It’s tempting for parents to see dads as a babysitter when mom steps out. Learn how to be a good father and don’t think of yourself as a babysitter.
On mom boards, I hear moms wondering how to get dads to pitch in more, especially with kids.
They’re stay-at-home moms with husbands who expect them to handle the kids. Or working moms who come home from work only to do even more work around the house.
They’re not sure how to get their partners to ease some of the burden from their shoulders.
I’m not surprised. We see women as the nurturing gender, the caregivers of the family. Maybe that’s why we see more female teachers and nurses, and stay-at-home moms, not dads.
Some parenting books even have a section “just for dad,” as if most parenting falls on mom. SSBE Chris shared a parenting book with just that section:
“My favorite lines are in the ‘Your Young Toddler’ section of ‘Dad’s Role.’ Here it advises you to take your toddler to the park, to the pool, on a walk around the block, and to the bathtub (all activities that give Mom a break, I might add).
At a park it advises that, ‘While playing at the park, some safety rules have to be followed. Your toddler is still learning to walk, so she may not be as good a climber as you think she is.’ ‘Cause let’s face it, Dad’s [sic] are idiots.”
Apparently even parenting experts consider dads as a byline, a helping hand. Time-wise, I spend more time with our toddler. But effort-wise, my husband and I spend the same amount and equally co-parent our son.
But even with a willing husband, there have been times when I wasn’t always so eager to unburden my duties.
We were heading out the door, and without thinking, I grabbed the baby, the diaper bag and my own purse. I walked straight to the garage door, fumbling at my keys and trying to reach the doorknob. All while carrying the baby and my bundles when my husband, “Let me do it.”
I didn’t even stop to think that he could open the door too, particularly since he wasn’t carrying the baby.
We talked about that incident later that night. He pointed out that he wants 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 let go of many responsibilities I assumed. And I don’t have to or want to do everything. I have a husband I was shutting out of the parenting role.
Since I spent more time with the baby, I grew comfortable handling everything. I’ve carried the baby, diaper bag and my purse while fumbling for keys to open the garage door many times. Alone, often and successfully.
I had to remind myself that when my husband is around, I needed to step back. To share the load, and give him the opportunity to care for his son as well. I needed to let him do things his way and parent the way he wanted to as well.
We do have designated chores, so I tend to pack our toddler’s lunch and snacks while he fills the sippy cups. I put on our son’s pajamas while he reads to him. It’s nice not to wonder whose turn it is to give him a bath or to keep score. But we still share plenty of roles we swap as well. For instance, neither one of us want to have sole responsibility for changing diapers).
I want my toddler to know that his dad is just as invested in him as his mom is. He sees me more than his dad (probably even more true for kids of stay-at-home moms. But he knows that his dad has equal parental authority over and love for him.
Kids need to see their dads willingly chop up their food, do their laundry and sing them lullabies. And hopefully they’ll be another generation that will blur gender lines with parental duties. (And for this reason, I applaud stay-at-home dads and their partners most of all for paving the way.)
I’m thankful my husband will gladly don the parenting badge and assume its duties, both good and bad. He has even worn the Moby Wrap (“Why did you pick beige?” he asked. “Couldn’t you have chosen black instead?”).
Life at home is just so much smoother when we work as a team. I don’t have to do everything. I have a hands-on dad—a co-parent—as my partner in crime.
Read related articles:
- Do You and Your Partner Share Parenting Duties?
- 14 Children’s Books about Dads
- Dad Bashing: Why It Needs to Stop
- 6 Ways Dads Can Support Breastfeeding Moms
- How to Involve Dads in the Household: 8 Effective Ways
How do you and your partner work together? Do you find the workload more or less balanced or tilted to one parent? Stay-at-home dads, have your thoughts on parental roles changed now that you are the one who stays home with the kids?