It’s tempting to see dad as a babysitter when mom steps out, but learn why dads are co-parents, not the occasional extra help.
Whether on mom boards or among your friends, you hear moms wondering how to get dads to pitch in more, especially with the kids.
They’re stay-at-home moms with husbands who expect them to handle the kids. Working moms who end the day only to do even more work around the house. They’re not sure how to get their partners to ease some of the burdens from their shoulders.
I’m not all too surprised.
History has seen women as the nurturing gender, the caregiver of the family, while father figures tended to be the distant provider. Maybe that’s why we see more female teachers and nurses or are quick to refer to school volunteers as the “room mom” and not simply the “room parent.”
Some parenting books even have a section “just for dad,” as if to assume that most parenting falls on mom. Even parenting experts consider dads as a byline or a helping hand.
Time-wise, I had always spent more time with my kids, considering that I worked part-time or at home since becoming a mom. But effort-wise, my husband and I spend the same amount and equally co-parent.
Letting dads help
But even with a willing husband, there have been times when I wasn’t always so eager to unburden my duties.
One time, we were heading out the door and, without thinking, I grabbed the baby, the diaper bag, and my purse. I walked straight to the garage door, fumbling at my keys and trying to reach the doorknob before my husband, “Let me do it.”
I didn’t even stop to think that he could open the door or carry the baby or the bags.
Since I spent more time with the baby, I got used to handling everything. I’ve carried the baby, diaper bag, and my purse, all while fumbling for the keys to open the garage door many times. I did this alone, often and successfully.
Still, we talked about that incident later that night. He pointed out that he wanted to do more, especially if I’m struggling with a heavy load (literally). I hadn’t even realized that I was trying to do everything myself or that my husband wanted to share the burden.
I had to remind myself that I needed to step back, especially when he was around. Parenthood meant sharing the load and allowing him to care for his son as well. And the most important thing was that I needed to let him do things his way and parent the way he wanted to as well.
Find your rhythm
And it’s not always about doing everything together. You and your partner might have designated household chores, where you pack your toddler’s lunch while he fills the sippy cup. Dad dresses him in pajamas while you read bedtime stories. A co-parenting relationship doesn’t mean you always have to take turns or keep score.
You might also have tasks you swap back and forth as well. Perhaps neither of you has the sole responsibility of changing diapers, or you take turns with your schedules to take him to the dentist.
With consistency, your child knows that his dad is as invested in him as you are. Even if he sees you more, there’s no misunderstanding that dad has equal parenting authority and, more importantly, love for him.
He sees dad willingly chop up his food, do his laundry, and sing him lullabies. And hopefully, he can grow up in a generation that blurs gender lines with parenting duties. (And for this reason, I applaud stay-at-home dads and involved fathers for paving the way.)
I’m thankful my husband will gladly don the parenting badge and assume its duties, both good and bad. Life at home is much smoother with teamwork. I don’t have to do everything because I have a hands-on, co-parent by my side.
Get more tips:
- Children’s Books about Dads
- Dad Bashing: Why It Needs to Stop
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- 5 Useful Tips for New Dads in the Newborn Stage
- Top 7 Qualities of a Good Father and Husband
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My partner and I regally didn’t share parenting responsibilities before. It got so bad (on my part) at one point that I would thank him for doing things he wanted to do with our son. I only realized I was doing it when he said one day “Why do you thank me for feeding him?”
It was almost like I completely shut him out of the parenting experience. To top it all off if I ever felt overwhelmed by the experience I shut him out of, I wouldn’t ask for help because I didn’t think he wanted to do most of the parental stuff (as dumb as that sounds now that I’m typing it).
Since he’s starting a new business I’ve taken over a bit more, but he still enjoys the little things he can do like serving dinner & picking him up from school.