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Henry’s 8 months old and it dawned on me recently that Sam hasn’t spent a great deal of one-on-one time with him. They have a fair amount of alone time while I’m doing things like having a shower or catching up on sleep, but this time is spent inside the home (and one-on-one time is not the same when I’m only a couple of rooms away).
I asked Sam if this has been bothering him. He said it hasn’t. Family time is what he most looks forward to, so it’s not that he doesn’t want to spend time with Henry. It’s just that he hasn’t felt the need for him and Henry to be completely away from me in order to bond.
Sam and I have always spent most of our free time together. We don’t get antsy in each other’s company. I guess that’s why we’ve mainly just spent time with Henry together. Plus, Henry is breastfed so I’ve always needed to be close by.
Having been exhausted for the last few weeks though, Sam’s been particularly proactive in caring for Henry when I’ve needed a break. In the midst of this, I told Sam that I’d like to do something on my own every weekend, without being interrupted, even if it’s just for an hour. Not only will this keep me grounded, it will be a great opportunity for Sam and Henry to bond differently than they do now.
A couple of weeks ago, I went and had a bath. Sam was downstairs with Henry and I could hear them playing with each other. There was non-stop laughter. Sam was directing the activities and I could hear him involving Henry in the housework by playing peek-a-boo, singing to him and talking in funny voices. It was music to my ears.
The thing is, a father bonds differently with their child when the mother is not present. They have to fend for themselves, they don’t have you there to ask “what are they meant to be doing now?” and they’re not worried that you’re going to tell them they’re doing something the wrong way. They build confidence with their parenting. They play with the child differently, exposing them to new sounds, games and sights.
I can vouch first-hand for the value of having one-on-one time with your father. While at university, my timetable afforded me a lot of free time. I spent much of it with it my mum. We shopped, we lunched and we lounged around. I didn’t get this kind of quality of time with dad though. Dad came to me one day and asked if I’d like to go out for dinner, just the two of us, every 6 months or so – to bond. Ummmm yes! We’ve been doing it since then (with a slight raincheck due to having Henry). We indulge ourselves with fine food and wine. We talk for hours and it’s about things we wouldn’t talk about in a different setting. I’ve always been close to my dad, but it’s through these dinners that my dad has truly become one of my best mates. We’ve bonded in a different way and on a different level – it’s incredibly special.
As the old saying goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Many fathers might not know how much they want and need quality one-on-time with their child until they experience it.
As a mother, it’s just as much your job to give your partner and child space to bond as it is to strengthen the bonds that you already have.
It’s about modelling to your child that the strength and depth of relationships are the result of the time and energy you put into them.
I'm married to Sam and I'm a mother to Henry.