When I was pregnant with our firstborn I was given a lot of advice from those who had gone before me, both solicited and otherwise. Much of it was wise and helpful, some less so, but there is one phrase I have said to myself over and over, reminding myself of its truth:
“Let him do it the dad way.”
This simple phrase came from a mom just a few steps ahead of me in the mom game. Knowing well the relationship she had with her husband and children, she was the type of advice-giver to which you choose to listen. “You’ll have a way of doing things – how you change her diaper, how you play with toys, the way you get her ready, and so on. But dad? He won’t do it just like you. He’ll have his own methods. They may seem sloppy or less efficient or even ridiculous to you. But if it gets the job done and everyone is safe, let him do it the dad way.”
As the mom of a 15-month-old, there are many things I have yet to learn about parenting. But even at this stage of the game, I can tell you my friend’s words are true. When my husband, Joey, and I brought our tiny daughter home we floundered through the newborn stage as all parents do, and soon enough we had our rhythms and routines around the house.
For me, this looks like Elsie eating semi-balanced meals with a protein along with fruits/veggies, and wearing clothes pretty regularly. When Joey is in charge, Elsie’s wardrobe choices are sometimes odd or nonexistent. He cooks her breakfast differently, plays games I don’t always understand, and delights in jumping from behind furniture to scare our daughter into fits of giggles. Despite these differences, or maybe even because of these differences, Elsie adores us both.
There have been numerous moments where his methods have rubbed against my own and I want to force my own way (and sometimes I have, often in pride or insecurity). Yet if I can hold my tongue and sit back, letting Joe do things his own way, you know what usually happens? Nothing substantial. The task gets carried out, life goes on, and I would have made a big deal about nothing at all. Or worse yet, I would have undercut and degraded my well-intentioned spouse.
Sometimes we look at dads as if they know nothing, but they have so much to give to our children and our homes if we let them, and let them do it in their own way. If we continually correct or disregard dad’s help in the home, we are training everyone present to think that his methods, his presence, and his thoughts are less-than. We show our kids he does not need to be listened to, and we strip away his confidence to lead and love his family.
These are the things at stake when we undermine dad repeatedly.
I want a home with open communication, kids who love and respect both of their parents, and a marriage where we both feel valued and vital to the team. I want my children to learn from the incredible man that I married.
I fear we also forget that dads are just as capable of critical thinking. We avoid leaving the kids with daddy for fear dad can’t take care of them as well as we might. What I have observed is this: he can figure it out too, just like you would, mama. It may not look the same, but it will work and your child will be better for it most of the time. Let him do it the dad way. Certainly, there are moments where he will need your help or your mom-gut is telling you to do things this way for a good reason. However, I would encourage you as much as possible to let him be Dad, and let him in on the parenting in your house big and small.
Because of the way our schedules work, every Friday is “dad day” in our house. I have a basic schedule written on the fridge, and I might have some meals and snacks ready for heating nearby. It’s my way of making a smooth transition, setting both my husband and daughter up for a good day, but that’s where I stop. I let him decide how they’ll spend their time, and I head off for work knowing my girl is deeply loved by both parents, and both parents are completely capable of caring for her.