till now, he had wanted to be carried only by me, bathed by me, fed by me, have his stinky bottom washed by me, have his footwear put on by me, his favourite books read by me. He wanted only one person – mummy.
That was fine. I’d given up the idea of a career and surrendered to domestic slavery after No 1 was born. When No 2 came it was just a continuation.
I must admit, though, that being a stay-at-home mum has been awful. I loathe anything to do with housework and cooking but have to do it since we can’t afford a maid. Freelancing to earn pocket change means that I’d be working late into the night after a full (and stressful) day of tantrum management, laundry, chaos clearance, meal preparation, laundry, kiddy activity time, laundry, meal clear-up, bath time, bedtime, laundry … you get the idea.
But even as I lamented the inability to do anything (like pee) without the kids hanging around, it was easy to luxuriate in the toddler lovefest. What an amazing ego booster! To be adored to unconditionally, so fully, so trustingly! So this rejection hit about as subtly as a humvee into the solar plexus.
I’d given up a career, nicotine, alcohol, theatre, concerts, spa-time, me-time, any time at all. I’m the one with the uterus. Dammit, I’m the one who almost died in childbirth! I was not ready to give up my preferred parent status yet! Not yet! Maybe never!
Then mummy guilt descended. I was obviously: (a) too strict (b) too fierce (c) too boring (d) too mean. Daddy let them watch TV. Daddy let them turn the playroom into Armageddon. Daddy let them drink Milo, stay up later, leave the toilet seat up, etc etc etc.
The husband texted me later to say that when he asked the tiny traitor why, he’d said: “Today mummy rest, today you come”. Aw.
I thawed out. But this is probably a harbinger of things to come. One day I will have to give up my boys – to the army, to girlfriends, to a wife or partner. It won’t be easy, but I might be too old and demented to care by then. Right now, I sense freedom on the horizon. It’s time to plan that girls-only yoga retreat and spa holiday, woo-hoo!