I am one of those moms who believes parenting is just that- parenting plural, not singular. Two of us got us into this mess, so two of us will have to pick up the mess... or something like that! Luckily, I married a man who agrees that his role of Dad is not just one that comes and goes. He's a VERY active father, participating in everything from diaper changes to getting up in the night if our son is teething and upset to reading bed time stories, singing lullabies and giving bubble baths. I'm incredibly fortunate, because I know not all men are created equal on this fatherhood front.
Still I see there being some moms who either think they can do it all or just won't let the dads in for some baby action. If you are a mom who has a partner who won't help you, that's one thing... but if you are a mom who has a partner who is eager to help out with the raising of your child and you are constantly nagging him or telling him how to do it your way that's just silly in my opinion! We all do it, myself included. It drove me insane when my son was younger and I'd explain the clothing system to my husband (clothes that fit currently are in the drawers, clothes that are ready for the next size, aka way too big right now, are on the shelf in the closet) and he'd always choose the clothes that were too big. But after he said those famous words, "If you want me to help then let me do it my way or I'm not going to help again..." I stopped nagging him. I'd rather succumb to too big clothes on my son than not receive help. Because I know I'm not super-mama. I need help. It's OK to admit that.
So in the spirit of letting dads help, also known as Equal Opportunity Parenting, here are a few ways to let Dad in on some of the fun!
1. Let him get up in the night. You don't have to be the one to rush out of bed when baby cries or needs you, even if baby is saying "mama." Let dad do some of that. Take turns. It's only fair that you get some sleep, too.
2. Use bottles. My husband could not wait to have a try at feeding our son after I tried nursing. Letting dad in on the bonding while feeding is important and special for him. So if bottles are in your child's future let dad give it a whirl instead of you all the time.
3. Let him feel important like you already do; you could not have done what you did without him. Moms always get the attention and pats on the back with anything that has to do with child rearing it seems. And honestly, we SHOULD get most of the attention... typically it is the moms who are doing the majority of the work. However, dads want to feel like they matter, too, like they are making a difference and contributing to their child's life in some way. Point out the cool things your partner did in front of his parents or friends of yours, "Oh yes, my husband taught our daughter how to do that...isn't it cute?" The reward for you will be dad wanting to participate even more.
4. Give him a gift in the hospital. We all know that throughout pregnancy the focus is pretty much strictly on the mom-to-be. This carries on into the hospital. And rightly so, you just did hard work there! You deserve to be pampered and doted upon. However, dad got you here and deserves some credit for helping make the baby and then helping take care of you during pregnancy. Keep him in mind by giving him a sweet card or a gift in the hospital. Pack it under all the clothes you think you're going to wear in the hospital so he doesn't see it ahead of time, then bring it out at night when all the guests leave and it's just you two staring at the newborn. He'll feel pretty special.
5. Communicate! Communicate! Don't assume he knows what you're thinking with baby. This is probably most important. We women have a tendency to assume our husbands read our minds. Not so much. Especially when hormones are flying, insecurities are rampant, you both have no clue what you are doing with this parent thing, and exhaustion is at an all-time high... you HAVE got to communicate what it is you are thinking and needing at any given time.
6. Let him do it his way. He'll be more likely to help you out if you don't nag every little detail of how he did the diapering, bath or feeding time, playing, etc. It's OK if you do it better... let him do it worse just a few times, your child will survive!
7. Keep him involved. Ask him what questions he has before pregnancy and then later before baby well-visit doctor appointments. My husband loved this. He sometimes had no questions, told me he trusted me. Yet other times he'd remember something we'd discussed a few weeks ago that I'd totally forgotten we wanted to ask the doctor about. Again, letting him feel included and important will keep dad wanting to be a great father to your child... something you all will win from.
8. Say thanks. Despite if you feel that you do almost everything there is when it comes to parenting, thank your partner for what he does contribute. Maybe I did all the diaper changes today, but my husband worked over time so we could pay for my son's birthday party coming up. That counts in the realm of our parenting together. Maybe it's not a huge thing for him to do the bath routine once out of every 7 days that you do it... but thank him anyway. Feeling appreciated goes a long way for us, so of course it will for the opposite sex, too.
A few good sites for dads!
My amazingly helpful husband and SUPER DAD to Owen, Jared!