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 baby propped on his lap, or we harp on dads for messing up the nap schedule yet 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:
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 on the duties we’d rather they do.
We already assume they can’t handle tasks or that we’re the only ones who can do them correctly. For instance, refilling the fridge and labeling every container before heading out to dinner with a friend sends the message he can’t feed the kids on his own.
Our 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. Showing him exactly how you do it and not allowing him to come up with his own way to change the diapers makes him want to avoid it in the future.
The same is true with re-doing what he had just 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 just because your partner didn’t load it the way you did. He’ll notice and will get a clear message of what you think of his job.
Every one of us can’t be efficient if not given the opportunity—and the space to make mistakes—to try.
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. Couples might even “keep tabs” of who did what and bristle when one feels like she’s doing more than the other.
And imagine the message we’re sending our kids about their dads. Whether said with humor or not, finding fault in fathers in front of children makes dad look bad. We don’t want our kids to assume their dads can’t handle a baby 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 doctor’s appointments or isn’t interested in school projects doesn’t help anyone—you, your partner or your kids.
And for each complaint and task that we make fun of them for, the same could be said about us moms. I don’t install the car seats. Or take our recycling to the center every week. Or even make the bed. So it’s fine if my husband doesn’t puree baby food.
What to do instead
Occasional venting is okay. Sometimes I read online vents and chuckle in agreement. But if the issues dig deeper, so deep you find yourself fuming, then three things need to happen:
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 proactive conversation with a friend, such as asking for ideas on how to get him more involved. Make online 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 even get you further in solving the problem.
No heaving heavy sighs hoping he’ll 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 what exactly you want him to do. Admit your mistakes, such as micromanaging or not communicating early enough. Then be open to suggestions he may have as well, such as 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 really asking him whether he’d be interested or available?)
The best time to have this conversation? When you’re both in a good mood. You’re more likely to talk and see each other’s perspectives when you’re calm.
3. Don’t disrespect
That’s your partner, and your children’s father. You can vent, 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 just need time and the chance to do them). And communicate with the respect you would want to receive.
It’s a sad commentary when a dad receives a standing ovation because he put his daughter’s hair in a bun. I’m not surprised the folks marveled at him.
It’s no wonder moms vent about dads. But doing so undermines dads and doesn’t allow us to work as a team. Dad bashing also shows kids the inequality and ineptitude of one parent over another.
Instead, replace dad bashing with actively seeking for solutions, rather than a simple vent session. Hold honest conversations with your partner about both your needs, and above all, don’t disrespect him, no matter how frustrating.
And I get it: Hands-on fathers have become 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 kids as moms.
We can start by stopping 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
What are your thoughts on venting or joking about our partners? Is it ever okay, or does even a tiny bit promote the stereotypical hands-off dad? Let us know in the comments!
*Source: Wall Street Journal