When people find out I have a young child and I work full time the first question is usually "which centre is your child at?" I've taken to responding "Daddy Daycare", which causes some confusion until I explain that my partner is at home and works two days a week. One day my mother looks after Wriggly, the other we manage through the village, some work from home, and leave-taking on my part. It's an arrangement that's working pretty well* so far for all three of us, plus it means we can share the ray of sunshine that is our son with a lot of other people who love him a great deal.
I remember vividly the first time Wriggly was upset and wanted Daddy instead of Mummy. We had had a few incidents that had taken the combined cuddle power of both parents to resolve, but this time I went to him and was unsuccessful and when my partner came into the room little Wriggly lunged out of my arms for his father. Once in the embrace of his paternal progenitor he was soon soothed, sucking his thumb and shutting his sleepy eyes. We put him back down in his cot and all was well again.
I thought I'd be pretty hurt at this evolution of parental preference and was a bit startled to discover that instead of rejection what I felt most was relief. Relief that I was not It anymore; the most important person in Wriggly's life bar none. To share that duty, to even be slightly second best, is fine with me because it means a bit less emotional heavy lifting.
Is that selfish? Possibly. But it seems to me that it's a matter we never mention for fathers. We don't consider how they must feel when their child wants Mummy over them, because it's just the societal norm we've all lived with for so long.
Nor do we ask working fathers if they feel sad that they are missing milestones by being away from the home. It's a question that working mothers face on a regular basis. Why would mothers intrinsically feel more bereft than fathers over not being with their child? Particularly once the hormones associated with birth and breastfeeding have left the system.
I thought I would feel jealous of my partner once we swapped roles. But my favourite sound in the world is listening to the two of them laughing together in the next room (preferably while I'm gently waking up after a long sleep-in). I don't begrudge their close relationship. Wriggly loves me too and I feel secure in that. As we explained endlessly to the cat during the pregnancy that resulted in our son, having another person in our little family means more love to go around, not less.
Because Wriggly adores his Daddy doesn't mean he can't also love me; he does, and he always will. Just as I will always love him too.
* It's not really working so well for the housework, but that's another post for another time.