How to Help Dads be PARENTS, Not Feel Like Glorified Babysitters

by | Sep 18, 2019 | Uncategorized | 38 comments

Treating Dads like They're Parents, Not Just Baby-Sitters
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Dads are parents, not baby-sitters. But do we sometimes treat them like they’re second class in the parenting department?

This month, on Wednesdays, I’m writing about how the way we just do life in general can interfere with our marriage and our sex life. As the school year gears up again, I’ve been encouraging us to look at the causes of stress in our marriage, and the different kinds of marriage problems that we have. I talked about kids’ schedules and getting those under control, and in our podcast last week I talked about how to figure out what little things are making sex more difficult for you.

Today I want to talk about another habit we can get into in our day-to-day lives when it comes to looking after kids–we make it mostly a mom’s job, and dad is seen as just the occasional baby-sitter.

Now, I have no problem with one spouse doing 100% of the housework, if that’s how it works best for you. When Keith was in medical residency and working 120 hours a week, when he was home, I didn’t want him mopping floors. I wanted to spend what little time we did have together, and I wanted him with the kids. So I did pretty much all the housework. And over the years, I’ve done most of it because I’ve been home during the day (that’s switching now, as I work more than he does).

But childcare is a different matter. Children are not tasks; they’re people. They need BOTH parents. To think, “Well, I work full-time and she’s home with the kids, so the kids are hers to look after”–well, that doesn’t work. Childcare is not the same thing as housework or paperwork or mowing the lawn–it’s a relationship. You don’t get to “clock in and clock out,” or just check off a list (“Well I’ve changed 2 diapers today so I’m all done.”).

Childcare isn’t a 50-50 split. It’s a relationship that requires 100% from both of you because your child needs 100% of you. Your kid doesn’t need half a dad and half a mom–he (or she) needs two parents who are fully devoted to raising him the best they possibly can.

I asked Rebecca to write this one up for me, since she and Connor have been talking about this a lot lately as they’re about to become parents. And here’s how they’ve been wrestling through it:

General principles for both parents to live by

1. Always Assume You’re On Kid Duty

Unless you’re actively outside the house at work during your scheduled work hours, always assume that you are responsible for your child(ren). It’s not fair to simply make plans or make commitments without running it by your spouse first. Want to go to a friend’s place after work one day? Run it by your spouse to make sure you aren’t needed at home. Want to get involved in a volunteer effort? Talk it over as a couple to make sure it won’t put undue pressure on the other spouse.

This doesn’t mean you don’t ever get to do fun things–it just means that your default is, “I’ve got the kids.” If you are assuming that the other will take care of things, that is unfair and likely shows that you’re not taking your responsibilities as a parent as seriously as you should.

2. Time off for one should mean time off for the other

If you’ve run it by your spouse and he/she says “Go for it!”, it’s important that free time is given to them as well. If a husband goes out with the boys for a few hours on a Friday, he should give her some time soon to relax and do whatever she wants, too, whether that’s a 2-hour-long bubble bath or meeting up for coffee with friends while he has the kids.

It isn’t about making sure everything is “fair,” but more about getting into a routine where both people’s needs and wants are respected, versus getting into a habit of giving one person a lot of freedom while the other does all the work that allows for that freedom.

 3. Taking care of children should not result in more work for the other than is necessary

If you’ve been busy watching the kids and so didn’t have time to do the dinner dishes like you normally would have, that’s one thing. But if you took care of the kids and now there are toys everywhere, smushed peas dried onto the tray because you didn’t wipe it off in time, and water all over the bathroom floor from bathtime, and you just kick your feet up because you’re done taking care of the kids and leave your spouse to clean up after you–that’s not acceptable.

As a general principle, if something is your responsibility, make sure it’s done properly. Meal time your job tonight? Clean off the high chair and put the leftovers in the fridge or freezer. Bath time your job? Wipe down the floor so that it doesn’t cause damage or your spouse to step in a puddle later. If you spend time playing with the kids, schedule that last 5 minutes to putting all the toys back in the toy box. It’s not difficult to do if you recognize that the task isn’t something you’re doing as a favour for your spouse, but because it’s an important task that is done for the family.

 

Ways Dads can make sure they’re parents, not just babysitters:

1. Ensure you actually know what goes into taking care of the kid

Do you know how to feed your child? If your baby is breastfed, do you know how to prepare pumped breast milk for her? Do you know which snacks the child should have and when? What about how much food to give during meal times?

The easy solution to make sure you know how to be your child’s parent is to rotate parenting duties with your spouse. Be the one who does feedings all day on weekends if you’re the one who works outside the home so that you can know what your child’s eating schedule is. Take care of bathtime during the week. Alternate who puts the child to bed so that both of you are able to complete his bedtime routine.

2. Do errands with your child

One of the biggest differences I see often among how dads act with kids versus how moms act is that moms assume the kid is coming with them when they run errands whereas the dad assumes that the kid is staying home.

When you go out to run errands, every now and then take the children with you. It’s good to learn to grocery shop with kids–that’s part of being a parent. It also provides good learning opportunities–you can quiz kids on different types of cars while you’re waiting on your oil change, or you can play I Spy while walking through the mall doing exchanges and returns.

3. Have dedicated time where you are taking care of the child without your wife around

This is especially important if you work outside the house and she is a stay-at-home mom. If that’s the case, she takes care of the child 40+ hours a week without your help, so you’re more than capable of giving her a few hours of uninterrupted kid-free time on a regular basis.

As well, this should include not texting her with questions about how to take care of the baby! Unless it’s vitally important that you ask specifically her, figure it out yourself (Google is a powerful tool). If you don’t know, consider asking your parents for advice! They raised you, after all, and would likely enjoy being able to help over the phone.

If you think this is unreasonable because she already knows all this and why shouldn’t you ask her, ask yourself–how does SHE know all this? Odds are she didn’t text you about it to figure it out, she researched it, she called other moms, she figured it out for herself. There is nothing stopping you from doing that, too! It just means you need to take ownership of your role as a parent and truly see yourself as a dad, not a glorified babysitter.

4. Have faith in yourself!

Recognize you are capable of being an awesome dad and an awesome parent. Many men enter parenting with less baby and kid experience than their wives simply because girls are more likely to grow up babysitting, taking care of kids, and being handed babies in social situations than boys are. But if you’re a dad who feels like he just doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing, take heart–you CAN do this, and you WILL learn as long as you put in the work.

Ways moms can encourage their husbands to be great dads:

1. Recognize that there is more than one way to skin a cat

You and your husband are likely going to do some things differently. That is perfectly OK. In fact, a lot of psychological research has found that it’s actually good for your kid to have these different influences! In general, dads tend to be rougher, louder, and more confrontational in their play (like playing “monster” and chasing a kid around the house) and in their parenting whereas moms tend to be more subdued, conversational, and emotions-focused. In other words, the mom is more likely to say “careful” and the dad is more likely to say “let’s see how fast you can really ride that bike down the hill.” (Obviously both sexes can do both, but that’s what studies have found.)

Beyond just play styles, though, understand that if something isn’t harmful or dangerous to your child, you need to give your husband room to just be a dad. If you want him to take ownership of fatherhood, you can’t keep him on a tight leash. Let him make decisions, give him freedom to try new things, and recognize that even if the kid doesn’t end up wearing an outfit you like all that much, that’s not a big deal when you put it in perspective.

2. Allow for a learning curve

When you’re tempted to say something like, “Just let me do it,” step back. Odds are, you have more experience with childcare than your husband, since girls are statistically more likely to have babysat or spent time with babies before having one themselves than men are. You had to learn these things at some point, too, and you were given the opportunity to learn them. If he’s bumbling a bit while changing a diaper, just leave and let him change the diaper. He’ll get better with practice, but he does need the practice.

 

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3. Watch how you talk about your husband as a father

When we were first married, I was quite critical of Connor. Although I’m not 100% yet by any stretch of the imagination, a huge help to me early on was to take a day and imagine that I had a tape recorder of everything I said about my husband that would play back to my friends and family later. Every time I said something about Connor I’d ask myself–do I want my parents to hear that? Would I say that to his best friend? Would I say that to him?

It really made me realize how sometimes the way I thought or talked about him was simply not beneficial because it was unnecessarily harsh and belittling.

Try that exercise when it comes to talking about your husband as a dad. Do you talk about him with pride, love, and trust? Or do you scoff at how little he knows, how helpless he is, or how everyone would just starve or go naked if you weren’t around for a day?

Our words matter. If you want your husband to take parenting seriously and to feel confident as a dad, don’t say words that tear him down. Offer critiques when necessary, yes, but be very careful that the message you’re giving your husband is not, “I don’t trust you with our children.”

Those are our tips for helping both parents take ownership of raising the kids–what has worked for your family? And feel free to share awesome parenting win stories in the comments below! Let’s learn from each other’s successes! 

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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38 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    1. Would you please do a podcast on this? My husband isn’t much of a reader but a podcast I could trap him into! 😂

    2. Any tips for convincing a husband of a stay at home mom that she shouldn’t bear the full load of kids and housework all the time? He will get one of our two kids’ pjs on and occasionally cooks dinner or cleans the bathroom. He also does play with the kids (1&3.) But if I mention that I need help cleaning up, or folding laundry, or ask him to put the kids to bed while I’m out of the house for the evening, he gets so angry that I would try to ask that from him. He thinks it’s just “what stay at home moms are supposed to do.” Our kids do cry a lot when he tries to put them to bed, but I just want him to push through and not beg me to just do it for him. I need a break from bedtime once in awhile.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow! That’s tough.

      Okay, I’ll let you in on something. We’re starting a new podcast we’ve decided–the last podcast of the month every month will be dedicated towards men. I think we’ve already got September’s planned out, but this will fit in really well once Rebecca’s had the baby. So look for that soon! And you’re right–you do need a break once and a while.

      Reply
    • Kayla

      I am a SAHM as well. As soon as the babies were no longer nursing at bedtime (about 1.5 years), it became my hubby’s job to do the bedtime routine. He got to bond with them and I got a break. Usually I did chores like dishes or laundry, but sometimes I just sat for 10-15 minutes first. Even now that they are 7&5, he still does the routine when he’s at home. (Most nights, sometimes he’s at a softball game or bowling at bedtime.)

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I think that’s great! Kids need to bond with dad, and having a special time that’s his really encourages that.

        Reply
    • Meghan

      My husband and I split up the bedtime routine. He does bath, brushes teeth, and gets our daughter into her PJs. I read the books, sing the hymns, and say bedtime prayers. Now that she’s older he has a blast playing with her in the tub; I think age 1 is about the time bathtime started becoming fun, so your kids are great ages for all kinds of water play.

      Try starting there, and reframe it as quality one-on-one time with the kids, because when you boil the bedtime routine down that’s really what it is.

      Reply
  2. Joan

    Yes! I couldn’t agree more. There are so many articles out there saying men need to be more involved but what I loved about this were all the practical examples. Great post.

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      Yeah the practical examples are key–because “more involved” can just mean that he plays with the kids more. That’s important, yes, but not all of what parenting entails. So glad you enjoyed it 🙂

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Glad you liked it!

      Reply
  3. Jess

    That last part about how you speak about your husband is a huge pet peeve of mine! I don’t know why it became the norm that people speak that way about husbands as dads. Any time my husband is home with our kids and I am out somewhere I get so many comments like, “yeah, who knows what state the house will be in when you get back, right?” or “anything goes when daddy is in charge” or “well, they may eat chips and candy for dinner but they won’t starve” or any other assortment of insults…the list is endless. It really triggers something for me especially because I have the most wonderful, capable, amazing husband. He works full time outside the home and I stay home, but he goes above and beyond with helping with household stuff and is a super hands-on dad who has beautiful relationships with each of our 4 children.

    I almost always try to just smile and correct people, saying something like, “actually he is an amazing dad and he really enjoys the quality time with our kids!” Also, I think he a lot of times does a better job caring for our kids than I do because he is confident in his abilities and doesn’t worry about being judged for every tiny mistake he might make. Whereas we as moms get so much criticism and judgement for everything we do.

    I would echo the urge to speak kindly and confidently to and about your husbands. And I would add, speak this way in front of your kids. My kids ask my husband for as much as thry ask me. They look at us as equals because we treat each other as equally capable and equally responsible! Let’s start lifting each other up instead of tearing each other down or allowing others to tear your husband down!

    Reply
    • Rebecca Lindenbach

      I get the whole “Mama bear” thing about how people talk about my husband, too, and we don’t even have the kid yet!! It really is astounding what is seen as acceptable to say.

      And I echo the importance of watching how you talk about dad in front of the kids–my parents were so incredibly good at this. They were honest about the others’ faults when necessary, but always spoke about each other really really well. when I look back on my childhood I honestly don’t remember them belittling each other at all, which is such a gift to your kids, too.

      Reply
      • Will

        Good article. I feel like we need to raise the bar a little as well. There are many times when I have all 4 of my kids in public, and I get comments like “your such a good dad.” Really? I guess I didn’t realize that taking my own kids to Lowe’s with me was such a big deal. Or questions to my kids like “cereal for dinner, huh?” Ummm, no. I know how to cook. I especially hate “oh, you finally got your boy” with my 3 girls standing right there…as if they are less important. I people don’t mean anything by the comments, but it gets old sometimes.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I love this so much, Will!

          Reply
        • Nathan

          > > I especially hate “oh, you finally got your boy” with my 3 girls standing right there…as if they are less important

          That’s something that’s still with us. I remember when I was younger, mainly in movies and TV shows, whenever a child was born and was a boy, there was a massive cheer and celebration. When a child was born and was a girl, there was a subdued disappointment, and everybody on screen tried to reassure each other that having a girl was “okay”

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            That is really sad!

          • Rebekah

            My husband is just about ready to break a nose next time somebody has a ‘poor you’ kind of reaction to finding out we have 4 daughters! He’s an amazing dad, and I just about cried a few weeks ago when he commented that he makes a point to play female music artists and find female scientists on YouTube so he’s sure they see those things as options. And now that girls can join Cub Scouts, he’s over the moon to share his childhood memories with them.

            I also was always confused about the ‘going home to a mess’ or ‘he has no idea how to take care of them’ thing. Why are you reproducing with someone if you don’t think they have the skills to be a parent?! (He finds doing the dishes relaxing, so odds are the house will be cleaner when I get home than when I left!)

            I try to push back (bluntly but politely as I can manage) when people go with the stereotype bumbling dad thing. Raise the bar as a society and recognize that while it is awesome, it should be expected.

    • Blessed Wife

      It is fantastic for you and especially your kids that your husband is all those things!

      I think the reason people make those assumptions is because that’s what they see at their home and probably in the home they grew up in, and they assume that model is universal. I know those comments would very accurately describe what happens when my husband is alone with our children!

      The way I talk about my husband to our kids and others is to emphasize his hard work and long hours away from home to provide for us, his kindness and affection for the children, how he strives to give them everything they need and most of what they want, and how much they enjoy his taking them out for ice cream and treats and how he always tries to show up at their events, (eg. dance recitals and parent observation days, church programs, etc.). I don’t lie, but I keep most of the truth to myself!

      Reply
  4. Nathan

    > > Time off for one should mean time off for the other

    This is a good one. Many years ago, I came across an article written by a woman. Her husband told her that he had a dream that he wanted to pursue, and as his wife, she should support him and help shoulder the load of home and kids to give him the time he needed to do this. She said sure thing and had no problem with it.

    But, on the flip side, whenever she wanted to do something for herself (see a movie, lunch with friends, etc.) he got all weird and just couldn’t understand why she needed to do all that “junk” of hers.

    Home, kids, personal time, etc. is a shared load. It doesn’t always have to be 50/50 down the line on everything, but you need a balancing act that works for all involved, and kids need both of you as committed parents.

    Reply
  5. Karen

    The pics of you girls with Dad are awesome—loved it! I think the overarching theme is to just own fatherhood and make time to be present in the lives of one’s children—and for moms not to hinder that in all of the nit picky ways we can. 😂 Right now we are running kind of a 50s American family situation, and I actually love it. Evenings are wide open for family time, talks about God, all kinds of stuff. Not sure how long this will last, but for now it’s a real blessing.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep! Let the dads be with the kids in the evenings. It really does matter.

      Reply
      • Shellie

        My husband doesn’t like to help out with the kids. He wouldn’t stay home and look after them when they were younger. If I was sick he would leave the kids at home with me when he went to church. If he was sick I would take the kids to church. When we came home for lunch he would get really angry as the kids would make noise and tell me to keep the kids out for the rest of the day. I did, just to keep the peace for the kids.
        My husband has told me he doesn’t have to do Mother’s Day with the kids as I’m not his mother. He’s also told me that he doesn’t go to church or on holiday to look after the kids.
        I eventually decided I was going to have to get on with making the best I can do to give our children some happy family times with me.
        Our kids are sad their Dad isn’t involved in their lives. My 14 year old was really upset earlier this year that her dad doesn’t know her, and my son asked a couple of months ago what does a dad do?
        I just hug and pray with the kids that their dad and my husbands heart will change.

        Reply
        • Ina

          Oh, Shellie, my heart hurts reading this! I pray as well that your husband would wake up and God would bring healing. My husband’s father was also very distant emotionally and I highly encourage you (though likely you’ve already done this) to find some safe (emphasis on safe) older men that your children can interact with- grandparents, uncles, wise men you know… good examples of Godly manhood are especially essential when there are wounds surrounding fathers! I’m so grateful for the men that made time to pour into my husband’s life.

          Reply
  6. Becky

    This was so good! My husband overall does well with making sure he’s taking equal responsibility in the parenting department, and actually does better than I do with certain things! Like he’s much better at solo bedtime duty, since I often end up with some kind of evening music rehearsal for church or community orchestra, and so he’s had more practice with getting both of our boys settled without me. I think a key element is that he understands that now is the time to be building relationships with our kids while they’re young, so he’s willing to put that time and effort in. I’m excited to see how that foundation is built on as they grow!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s such an important foundation, too! Kids need that relationship with their dad while they’re young if dads want their teens to come to them with issues. You can’t suddenly create a relationship with a teenager! You have to put in the time.

      Reply
  7. L

    Love this!
    It bothers me as well when my friends make those slights at their husband. This is something I’m sure I can do better and speak life into those conversations.

    Referring back to the point about dads researching…One time (many times) my husband was up in the night with our baby doing a bottle feed and she was super gassy and in pain. He was having a hard time getting her to burp as had been the pattern for her the days prior. So he looked on YouTube for some tips and was happy to find a sweet calm grandma demonstrating a new idea we hadn’t thought of or knew of.
    The way he described that time was precious. It was the dead of night, a hurting baby, a desperate dad and a sweet grandma to the rescue. He followed the video and it worked like a charm!! I love that he’s such an awesome dad and has confidence to figure things out with our girl.

    He shared that experience with other parents and hasn’t been afraid to take a fussy gassy baby and show them the method. Excitement erupts as the baby sure enough burps. They’ve come back to him and said it’s saved them (and their baby) a few times from drawn out burping.

    Another example of the importance of letting go of control is when our girl was a toddler and I had been hovering while she did stairs on a playground, knowing she could probably manage on her own but too cautious to let her try on her own. It would take a trip with daddy to the playground and they’d come back announcing she now could do stairs on her own! There’s been a few other times where our girl has gained independence and done things I didn’t know she could because dad isn’t such a worry wart like mom 😉 Then I feel alot better the next time knowing dad showed her the safe way or dad oversaw she could manage.

    Teamwork is a key part of parenting. We often tell our daughter that mom and dad are on the same team.

    All the best to you as you welcome your child into this world!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So great, L! Now I really want to know that trick with the gassy baby….

      Reply
  8. Arwen

    I hear #3 around me a lot! Great tips and i love seeing the family photos. I can’t decide if the camera is the greatest thing that was invented. It holds and passes down so much memory from generation to generation. Love it!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love it, too! I just wish we had been more proactive about taking pictures of just normal, everyday things. I think that’s something millennial parents will have so much more of because of phones!

      Reply
  9. Jane Eyre

    I love the point about how women are handed babies their entire lives and men aren’t.

    On a side note, I am not and never have been a “baby person.” It was always weird when people assumed that because I have ovaries, I should coo over babies in a way the men *right there* would not.

    But I babysat for my much-younger siblings a lot, so I’m fairly skilled at the actual mechanics of diaper changes, bottle feedings, naps, car seats, etc.

    That doesn’t mean my husband isn’t capable of learning, too – he just hasn’t had the opportunity! We don’t expect people to just ride bikes or play instruments without learning how; why do we expect the same from parenting?

    Reply
    • Misty S.

      Completely unrelated but…. Jane Eyre is my favorite book. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Ina

    One thing I’ve noticed is that in communities where children and babies are seen as positive and as a blessing it comes more naturally for dads to be invested. This is kind of ironic, because often those communities will also tend to be more conservative and follow gender roles, which often can promote the opposite. The sons I’ve seen in many of those families (married one myself- he was raised Catholic and had lots of little siblings) tend to be comfortable around babies and really enjoy them. I think it’s so key to see children not as “work” but as joyful, wonderful little people God breathed life into. When you see them for who they are, it automatically becomes less of a debate of whose ‘job’ they are.

    Reply
  11. Misty S.

    I was a stay-at-home mom and the 2 things that drove me the craziest were:

    1. My ex-husband would say he would babysit for me to go somewhere. It always made me so angry… I would tell him, “You’re their dad, you don’t babysit, you parent.”

    2. Guys, sending your wife out for a last minute trip to the grocery store alone is not a mini vacation. It’s not a break. It’s continuing to do something for you and the kids. If you want to give her a break, draw her a bath while you put the kids to bed, send her out for a pedicure, tell her to do whatever she wants as long as no errands are involved. (and don’t say you’ll babysit for her while she’s out.)

    My ex was honestly a pretty great dad when my kids were younger, it was when they, especially my daughter, started the preteens that things became a challenge for him. Maybe a post with some tips for dads for parenting (especially girls) as they mature?

    Reply
    • Eps

      I confess, my husband often offers to run to get those last minute groceries for me (to help!) And I have to say I need the outing, cause for me it IS a mini holiday (baby and toddler days 😅). Not that he treats it like one, but it certainly refreshes me!

      Reply
  12. Meghan

    While my husband and I both work full-time, I spend more time with our daughter than he does because he works the night shift and is asleep on weekend mornings. Since he switched from days to nights, I’ve seen a definite shift towards me being the default parent even when we’re all together as a family. I’ve tried to encourage him to have some daddy-daughter time, but we get so little family time that we guard it like Smaug so I started thinking of other options. One thing I tried that helps reverse the trend is to give him a chance to respond to our daughter’s needs by not immediately getting up to handle them myself. I guess sometimes a mom has to step back so a dad can step up!

    Reply
  13. Rosanna

    I am a homeschooling sahm to 3. They are 14, 11, and 9 now. (Crazy how time flies!) My husband is a business owner who also works on the side. He works very hard but he also has flexibility which is amazing! I don’t think our roles are even but we both look at it like ‘this is how we work together as a team.’ He rarely does housework right now but he used when the kids were younger. The kids can help now. In this season, he always cooks one night a week, just to give me a break. He does all the car maintenance/fixing as well as the yard work. He has never had an issue staying home with the kids being the Dad ever, even when they were babies. His flexibility these days, thankfully, allows him to help our 9th grader with her math before he goes off to work. So, my two cents on all this is to say, ‘no, we don’t share our work evenly but we are both always willing to help each other because we are a team.’

    Reply
  14. BC Man

    Research by Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan and colleagues at Ohio State U showed greater maternal encouragement was associated with higher parent-reported relative father involvement. Moreover, maternal encouragement mediated the association between coparenting quality and reported relative father involvement. With respect to fathers’ observed behavior, fathers’ beliefs and parents’ perceptions of coparenting relationship quality were relevant only when mothers engaged in low levels of criticism and high levels of encouragement, respectively. These findings are consistent with the notion that mothers may shape father involvement through their roles as “gatekeepers.

    Maternal gatekeeping may be more strongly associated with maternal expectations (perfectionism) and psychological functioning (anxiety, controlling behaviours) than with maternal traditional gender attitudes. Fathers’ characteristics are less predictive of maternal gatekeeping than mothers’ characteristics.

    If you want your husband to be more involved in childcare, encourage his involvement. If you spend more time with the children than he does, it makes sense he will be a few steps behind you on the learning curve. Therefore, it may take him longer to figure things out.

    When you jump in to show him how to perform a childcare task, or criticize his task performance or provide unsolicited on-the-spot advice …. And your child’s life is not in danger … you’re gatekeeping. And maternal gatekeeping discourages your husband’s involvement.

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  15. Lindsey

    Growing up, my dad watched was a self-employed contractor (which means very long work days in the summer and lots of paperwork). He loved us, and was a source of stability for us, but before I got married (I’m the second oldest of 5, and the first married – at 18 😳) I told him that he should make it a point to spend more time with my younger sisters before they married. He said “there just wasn’t enough time”, and I gently told him that there was every Sunday in football season. He was a good dad, don’t get me wrong, but it’s an easy trap to fall in to – prioritizing entertainment over relationships – ESPECIALLY when you’re exhausted.

    I am so incredibly grateful to have a husband who absolutely adores his children. Seriously. His family is everything to him. I am the woman who gets to talk to people at church/family gatherings because my husband always watches the kids. We are his number one priority and his favorite people. He doesn’t miss any opportunities to spend time with us in order to pursue his own hobbies (although I did finally convince him to start going to the gym – he loved lifting weights in high school – but it took a lot of arm twisting!). I am eternally thankful to God for the man he has blessed me with in this life.

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  16. Jess

    What about parents who are split and co-parenting? I feel like my ex feels like a ‘glorified babysitter’ and hates it.

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