The women’s rights movement has gone a long way toward teaching men that women are their equals in the workplace. Unfortunately, some women do not show men the same kind of equality when it comes to parenting.
Men are treated as second class parents even before their baby is born. Whereas mothers-to-be are celebrated and even thrown a party (craftily referred to as “showers” to throw us men off all the fun you ladies are having), dads-to-be are all but ignored. And while the “couples’ shower” phenomenon is catching on a bit, the Dad-to-be plays Garfunkel to his wife’s Simon at these things.
Men aren’t treated much better once the baby is born. As a dude residing in a female dominated section of the Blogosphere and Twitterverse, I am privy to the thoughts of moms (via their tweets and blog posts) in a way that most men aren’t. And while I enjoy reading these moms’ often hilarious takes on parenting, every once in a while a negative attitude toward their male counterpart’s parenting creeps through. Here’s a totally fictitious tweet along the lines of what I’m taking about:
“@bloggingmama74 I’m so mad. The genius decided the kids could watch TV past eight tonight. He’s so not getting any tonight.”
Tweets like these are a bit disheartening, especially when the anger stems from the dad parenting differently than the mom, the inference being that the way moms parent is always right, and dads need to do it their way or get lost.
Imagine if a man expressed that kind of attitude in the business world. I doubt he would get much support in 2011 if he suggested a woman should do her job the way a man would or else she is doing it wrong. That kind of attitude was the way it was for many, many years (and still exists in some places), and you know what? It made it hard for women to succeed because it put them in a box and didn’t let them do what they thought was best. But is “Mom knows best” really any different than “Man knows best?”
The irony here is that I also hear women expressing the wish that their kids’ dads would be more active in their kids’ lives. If dads were given more credit when it comes to parenting, and treated as just as capable of parenting as their wives, they would be more active. So next time you differ with your kids’ dad you should ask yourself “Is he parenting wrong? Or just parenting differently?” Because if he is just parenting differently (and not being a jackass), you should cut him some slack. No Dad is enthusiastic about parenting when they only feel like they are the “mom’s assistant,” as one Dad I know describes how he feels in his family.
Now of course you may be thinking, “Oh, but the dads I know don’t want to be involved. They are deadbeats or uninterested.” But is that true? How much of that is stereotyping? Believe me, there were plenty of able women in the workplace back in the day who were thought incapable, but really just weren’t given a chance.
Men today may not be perfect, but many are clamoring to be more involved. If men are treated as more equals as parents they will be better parents. They will rise up to the level they are given credit for. Maybe it is time to give “Mom knows best” a rest.
My husband is a great father to our kids..and I appreciate that he wants to be involved in everything. I know that I get on him about stuff more than I should, but honestly, after being at home with these kids all day, I guess I feel like I have a system down that works. Maybe it’s a territorial thing, I don’t know.
I do know that he is just parenting differently and not parenting badly. I’m sure after reading this, your words will echo in my mind when I snap at him for something that doesn’t really matter.
As far as the dads not being celebrated – you guys carry 15 pounds of fetus and fluid on your person for 9 (sleepless) months until it’s time for your body to be butchered to get the kid out and we’ll throw you a party. I will gladly trade you a party for that miracle.
Mama in the Moon says:
I agree with you Ashley – I think it is more of a territorial thing too. SAHM’s are with the kids all day long, we have a routine, we know what works. It’s not so much that I think my husband is incapable of parenting by any means, I just feel like he doesn’t always know how to react in certain situations, since he isn’t with the kids the majority of the time. I would be interested to hear the perspective of a family where the mom works outside the home and the dad stays with the kids.
Oh, and totally amen about the baby shower. Whether you get cut open by C-section, or push that watermelon-sized baby through the eye of a needle (maybe a *slight* exaggeration), birth is no walk in the park for us gals. Trade you any day!
Annnnd comments like this show you learned nothing from what Mike wrote. Congratulations, you had a baby. You know who else has? BILLIONS OF WOMEN SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME. The fact that you did so no more entitles you to some sort of extra treatment than the man that you decided to start a family with. Oy.
Mama in the Moon says:
Yikes. Sense of humor much? I don’t think that moms should be considered the better parent or “special” simply because they are the ones who physically give birth. Obviously having a uterus does not make you a mom – loving that child, caring for and raising them does; same rules apply to fathers.
I was just being silly with my comment above. I think it was lost on you.
Mike is certainly right in the fact that each parent should be considered an equal but it is true Ashley that while our partner is at work through the day we wether it be the Mother or the Father (the parent who home stays) see and hear all and pick up very quickly what our children may need. My husband and I agree with your statement of the baby shower Ashley however some Dad’s as Mike do appreciate being recognized at their part and in the fact that this will be their child too but it is hugely important Eileen to not downplay the woman’s role in all of this as well! Billions of women have brought a baby into this world for sure, but only I my self carried and brought our Son into this world, no other women!! This was my biggest accomplishment, not my husband’s or ANY OTHER WOMEN, but my alone! Our Son, along with MY accomplishment is why we celebrated! Some women get the privilege of caring a baby to full term and delivering a healthy child and some have this experience stripped from them, they are robbed of what should be. Eileen, yes Billions of Women have brought a child into this world but each Woman is Amazing, has done an Amazing job at ‘life caring’ and birthing and should be respected and appreciated and recognized for Her own accomplishments!!
Nicely put! I try to butt out when my husband is doing his thing with the kids. He’s great with them! But sometimes he has to be reminded with the riot act from the kids for forgetting the little things (which kid likes their sandwich cut what way, or which kid likes what body wash in the bath) I don’t complain, at least he’s doing it without being asked or told!
I so agree with you. A hands-on father is so much better at it if you just let them figure it out, just like mother’s have to figure it out. Babies do not come with manuals and as parents I think we are all “on the job training” and doing our best.
My hubby has always been involved with the kids and the home, without being asked or told. When my kids were babies, if I was busy cleaning or cooking and it was time for lunch he got right in the kitchen and did his thing. If it was bath time and I was busy doing something else, he took it upon himself to get it done.
We have always been team players. We are in this together and it’s helped us out so much. If I disagreed with something, I waited until the kiddo’s were asleep, in their room or out of ear shot to discuss.
And isn’t it funny how when we do let Daddy do his thing, the kids don’t fuss about their particular body wash or sandwich shape? I am always amazed at how much less my 2 year old demands from my hubby- so I guess it’s me that is hung up on doing things “just so”.
I tend to think of it more in terms of stay at home parents and parents working outside of the home. I think parents should negotiate the rules/customs of how they’re going to parent, but I also think in the case of a disagreement if there is a stay at home parent that parent’s wishes should carry more weight. Regardless of gender, I think the stay at home parent gets to have a bigger say in routines because the stay at home parent has to deal with any trouble caused by breaking the routine. In the case of your fictitious example, if the parent who let the kids stay up past a regularly established bedtime then goes to work the next day and the other parent has to stay home and deal with the blow-back of over-tired kids, then the stay at home parent has a certain right to be annoyed.
Sometimes one parent does hit on a trick/routine/way that is better, but then it’s up to the parents to talk about it. My husband can put the kids to bed alone a million times better than I can. It’s a nightmare when I have to do it. But I think I handle dinner time better. So then it’s my job to talk to him, explain why I think what I’m doing at the table works better, and ask if he can get on board with it. Similarly, he tries to tell me exactly what it is that he does when he handles bedtime alone so that I can try to duplicate it.
I think as parents we don’t have enough “conferences” with our partners about what we’re doing and why; then the “I can’t believe s/he did that!” sets in.
I think I’m about to unsubscribe to Childhood 101, which is otherwise a great blog, because Christie just pulled one of those.
Bleh. It made me want to throw up a little in my mouth, the low level of respect this woman seems to have for her husband’s parenting abilities, and her assumption that other mothers all have the same “challenges.”
I have a colleague who, when she goes on business trips, spends days before hand pre-cooking, writing detailed instructions, etc. Apparently her husband doesn’t know what to do when she’s away without this level of hand-holding. And then when she comes back, spends days cleaning up, because he’s not expected to both take care of the kids *and* simultaneously keep the house a minimum level of clean.
When I go on a business trip, I pack my own bags, then give my husband and daughter hugs and kisses and say “bye! have fun!” When my husband goes on a trip he does the same to me. We don’t even ask what the other will be doing; we trust that the kid will be fed, amused, etc while we’re gone. And that’s the key word – TRUST. If you don’t trust your co-parent, what the heck were you doing having kids with them in the first place?
moink: agree!!! or some mother’s would tell me “will your husband babysit?” babysit??? these are his kids just as much as they are my kids. We co-parent together. We are a team!
Oh, I completely agree. Dads need to be given the opportunity. But they also need to listen and not assume all advice is nagging. Many mums I know have good reasons for the things they do, well researched and considered. And we all know that consistency is key in parenting. So comments along the lines of the one you mention are often exasperation at a long time of hard work trying to implement something being ruined in a flash. Still wrong though – but we all understand the feeling!
That said, the mum bears responsibility too. Have those decisions been discussed? Has dad been given the opportunity to be involved in that process? Moo’s dad is interested and involved. But there’s no way he would take the time to read up on things in the same way I do. Not wrong, just different.
But on a different note, as a working mum in a professional industry, I completely dispute your assumption that man knows best has gone. There is still a requirement to “man up” if you want to succeed in most industries. When I say that, I mean put in the hours, be aggressive in terms of career management. Working smartly, or in a more feminine, flexible manner does not bring promotion. Its no surprise that in this day and age, men are more likely to get more money for similar jobs, simply because they ask for it due to their different approach to negoation and self worth. Mini rant over! Sorry…
Great post though.
I teach university level parenthood classes, and you are spot on! Fathers DO parent differently, but just as effectively. Please just continue to father Annie confidently–from what I read here, you are doing great!
Your point is valid, Mike. I’m a grandmother now, but I was guilty of the same kind of suspicion of “other parenting” by my kid’s dad when they were little. Luckily, he was such a neat guy that he hung in there and asserted his style with our kids, and they all benefitted so much from it! He’s gone now, and we all miss him terribly, but his style of parenting is a part of all three of our kids as they raise their own families.
My grandmother is always saying that my husband is the best dad, and he’s like “I’m just doing what any dad should do.”
Mostly a good article – EXCEPT: I’m pretty sure baby showers (and bridal showers) are what they do on Sunday afternoons in Hell. During the rainy season. Possibly as a punishment. I cannot STAND them, though as a woman, I’m supposed to act like I love them and get all squeal-y and wear the toilet-paper wedding gown or play the diaper poop game.
You might be more wise than MY husband but yeah…….my husband is dim when it comes to parenting. He is amazing with keeping a budget and knowing how much money to save for various things…..but when it comes to the kids….I’m often thinking to myself “really?”. Plus he has not once read any parenting advice EVER.
Thank you. Actually, my husband thanks you. That was really eye opening. Because, while my husband is a great father, I HAVE always seen my ways as superior. I mean, this has been my full-time job for nearly eleven years and I think I have it perfected. I rarely say anything to him about doing things wrong (differently) but it does cause resentments and material for bitching to my bff. I’m going to really try to focus on the different, not the wrong.
This was my exact reaction too! I never even realized that I did this until reading this post. Thank you, Mike! And sorry, hubby!
I would love for dads to be more accepted as an equal parent, because then the elementary schools wouldn’t just expect working moms to be able to drop everything in the middle of the day to come on over for a 30 minute Halloween party, yet the same school would never dream that my husband should be held to the same standard; if a dad shows up for one of these parties, he’s either an oddity or a superstar. Or, when the permission slip is missing, or the birthday present hasn’t been purchased, the dad would be just as culpable. I’m tired of the mom being expected to be the family’s social secretary, and if there were more expectations placed on the dad, I think this would be shared more equally.
We really haven’t come very far at all when it comes to parenting expectations. I had visions that once my oldest entered elementary school, the fact that I work outside of the house wouldn’t be such an issue, but I actually feel it more acutely now with regard to the expectations that the school seems to have.
So yes, I advocate equality in all areas of parenting.
I watched a friend of mine do this when her oldest was just a few weeks old. I was taking her to lunch and we were late leaving because she was trying to tell him how the sleeping newborn needed to be handled. I finally looked at her and said “Your husband designs skyscrapers for a living. None of them have fallen. Your son will be fine. Let’s go.” She looked at me, laughed, and realized what she was doing. They still have some parenting issues 8 years later, but for the most part, she accepts his “different” style as okay.
Sigh. I am guilty of this. But sometimes he wants to come in and give her a bunch of sugar and leave, and I am left with hyper kid. My motto is let her stay up late, spend the next day with her…which he can’t do since he is our full time provider. I don’t always want to say no, but I don’t want to live with the consequences (not so pleasant kid) of his moment of fun!
But you’re right, many times I just like the way I do it better, good post!
I think the problem with the situation is best summed up by a song I love: “We only talk about the dad when the parenting is bad and the kid ends up murdering half of Leningrad.”
(Song can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwNW_vk1pWk.)
All humorous song quotes aside, I think we tend to forget that there are good dads out there and focus on the uninvolved/deadbeat dads who aren’t there for their families – or, alternately, focus on when the dad is the “fun parent.” I know when I was growing up, my mom stayed home with my siblings and I while my dad worked. He was the store manager of a massive department store at the time, and sometimes he would work quite late. He’d make it up to us by coming home and having all the fun – Extra treats! Extra TV time! Running around the yard! staying up past our bedtimes! Whee! – and my mother would go ballistic because he’d totally buck all the rules that she worked so hard setting up. And it wasn’t a case of “parenting differently” (something he’ll now admit); it was a case of not parenting at all, and trying to be mad-cap fun instead.
And I think the “bad dad” stereotype is used a lot in our society for cheap laughs. The whole “dads don’t have good parenting instinct” scenario is one of the most common pratfall moments in sitcoms and the source of all sorts of Three’s Company antics in TV shows – and we ignore the fact that plenty of dads aren’t like that at all.
It’s kind of disappointing that even though we are in the middle of 2011, we still consider good dads to be shocking things and working moms still get a lot of praise for being able to balance work and family – while working dads don’t. But then, it’s kind of disappointing that we still expect mothers to stay at home and give up their lives for their kids, too (which I still see and hear a lot of), so maybe we’re still a little in 1950, after all.
My husband is the one who believes that different equals wrong. I’m going to use this logic the next time he snaps at me for parenting differently from him, reminding him that different is not necessarly wrong. Thank you.
My husband is like that too.
I can agree with you–to a point. I think that if the dad is equally involved, the mom definitely needs to chill, but if there’s a father who, say, works full time while the mother takes care of the kids most of the time, then dad needs to defer to mom’s preferences. After all, if he throws off a schedule because he doesn’t think it will matter and then trots off to work, he’s not going to be around for the fall out.
Exactly. When my husband lets the kids stay up on a school night, it’s my problem not his. When he gives them a bunch of sugar and then sends them to bed while he heads to the mancave, it’s my problem.
I agree with most points, Mike. My husband is a wonderful, capable parent, and we agree on most of our decisions. However, it was a little hard for me at first to hand over that control and decision-making power. When I was pregnant, I got to control everything- what I ate, how much I exercised, my son was in ME. I was the one responsible. When he was born, sure, I got more attention. I was the one who had gained the weight, carried the baby, gone through the pain of labor, the ups and downs of breastfeeding, and the list goes on and on. However, I was the one who read the parenting books, was obsessed with getting him on the sleep schedule, etc. You’re right though, just because fathers parent differently, it’s not bad parenting. I look at you, Matt Logelin, and my own husband as great role models. I think the assumption too is that most families fall into the “traditional” roles where the man works and comes home to his wife and children, pats junior on the head, and isn’t involved at all in parenting. I’m glad there are dads out there breaking the mold- I wouldn’t be able to do it without the equal partnership of my husband!
What I hate the most is when fathers are described as “babysitting” their own kids if mom’s not around. Um, it’s not babysitting if one is watching his own child!!!
totally agree – that is one of my biggest pet peeves!
Anthony from CharismaticKid says:
I think the reason moms have showers and parties is because they like to. Dads just be dads and don’t care about the glamourous part. Big ups to dads.
Jennifer U says:
Mike, I applaud you for writing this post. My husband has been ill for a long time and he has had frequent long stays in the hospital. When he comes home, he gets frustrated because he has lost touch with our almost 4 year old twins. His methods with them often don’t work because he’s out of practice. I need to do a better job of supporting him. Reflecting on what “support” has meant so far, I can see I’m adding to the problem. Dads do parent differently. My kids are always still alive when I get home from the grocery store and they still ask for him constantly when he isn’t around.
I’m afraid our generation has developed a thinking that dads are loveable losers who can’t do anything unless mom either walks them through everything step by step or simply does it for them.
It sounds like I have a lot of stepping back to do.
My husband is an extremely involved father, like you are, Mike. We’re truly co-parents. It breaks my heart the way fathers are EXPECTED to be deadbeat failures in our society. If I mention to a friend that my husband is out with our daughter or changing her or whatever, I get “Oh my god, you are so lucky! That’s amazing!” I think that’s insulting to HIM. Why shouldn’t he be changing her diaper? He’s her FATHER, not a sperm donor.
When we go to the pediatrician, the doctor directs all questions and paperwork to me, despite the fact that my husband knows just as well as I do what her stool consistency is and how many ounces of water she gets each day. He puts in so much work and gets no credit (from other people) for it. It’s really not fair, and I totally understand why it bothers you.
I hope there will be a societal shift toward parenthood, not just motherhood.
When my husband and I had our daughter, my mom told me: “Don’t ask him to do something your way if he does it differently. Let him do it his way, and as long as she’s safe (I should clarify that no one thought he would do anything unsafe), it doesn’t matter if X, Y, or Z.”
It was great advice. Who cares if he doesn’t wipe her face as often as I do, if he doesn’t make sure her clothes match, or if he lets her roll in dirt? She’s safe, happy, and loved.
My husband is a GREAT father. He’s just as involved as I am. We both have different strengths – for instance, he’s far better at dealing with our daughter than I am when she hits the wall and nothing will calm her down.
I liked this post because it reminded me that some of our other dad friends actually have commented on my husband being “too involved.” We have a close friend who just had a baby. A third friend said: “He kisses his son too much.” Um, what?!
We recently went to the beach with friends and their son. The other mother and I were talking one day and she said, “Isn’t it awesome that we have husbands who actually WANT to parent and help?”
It IS awesome. I think nothing speaks more highly of a man than his involvement with his children.
I loved this post. I’m not married and don’t have kids, but I would like to give you a virtual high five for this. I feel blessed that I was raised in a household where my parents both treated each other as equals and I spent as much time, if not more, with my dad because he stayed home during the winters. And though I might be biased, I think he did a great job Just like I am sure you are with Annie, and with Maddie. I love your writing Mike, keep up the good work
Bravo Bravo! Thank you for writing this. If I ever hear a woman say her partner is “babysitting” when he watches *his own child* again, I might scream.
I think you point out something very important in the women’s movement that others are just starting to catch on to: if women want equal partners in parenting and housework, we have to let go of the notion that somehow we know best about everything. We have to accept that maybe men are just as capable as we are at home. And part of the problem is that we feel (with good reason) that more of our identity is wrapped up in how our kids are doing and how the house looks than men do. But it’s time to share responsibility.
By the way, when we abolish the idea of dads “Babysitting” their children, can we also put a stake through the heart of the “honey-do” list? Ugh, the condescension to men in that phrase boils my blood.
Let's Keep Me Anonymous says:
Well, I think the pregnant mom should get a shower and be celebrated, bc she does all the hard work! But the tenor of your post is one I appreciate. I want to add this to the debate:
My husband is very smart. He has a PhD. He loves his kids, and he’s great with him. I make a real effort not to be controlling about what he feeds them, how he dresses them, how much tv they watch, and all that – it’s easy to do, since I want their upbringing to be consistent, but I also realize that he’s a professional smart man in his thirties who can handle it. But, though we both work, and we both get tired – he is much more lazy than I about all of this stuff, and that makes me mad. If the kid is hungry, he throws fruit snacks at him – instead of opening a can of peaches or something that is actually real food. If the kid doesn’t finish his lunch, he puts the plate in the fridge uncovered – how hard is it to actually preserve the food with a bit of saran wrap? The other day he changed the sheets because our son had an accident in the bed. This is great – but why oh why did he grab the sheets from one sheet set and the pillowcases from another? The world won’t end, and I didn’t sigh theatrically and change them, but now we’ve got mismatched clean stuff in the linen closet, and it’s NOT THAT HARD to see that blue sheets and beige pillowcases are not from the same set. Ditto with feeding them just cookies for dinner. This isn’t just once in a while – this is every time I leave it to him (which is often, because, as I said, we both work). He displays a real laziness, dare I say stupidity, with a lot of household and kid chores – a laziness he doesn’t display in his work. And I find myself walking the line between being a nag and just letting it go. It’s not like I went to some sort of class to learn that blue and beige don’t match, or that you don’t wash white capris with a new bright orange shirt, or that three Nutri Grain bars do not make a healthy lunch for a three-year old. But I use my brain. And he doesn’t always. And I don’t complain about this on twitter or anything, because I feel what you’re saying Mike, but also – I want a little more effort out of him.
And if the world won’t end, why did you post about it?
Really, your husband IS making an effort. He changed the sheets. Big deal if they don’t match – just wash all of them again and bingo, equally used sheets. He fed the kid fruit snacks instead of canned fruit: he FED THE KID.
One of the first parenting lessons I learned was what to let go.
Amy K says:
It’s not too ridiculous to expect parents (not just dads) to feed kids real food most of the time instead of junk, or to remember to bathe them periodically and give them their vitamins, or to not wash whites and colored clothes together, is it? I like to give credit where credit is due, but we can’t always pretend that doing things well and doing them half-assedly are the same. Sometimes it doesn’t matter, but sometimes it does.
Exactly. I swear my husband does things half-assedly so he doesn’t have to do it again.
This is great perpective. I’m sure many dads feel this way but haven’t been able to communicate it so well.
Thanks for the insight. Moms, check yourself on this one. I know I will because strong dads are super important in our kids’ lives.
aimee @ smilingmama says:
I think this is such a great post. My biggest piece of advice to new moms is to let the father do things and figure out things in his own way. I also highly recommend leaving dad and baby alone for a few hours early on and then on a regular basis after that. Not only does mom need some me-time, dad and baby need time to figure things out for themselves. My husband and I actually just (temporarily at least!) flipped roles — I’m in the office full-time and he’s home full-time with our two boys. And, yes, we did have chicken nuggets for dinner 2x in the first week and yes he does things differently than me, but he and the boys are doing great.
I was just talking about this yesterday with some friends at work… how men play with children differently and even rock them and hold them differently and sometimes the baby prefers them (especially when the mom is more gentle than she needs to be and isn’t as interested in being playful).
Here’s one thing that really bothers me, though. Why aren’t more women choosier when deciding who to start a family with? You’ve got a dead beat dad for a husband? Well, guess who picked him for the role? It doesn’t excuse the man’s behavior but I just find it frustrating that so many families are in this situation! I want to rush into high schools, scoop up all of the girls and send them to a man-choosing, family planning boot camp!
One last thing, I think that a lot women really define themselves in their motherhood (which can be a beautiful thing) and it’s really hard for them to let go, especially to admit that someone else’s way is just as good as (or [GASP] even better than) their own. Or worse, that their proximity to their children might actually make them a little bit cloudy in their judgment, that the ‘protect’ and ‘nurture’ instincts sometimes prevent them from fostering independence, self-assurance, self-soothing and the valuable lesson of learning how to bounce back after a fall or a mistake.
My husband is a fantastic dad. In some things he is a better parent than me – he is certainly the more fun parent and has a lot more patience with our son. There’s a lot of times when his different parenting has better results (e.g. he is more skilled at distracting our son, while I tend to issue snap and yell and escalate conflict).
There are also times when his different parenting makes me grit my teeth – for instance when he dresses our daughter like a clown, I will say nothing if the clothing is appropriate for the weather/season because it harms nothing but my sense of aesthetics. And when he is the one looking after the kids for the day then his management of their eating and napping is down to him since he is the one who will experience the success/fallout. (But if his parenting decisions affect how my day/evening will go then I will have things to say about that).
There have been so many moments in which I’ve needed to learn to let go and relax. On the other hand, there are moments in which he has needed to learn to step up and improve his skillset around things like time management and planning and that has meant learning how to take criticism without getting butthurt about his efforts not being good enough.
I think it’s great that so many dads want to step up and parent with involvement and confidence. There is certainly room for women to chill a little around the way that things are done – provided the dad’s role is not actively sabotaging the work/authority/next day of the other parent. I’ve known more than one Dad (my own included) who revelled in being the fun one and left the hard work of the mundane stuff and the saying no and the enforcing of boundaries to the mother. In this case parenting disagreements are not stylistic differences but larger issues that do need to be resolved. Historically children have been the domain of women (sometimes the only domain in which they were permitted to exercise power) so certainly some run-ins between parenting styles are territorial and you are right that the contribution of fathers should be praised and welcomed and not strangled with the idea that there is only one way of doing something (just as they should recognise and celebrate the contribution of the mothers).
But if we are going to address this issue then we need to look at the paradoxes of the different ways male and female carers are treated in society. Dad shows up in playgroup he’s a superstar. If he’s a single dad then he’s some kind of superhero by the same people who often see a single mum as an immoral and irresponsible scrounger from the state. Dads might get criticisms from their partners around how things are done (sometimes deservedly, sometimes no) but they also tend to get an easier time from society/community at large on the same issues. (We’ve all known Mommy Wars, Daddy wars not so much).
Everything has its pros and cons.
Amy K says:
Yes, exactly what you said.
And my husband is a wonderful father, but he is (like many men I know) nearly incapable of multitasking or remembering little details. For example, if it were left up to him, our toddler’s teeth would get brushed about once a week because it simply never crosses his mind. That’s not just a different but equal style of parenting; some things actually need to get done. And then if I remind him to do it, it means I’m nagging. I think it’s a pretty common parenting theme, especially during the early years when you’re responsible for every little aspect of kids’ lives.
I think that perhaps you see this this way because you are happily married, and the product of a happy marriage. It is different if you aren’t. I had a hard time trusting my father in law for the first few months I knew him, because he was so nice and was actually interested in my life…it was such a change from what I had. My father called my husband David even at our wedding (his name is Daniel) and was so upset when I chose not to have him walk me down the aisle. I love seeing dads like you, I truly do, and one of the reasons I married my husband is that I know he will be an involved parent. But until there is a shift in thinking (room parent rather than room mommy, parental leave rather than just maternal leave) I think that fathers will continue to feel a little more inferior.
And, while I agree with you on the post-birth whines….whoops! I mean constructive criticism of how fathers are treated. During the preggo phase – we moms get all the sympathy and parties and that’s just all there is to it. Seriously, pregnancy is work! I looked like jabba the hutt when I finally delivered. (And NO, that had nothing to do with my cravings for BK Whoppers and hostess cupcakes, thankyouverymuch!)
After the birth I think hubs and I were pretty good about supporting each other’s decisions re: the kiddos. I don’t ever remember complaining about him or his decisions. I wonder if he does?
Please know that I’m teasing in the first paragraph. It is so hard to tell when reading vs. hearing.
Sometimes, though, I feel like dads that do co-parent effectively have a glass elevator. If a man plays his part in child rearing and not just child making, he gets loads of praise. On the other hand, if a woman participates in a child’s life the same degree to which society expects a man should, she is often criticized as being neglectful of her child and womanhood.
Mrs. Wilson says:
A big AMEN to this. When my husband is home, he is just as involved (if not more so) than I am when it comes to what is happening in our house and with our kids. He does do some things differently, but sometimes his way is better (and sometimes it’s not). I’m grateful to have a very involved father for a husband and do my best to give him the freedom to parent his way (although we most always powwow about the big stuff).
Mike, thank you for a great post.
I see a lot of controlling behavior in these comments, and most of from people who deny that they are controlling. I’d like to say to all of them that if you all want your husbands to quit helping out: go ahead, pick at him for putting a blue shirt with red pants, or feeding a child cornflakes instead of cheerios, or not having the kid’s hair brushed.
Most guys react to criticism not with changing their behavior, but with inaction. They’ll just quit dressing/feeding/bathing the kid, because they can’t screw up what they don’t do. And then there you’ll sit, complaining about how he never helps.
Kids won’t be hurt if they wear mismatched clothing, if their sheets don’t match, if they have a fruit roll up for a snack — but they WILL remember mom picking at dad for screwing up.
–signed, a woman who lets her husband find his own way with the kids. It may not be MY way but he helps and we are both happy.
It is so true that our society acts like men aren’t as important in children’s lives and that even if they are they’re not as good or not as smart. It is so far from true..
agreed. My husband is a stay-at-home dad while he finishes his graduate degree and I work his way through. He’s a truly fantastic dad. A nurse at our childbirth course gave a wise piece of advice, “Moms, you’re going to watch the way your husband does things and you’ll see that he does things differently, and sometimes you won’t like his way. DON’T TELL HIM. If you tell him, he’ll stop trying, and you’ll learn a pattern of him letting you parent and him watch for the rest of your lives.”
I love having this arrangement in our house for a while because it means that I appreciate the weight of making the money for the family. He is learning to appreciate the amount of work it is to take care of the house and watch the kiddo. One day when we switch we will hopefully be able to totally validate the other person’s vocation.
Great post, Mike. There’s a similar dynamic in other areas where women say they want help from their men – like housework and grocery shopping and cooking. My husband doesn’t clean the tub or sweep/mop or wash the dishes the way I do. But I’m not about to tell him he did it wrong because any day that I get help with the job of keeping the house clean and running is a good day in my book. And although I joke that we always have hamburgers or frozen pizza when it’s my husband’s turn to cook, I have to say that some nights I’m too tired to even bother with turning on the oven and pulling something out of the freezer, so if my hubby’s willing to do that, GO HIM.
I’m going to have to remind myself to let go and let my husband parent more often. I know I tend to do the “hard stuff” (put the baby to bed when he’s pitching a cranky fit, for example) because I think I’m the only one who can do it right. But maybe if I let my husband just DO IT, he’d figure out his own version of doing it right, which is no better or worse than mine.
Ashley Williams says:
I do not have a child or have been pregnant HOWEVER; I have heard of men having a “Diaper Shower” This is where the men have a party for the Dad to Be and they shower him with Diapers. You can bring any shape, brand or size — just bring some diapers. It’s a way to acknowlegde the dad to be – the men get together drink, eat and have fun.
Just a suggestion. I think you and Heather are wonderful parents together and separate and I’ve never met you! Just a blog follower
That’s such a good idea! If we have a third, I’m suggesting that to my hubby- he would love to have a party with his friends, we could get tons of diapers, and I wouldn’t have to be the center of attention when I am as big as a house!
That’s a lot of food for thought. I think I’ll try really hard before I make any critical comments to my husband about his parenting. He is a really great dad, but I probably make too many criticisms when he’s parenting “differently.” However, there are also times when he parents “poorly” (namely, at midnight, when our newborn has been crying for 3 hours, because hey, his fussy time is from 9-12 every night and my husband is just frustrated and wants sleep). I’m certain that I have bad parenting moments too (I’ve cried over them numerous times), but I think the difference is I don’t get caught as much because my husband’s not around. So I legitimately ask — when it’s definitely “poor parenting” vs. “different parenting,” do I bring it up? I don’t know what the proper answer is.
Oh, and Mike, if it makes you feel any better, after two kids, I have yet to have a baby shower (and I’m really okay with that).
I hear what you’re saying, Mike. I really do. On the flip side, I think a lot of moms get tired of being held up to an entirely different parenting standard than dads. Equal should be equal. If a man takes his daughter to a park and she’s wearing dirty clothes and has matted hair and is eating a cupcake and drinking a Coke, the peanut gallery will exclaim, “Oh, it’s so sweet! That dad is trying his hardest. We all know that you can’t try to retrain him because then he’ll have an excuse to quit fathering altogether.” If I took my daughter out like that, the same peanut gallery would gasp, “Oh, that child looks like a street urchin! What a terrible mother!” We totally need to cut dads some slack when it comes to having different parenting methods. You know what, though? Certain standards of health and hygiene need to be generally upheld no matter what your parenting style or gender, yes? And if a wife tells her husband that he needs to remember to wash the kid’s hands after going to the petting zoo, he doesn’t get to turn it into “I never do anything correctly, so I’m just going to stop trying” because that’s such a lame cop-out.
Yes, so true!!!!
My husband and I were at chick-fil-a with our two young girls a few years ago. My husband got up to get us some ketchup and an older couple commented about what a great dad he is….wow! We laughed about how little is expected of men…if he gets ketchup for the fam, then he is a wonder-dad!!
megan hartman says:
I agree with Mike 100%! After our daughter was born with birth defects we found out the day she was born everyone asked how i was doing, sent me food and gave me gft certificates! I was getting so mad that no one would see what my hubby needed! Or asked how he was doing! I am a sahm and i do yell at my husband for silly things! But then i realize i need to shut my mouth! I went through hell with my body after my csection and after Paisley’s diagnoses but so did my husband! Well minus his body going through hell!
Thank you for writing this. It really made me thing about how lucky I am to have a husband who wants to be an involved Dad, and how I need to back off sometimes!
I (hope I’ve) never said anything negative about my husband’s parenting skills. About his household skills, probably, but he’s an awesome dad. And just because he doesn’t do things the same way I do, at least he’s doing them, IMO.
Well, it might be time for me to change the name of my blog (Mommy Knows Best) now! Whoops!! In my defense though, I didn’t mean “Mommy Knows Better Than Daddy”, it was more “Mommy Knows Better Than In-Law”s. LOL.
In all seriousness though, I am guilty of nit-picking my hubby for the way he parents our boys. I never realized I was doing it until I read this post. I am always on him for making sure the boys match, that their hair is combed, and teeth are brushed- and why? I guess, to be totally honest, I think that people will think I am a bad mother if I let them out of the house any other way. Yikes.
Just the other day, my hubby was at home with both boys, and the baby was napping. He and my son were playing outside, and he sent me a picture of our toddler having a great time on our patio. I actually texted back, “You have the baby monitor with you, right?” And he responded with, “Jeez baby, maybe you should remind me to breathe too.” Ouch. But he was totally right, that was so lame. I don’t know why I didn’t give him more credit- OF COURSE he would bring the monitor with them, he’s not careless or brand new at caring for babies! I totally needed to be put in my place on that one.
On another note, after reading the comments here, I think some of the controlling behavior (leaving detailed instructions, schedules, constant checking-in) might have to do with Mommy guilt, or anxiety about being away from the kiddos, not always thinking that Daddy doesn’t parent the right way. When I leave my kids with my hubby, I ask him to send me pics and videos, but not to check up on him. I just want pictures because I miss my little guys! I ask my parents to do the same thing when they watch them.
Anyway, back to my point. I am so glad that you wrote this. I am definitely going to make sure that my hubby knows what a wonderful husband and father he is, and nagging him and controlling the way he interacts with our little ones is not the way to do it.
So, thank you Papa Spohr! My husband thanks you too!!
ps. You need to help me come up with a new name for my blog now!
Literary Feline says:
I share your wonderful post with my husband and he said while he sympathized, he is glad our relationship isn’t like that. We are equals. We seek each others input, share information and are a united front. Even when we were pregnant, it was always “we” & never just me.
I am sorry fathers are given such a hard time. My husband is an integral part of my daughter’s life & I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Oh, and my husband’s coworkers threw him a baby shower, cake and all. It is a celebration of a new life–no reason to limit it to the mother.
I always say, “I’m results oriented.” Are they happy? Loved? Cared for? Disciplined appropriately – no hitting, etc? Did he let the 4 year old drive the manual transmission car to the store? No?
Then it’s all good with me.
If a father puts himself out there and tries to help, and is greeted with rebuke time and time again – guess what? Gonna stop trying.
Ladies, be results oriented.
I work outside the home and my husband is a wonderful SAHD to our 3 kids, 8, 6 and 4. I have certain hang-ups: tangled hair, dirty hands, etc. and my husband knows this. I wonder why he can’t braid our daughter’s hair in the morning so there are less tangles for us to brush out in the evenings. I wish they kids would religiously wash their hands before eating. I wish my husband would pack a healthy lunch whenever there is a day-long outing rather than buy crappy, expensive food there.
But these are my pet peeves. He knows about them and tries to make me happy about half the time, but he makes the decisions based on the situation at the time. He is a great dad and my kids are lucky to have him.
I have zero patience so he’s the one who usually steps in to decide on discipline (our 8 yr old is a sh*t-disturber extraordinaire) and the kids are happy, healthy and loved.
We all have our strengths and weaknesses and my methods are not better than his, his are not better than mine. We play to our strengths and co-parent.
Mike, much-needed article. Thanks for posting.
While I agree that there seems to be a level of mom knows best in society, that comes at a price, paid heavily by moms. We are judged in every single thing we do or don’t do with/for our children. From having them use a pacifier past a certain age, to bottle feeding instead of breast feeding, whether or not our child can read at 9 months old etc. etc. etc. As fathers, none of that falls on you, from societies veiwpoint anyway. If a dad simply plays with his kids at the park, he is amazing. Nevermind if every other minute he ignores his kids for videogames or is abusive. The level of involvement required by fathers to be deemed great parents is low, which is part of the problem.
So true Kiko!
Hey Mike, I totally agree. It drives me CRAZY when other moms demean the efforts of their husbands/kids dad. Dads are different, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong. I am tired of all the commercials, sitcoms, etc that make men out to be morons. My husband and I tag team all day. We just do, always have. He freaking ROCKS at the dad/husband thing, and is probably the best parent I have ever met. He is a humble guy, but I know he knows that I think he is the best, and I betcha Heather is the same – I hope! Thanks for a great post!
My ex hasn’t seen his kids in over a year, and even then, it was for 20 minutes. He’s not a parent at all. He’s a sperm donor. So, yeah, when I hear moms complain about a man that wanted to wait until after the game was over before he took out the trash, I kind of want to shake some sense into her. Real dads, from my perspective, are a rare species. They’ve earned the title of equal parent.
I wholeheartedly agree with this entry, Mike. Thanks for writing it. I never got the whole Baby Shower thing being only for, “Women.” Yeah, like women can reproduce on their own, and all the credit is on them (and I am one. Despite the name I chose to comment under). It’s ridiculous and it makes me mad!
Some people would argue: “Why would a man want to be at a Baby Shower?” It’s like the equivalent to saying, “Why would a man want to be a Father?”
Like it’s just his job to do what the wife asks and give the kid’s money, and never be involved in anything too personal.
A father is JUST as much a parent as a mother. And that’s, THAT!