My friend had a fight with her husband. She asked him to take over their child while she attends to other business and then overheard him on the phone refusing an invitation to go out “because he has to babysit”. She was furious and screamed at him: “You can’t say babysitting about your own child, it’s not a chore, it’s called parenting!”
When I heard that story, it made me think – in our family the Dad does 50% (if not more) of the parenting, but I know for a fact that in the other families it’s not so. The jokes about a Dad feeding kids chocolate cake for breakfast are there for a reason and indeed, many Dads never seize to amaze moms with their inability to care for their kids. We too have some issues about who does certain things better and how they should be done, but it’s not set in stone that MY way is the right way.
We share the tasks in a rational way – everyone does what he’s good at and what he enjoys. Well, apart from nappy-changing, that’s split 50-50 because after a 1000 nappies we both have the same level of expertise, as to enjoying it, let’s not go there :)
I cook for Eric (sometimes Rob does too), we both feed him, both read to him and play with him, go to walks and the playground. Rob gives him an evening bath, puts him to sleep, and if Eric wakes up at night we take turns. I wash his clothes and Rob puts them on line to dry.
I know that Rob can make strange decisions about the kind of games Eric is allowed to play and he can feed him something I wouldn’t think of – but does that necessarily make his choices bad or unacceptable? If my boy is coming home covered with dirt because he’s been helping daddy gardening, should I get mad and scream at them both?
It seems to me that the basic problem here is not the lack of parental skills some Dads are famous for. The problem is the lack of respect some Moms have for the Dads’ ideas, instincts, choices and the process of adjusting to and learning about parenthood.
And then there is another issue – some moms have this mental picture of incompetent Dad stuck in their minds and are not willing to let him try. Frankly, I can’t blame them so much, because being a mom myself I know that time is always an issue. What if we let Dad do something and all he makes a mess, do we have time to clean up after him? What if we ask him to manage something, he forgets, and we won’t have time to do it ourselves?
For what it’s worth, moms, you could try this: think of a Dad as a child – you don’t get mad at a child if he’s making a mess while eating, because it’s important for him to master that skill, right? And if he falls and gets mud on his clothes, you can’t punish him because he is learning how to walk, right? The more room you give him, the less he will feel watched and the more confidence he’ll be able to build, getting better at the same things you already do so well. Don’t be afraid to delegate things, make stuff his responsibility, the more you can re-assign to him – the more “free” time you’ll have.
How do you feel about leaving your kid with your husband for a day? How does parenting work in your family?