I have been troubled by our society’s portrayal of men, husbands and fathers for years. Commercials, sitcoms, and movies often portray them as inept, dumb, and unable to do anything without a female telling them how. As a mother of three young men, I worry about the messages they are receiving from media. At best, they will see what no to do. At worst, they will see a bar set way too low. And what do these messages communicate to my daughter? Do they affect her view of what a man is?
I ran across an article this week that made me want to stand up and applaud. The author, a father, was addressing a few of the misperceptions our culture has about fathers. Unfortunately, I have often witnessed similar situations. As recently as last Saturday I sat behind a very capable dad traveling with his son who was under two. The dad was handling the over-active boy excellently, but halfway through the flight a lady walked over to him and, under the guise of helping, told him what he was doing wrong. In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that when Steve and I first had children I was at times guilty of the same behavior. I am not without fault. I’m still not perfect, but I have learned a lot! So, to the women out there who feel like men can’t take care of their children, listen up, and learn from a few of my mistakes.
Whether it was diaper changing or hair-bow placement, I assumed that there was only one right way to do things: my way. Those words look so arrogant now, but I honestly thought that. I thought that things such as the way a diaper was done, which side a hair-bow was on or which shoes went with what outfit were tantamount to national security. In doing so I caused other problems, which leads me to my next point.
2. If I want my partner to help parent then I can’t control everything.
Steve and I went from no children to four in 3 years and 3 months. I was desperate for help, and was lucky enough to have a husband who wanted to be hands on. But in the beginning I was such a control freak that I wouldn’t let him help. I was inhibiting myself from having the help I so desperately wanted. In order for me to have help, I had to stop trying to control everything. I have had this talk with more than a few moms over the years and here’s a hint. If you find yourself saying something like, “I wish Joe would help out more with the kids.” stop and evaluate whether you allow him room to do so.
3. As my husband parents in his own, unique way we all win.
Me, him, and the kids. We all benefit from two parents who parent with their own nuances. I benefit from seeing another perspective and from watching the relationships that develop between my husband and his children. He is given the opportunity to grow into an excellent father when I get out of the way. And the kids are blessed with two parents who are 100% committed and invested in their lives.
It would be an understatement to say that the advantages have far outweighed my fear of giving up control. Steve is an intelligent man and didn’t need me telling him how to go through life. When I took a step back, I realized that just because I have a uterus didn’t mean I was innately superior in my parenting skills. Kids need dads, dads who will push them too high in a swing, who walk too close to the raging river, and who hold the back of their overalls and let them look out over Lover’s Leap. Even if mom is cringing and has to shut her eyes while it takes place.