What Moms Can Learn from Dads
I’m married to an incredible dad. He’s supportive about every activity presented to him; he’s consistent with expectations; I’ve never see him lose his cool or even convey slight irritation towards our kids; and he loves them with inspiring ferocity.
I know he’s not the only one out there. But I also know that moms get a lot of glory in the parenting department, while dads get portrayed by many commercials and network tv shows as oafish assistants incapable of living up to mom’s expectations.
As a mother of young kids, it is insanely hard not to assume the role of ‘parenting authority’. Moms are just really good at lots of things. They’re generally with the kids more in the early days. They’re generally more organized. They’re generally better planners. They generally read more parenting books and blogs. (Please note that I’m using a LOT of generalizations here; I’m entirely aware that many statements I’ve made and will continue to make are not universally true.)
This post is for you, dads. It’s full of all the things you’re doing right. It’s not meant to be snarky, nor is it intended to read like a series of backhanded compliments. These are things I strive for as a parent, and they are things that seem to come very naturally to most of you.
And this post is for us too, moms. I hope it can encourage us to appreciate the fathers and father-figures in our lives, and to help us recognize that there is a valuable ‘parenting authority’ within all of us.
- Not Perfect is Perfectly OK
Before I had kids, I didn’t consider myself a perfectionist in the least. But as a mom, I find myself getting stuck sometimes in these grooves I’ve created about how things should be. The best thing to get me out of this disruptive thinking was to leave for the day with the kids at home with dad. Did the dishes get loaded in the dishwasher the way I thought they should have? Nope. Did the dishes all get clean so we could use them for the next meal? Yep. Did my kids have a vegetable, a fruit, a grain, and a protein on their plate for lunch? Nope. Were they well-fed enough to be happy and nourished? Yep. Moms are notorious for creating more work for themselves, and the mental energy we spend keeping ourselves hostage to all our systems is part of the reason we’re so wired all the time. Not everything has to be complicated.
- Don’t Give Up Who You Are
My husband has a lot of hobbies. When we had kids, his first instinct was to include them in every one of those hobbies. Consequently, our three-year-old son now has a fishing pole, skis, three guitars, and loves to watch baseball while holding his own glove and wearing his own Yankees hat. If dad wants to play guitar, they both play guitar. If dad wants to watch baseball, they both watch baseball. Admittedly, dads absolutely give up the amount of time they spend on the hobbies they love, but they seem to be better about making kids a part of those hobbies, rather than the other way around all the time.
- Take a Break When You Get the Chance
I’m willing to bet that if you asked 10 moms the first thing they did once the kids were napping/dropped off at school/otherwise distracted, at least 9 of them would report some form of cleaning, cooking, or planning. Dads appear to just be better at this: the kids go down for a nap, my husband lays down, or exercises, or meditates. Yes, he’s going to also mow the lawn and clean up the kitchen, but first he’s going to prioritize his well-being. It’s a commendable trait. And, I’d beg to argue, one that makes anyone a better parent.
- Be Present
Again, this is a generalization, but the way that dads engage in activities with their kids is inspiring. They’re so gung-ho. It feels like they’re genuinely on board with whatever world the kid has constructed. When they’re in it, they’re in it. Even if it’s five minutes, it’s five minutes of concentrated attention. When I’m playing, I start feeling antsy and wondering if I should be starting dinner or answering an email or if everyone has had enough water to drink…things that absolutely do not matter in that very second. I have to consciously strive for that dad enthusiasm and 100% attention.
- Lead With Optimism
Tell me I’m not alone in this scenario: You receive a last minute invite to meet friends in town for dinner, kids included. Mom’s brain immediately begins racing around if the naps were long enough this afternoon to bring the kids in public, if she should change her daughter’s shirt before going because it has food on it from lunch, what needs to be packed for extra clothing in case of an accident, if they should bring bibs from home, and if they can realistically get back from dinner before bedtime. Dad answers, “Sure, see you in 20 minutes.” I’m not downplaying the consideration that goes into every outing with kids. But is it really that constructive to always plan for the worst case scenario? I think it’s fair to recognize that dads have an admirable ability to assume that everything will be just fine. Because, let’s be honest, everything usually is.