It may be all fun and jokes, but dad bashing can have consequences, impacting how you run your home and your child’s relationship with his dad.
Moms, we like to vent.
Except we tend to vent about our spouses.
We rant on online forums about dads glued to the computer with the baby propped on his lap, or we harp on dads for messing up your 4-month-old’s nap schedule again. Even parenting books with “Just for Dads” sections assume moms do all the reading and dads aren’t involved.
And we may have good reason to vent. Maybe your partner does need to pitch in more with child care and household duties. You could be the only one researching, scheduling, cooking, and feeding. Your comments may even be said with good intentions or humor.
Why dad bashing needs to stop
But dad bashing does little to resolve the issues we’re venting or laughing about to begin with. While commiserating with other moms who can relate can feel good in the moment, staying stuck in “victim mode” doesn’t help the situation.
In fact, it can cut deep ties, thread by thread, disguised as humor or exasperation. If you constantly joke about dad’s shortcomings, think twice before developing that habit. Here are three major reasons why:
1. Dad bashing undermines dads
The more we laugh or vent about the dads, the less opportunity we’re giving them to step up to the plate. Denying dads their duties undermines their abilities and forces us to take them on when we’d rather that they do.
We already assume they can’t handle tasks, or that we’re the only ones who can do them correctly. Refilling the fridge and labeling every container before heading out of the house sends the message that he can’t feed the kids on his own.
Venting and eye rolling also discourage dads from pitching in. Let’s say you want him to be the one to change the baby’s diapers. Expecting him to do it exactly as you do with no leeway makes him want to avoid it in the future.
The same is true with re-doing what he had done according to your standards. You may load the dishwasher a certain way, and for good reason. Perhaps your arrangement packs in the most dishes efficiently.
But don’t re-arrange the dishes because he didn’t load it the way you did. He’ll notice and will get a clear message of what you thought.
Every one of us can’t be efficient if not given the opportunity—and the space to make mistakes—to try.
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2. You’re not working as a team
Dad bashing also prevents parents from working as a team. Parenting becomes a divide between the two key people who ought to work as a unit. We might even “keep score” of who did what and bristle when we feel like we’re doing more than the other.
And for each complaint and task that we make fun of dads for, the same could be said about us moms. You may not install the carseats, take out the trash, or even make the bed, and that’s okay. But by bashing dads and joking about their inabilities, we forget that we need to work together.
3. Dad looks bad to the kids
Imagine the message we’re sending our kids about their dads with each joke and eye roll. Whether said with humor or not, finding fault in front of your kids makes dad look bad. You don’t want them to assume that dad can’t handle the household without mom around, or that he’s simply the babysitter.
Kids should see dad as equally competent as mom and carry equal weight and authority. Complaining about how dad never goes to appointments or isn’t interested in school projects doesn’t help anyone.
What to do instead
Occasional venting is okay—the last thing you need is to bottle up your frustration because you don’t think it’s okay to express your feelings.
But chronic venting and complaining prevents you from doing anything about the problem. Give yourself a few minutes to feel what you feel, then get right down to work. Here are three ways to turn dad bashing into constructive change:
1. Stop with the jokes
Whether online, to your friends, or in front of your kids, watch what you say about your partner. Never insult him in front of your kids—imagine if he did that with you.
If you’re venting, make it a constructive conversation with a friend, such as asking for ideas on how to get him more involved. Make online mom forums a place to look for suggestions, not another way to laugh about him behind his back.
We all get frustrated and need to vent, but don’t make it a habit, especially one that doesn’t help you solve the problem.
Avoid heaving heavy sighs, hoping dad will get the hint. He won’t (he’ll just know you’re mad about something). Instead, discuss your concerns, with no defenses or accusations.
Keep your conversation focused on how you feel and how he could help. Admit your mistakes, such as micromanaging or not communicating early enough. Then, be open to suggestions he may have as well, like not jumping to the gun each time a task comes up.
(How often have you assumed you’d be the one to do a task without asking him whether he’d be interested or available?)
And the best time to have this conversation? When you’re both in a good mood (not when you need something in the moment). You’re more likely to talk and see each other’s perspectives when you’re calm.
3. Don’t disrespect
That’s your partner, your children’s father. You can share your feelings, but avoid saying things so terrible about him that you couldn’t say them to his face.
Don’t assume he can’t do the simplest things (hint: he can, he may need time and the chance to do them). Remember that he’ll make mistakes as he learns, just as you did. And communicate with the respect you would want to receive.
Sometimes, there’s good reason that moms vent about dads. But doing so undermines dads and doesn’t allow us to work as a team. Dad bashing also sends kids the message that one parent isn’t as “good” as the other.
Instead, replace dad bashing with actively seeking for solutions, rather than a simple vent session. Hold honest conversations about both your needs, and above all, don’t disrespect him, no matter how frustrating.
And I get it: Hands-on fathers can still be a novelty. When only 32% of fathers from dual-income households are performing the same as moms, we have work to do. We need to bump that number higher, where all dads are just as involved with the kids as moms.
And one of the best places to start is to stop the dad bashing.
Get more tips:
- 8 Effective Ways to Involve Dads in the Household
- Why Dads Should Wake Up for Night Feeds
- 6 Surprising Ways to Balance Work and Family
- Dads Are Co-Parents, Not Babysitters
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
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