Hey, moms, tell me: The last time your husband performed a domestic or child-related task that you normally do—did you give them directions? Watch them do it? Tell them how to do it better? Instruct them after they were done about the way that you usually do it? I am absolutely guilty of all of the above.
Since our daughter was born two years ago, my husband has mentioned on more than one occasion that he feels I’m constantly correcting him whenever he steps in to handle kid-related duties. Not exactly incentive for him to jump in and help, is it? And now that I’m pregnant with our second child and feeling the need to slow down as my belly gets bigger, I’ve been so grateful for his help. I’ve also been trying very, very hard, to loosen my grip on this idea of the ‘right’ way’ to do things. Because if I’m the only one who can do things the right way, I’m setting myself up to be a very, very tired mama of two.
Part of the challenge here, for me at least, is the importance our child-obsessed culture has placed on consistency. From day one, we are encouraged to do things routinely to instill security in our kids, and as a result, primary caregivers get yoked to habits that are incredibly difficult to break—hence the bristling when it’s dad’s turn at bathtime, and I’m eavesdropping and offering guidance through the door. Not pretty, but difficult to turn off.
This concept of moms and dads having unique parenting styles is nothing new. Psychologists and academics have studied the differences in the way we interact with our children for years, often proving the positive effects of having contrasting approaches. Dads may not know exactly what to put in their lunchboxes, but they may be able to get them to open up, play more creatively or be more physically active than Mom. Just as men are from Mars, and women are from Venus, dads and moms aren’t wired the same and are fueled by different senses of purpose.
While the stereotype of a dad flipping his kid over his shoulder to elicit a giggle may make most moms cringe, we must admit that the degree of fun that results from horseplay is usually a lot higher than, say, a nice safe game of tea party. There’s room for it all in our kids’ lives, of course, but recognizing a dad’s role and the impact that their specific type of parenting has on their children is just as important as recognizing what moms contribute.
The bigger picture here is that dads do things differently, and that is totally okay. While it may take my husband an extra two minutes to change a diaper, the truth is that he lines those tabs up much more neatly than I do—even if my daughter’s pants do sometimes go back on her body backwards. (Who cares? Really, no one.) Trying to be more mindful about valuing his way of doing things instead of immediately criticizing or correcting him is a good excercise for me since we are still early on in our parenting careers. And until then I can master that? I might just add this book to our regular bedtime book rotation, to be sure it really sinks in.