I am in several women’s groups online and I have noticed a disturbing trend. Post after post is complaining about our husbands not stepping up to do their fair share of caring for the children. Even more disturbing is that I can clearly see so many ways that I myself have made it impossible for him to fulfill that role. We all want our husbands to do their part, yet we often treat them as parenting interns rather than parenting co-presidents.
If we, as women, want equal partnership in the workforce and the world then why do we refuse to give our husbands equal partnership in the home?
Here are my top 5 tips for maintaining an equal parenting relationship.
1. Ask, don’t demand
As a stay at home mom it is easy to get in the groove of running our household. We assign the children tasks and expect that they will be completed. We give consequences and rewards. We have a routine, a mission, and expect everyone to fall into line with our vision. Within this thought process we give our husbands a honey do list and pout, whine, and complain to him and our girlfriends when it isn’t completed in our expected timeframe. We often forget to simply ask our husbands kindly if they would please help out. We don’t think that maybe they would rather pay someone to do that repair or yard-work than do it themselves. We forget to ask them if they have plans or projects that they wanted to accomplish. Instead of handing your husband a list next time simply express to him your concern and ask if he can help. He may jump in and do it, he may suggest a solution you had never even thought of. Of course this tip doesn’t work if you don’t ask at all. Way too often I find myself sitting around pouting about being unappreciated or not getting help when I have failed to let my husband know that I needed his assistance. I give the impression that everything is under control and he isn’t needed then get my feelings hurt when he doesn’t swoop in to rescue me. JUST ASK!!!
2. Let Dad do things, and do them his way
This one has always been hard for me. Shortly after we had our first child my husband came to me and expressed sadness that he wasn’t more involved in her care. He asked me why I never woke him up to help with her at night. My response was that waking him up was just as much work as getting up myself so why bother. Now if this was a mutually agreeable solution that would be fine. In reality he felt slighted and disappointed that he wasn’t involved and I began to be resentful that I was doing all the work. On top of that I often found myself correcting the way my husband did just about anything with our babies. I would tell him how to hold them, how to dress them, how to feed them, on and on. If he wasn’t doing it my way then he was doing it the wrong way. Now, on baby #6, we have found a much better rhythm. I still get up with baby a lot, but when I need the help I don’t hesitate to ask my husband to get up and change the diaper then bring baby to me. If I’m breastfeeding I’ll ask him to grab me a drink of water. I will often pass off a wide awake baby for some Daddy snuggles while I go to bed. I’ve also gotten much better at letting dad pick out the clothes, not telling him he can’t do xyz with our kids, and even telling the kids “why don’t you go ask your dad” instead of thinking I need to make every parenting decision on my own.
3. Say Thank You
A little appreciation goes a long way. We know that the job of mom is often unappreciated. So much of what we do is never even seen. Clean rooms are messed up before husband gets home. Laundry is never done, dishes are always getting dirty, all of the boo boo kissing, educating, and just giving time is often overlooked. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in feeling unappreciated we don’t stop to ask ourselves “when was the last time I thanked my husband for working hard to provide for our family?” When was the last time you thanked him for feeding the kids instead of griping that he didn’t clear the table? When was the last time you thanked him for letting you sleep in instead of being upset that the kids ate sugar cereal instead of a hot cooked meal? When you look for the good things to say thank you for you may be amazed by just how many little things you find!
4. Trust Him to Competently Care for the Kids on his Own
When you leave the house and your husband is home with the kids do you call it babysitting? I know I have been guilty of this one! Your husband is not the babysitter. He doesn’t need to be left with a detailed list of schedules and routines. He doesn’t need to be told how Tommy likes his milk and that betsy needs to pee before getting in bed. He is an adult. Men are every bit as capable as women at caring for children. He may not do things exactly as you do, but that’s ok (refer to #2!). If your husband really is genuinely unable to care for your kids whose fault is it really? If you have so completely shut him out that he doesn’t even know the basics of what to feed them for dinner or what time bed is then you have failed him as a spouse, not the other way around.
5. Remember, Parenting is a Team Sport
As in any relationship success comes from open honest communication. No two people will ever agree 100% of the time. You have to be able to sit down and talk about the pros and cons of different parenting techniques and together come to a compromise that works. You need to hold each other accountable in a loving compassionate manner for following through on those agreements. You have to take the time to understand your spouses family of origin and how they affect your spouses thoughts and opinions. You have to be learn when to back down and when to put your foot down. You have to remember your husband is your parenting Co-President, not your intern.