If anything is going to make you neurotic, it’s motherhood.
Just between us girls we can be real, right? We moms, we are all a little bit crazy. And that’s fine. We should be overprotective of our children–it’s a scary world–, we should sing silly songs and not care that we have spit up running down the back of our shirts.
But, lately I’ve been thinking about how my over-active-mothering might be compromising something very precious.
My husband and his work as a father.
You see, we are freshly back from a National Lampoon’s style 2 week cross country road trip where my little family, all 5 of us, spent every waking hour together, cruising down the road, crammed into a hotel room, hiking, swimming, eating. There were a few rough moments, but all in all we had a terrific time. My husband and I shared some powerful bonding moments as a couple, but more than anything I got to glory in the wonderful work my husband is doing as a father.
But standing back and appreciating him as a father is not my natural tendency. I hate to admit it, but when something needs to be done with the kids my first instinct is one of the following:
- Jump in and take care of it myself (I can do it better and faster anyway).
- Tell my husband to take care of it (and by tell him, I mean tell him every little detail so he doesn’t mess it up).
- Allow my husband to handle it…but then correct him when he starts doing it wrong.
All of this for a man that is already a terrific father–not to mention an intelligent and compassionate human being.
Ugh. And I have officially crossed over into bad-crazy.
And so, driving is good thinking time for me. Yesterday I drove for several hours in quiet while my husband worked. All the while I kept thinking, He is such a good father, how do I encourage him to be an even better father?
And then it hit me, in full audio: GET OUT OF THE WAY.
Yes, Get out of the way! The best thing I can do for him, for our kids and for our family is to get out of the way and ALLOW him to be the great dad he is. And, now that the baby isn’t such a baby anymore, I hope to do just this, I hope to let go and let him do his thing–because his thing is very good.
And here is how I’m going to do it:
1. Remember that Dad-time and Mom-time are very different–and they should be.
A few weeks ago I had to get my license renewed, so instead of lugging all the kids to the DMV, I went first thing in the morning and my husband went into work a little late.
When I got back breakfast was still all over the table, no one was dressed…basically it was exactly as I had left it. Clearly they (my husband) hadn’t done anything while I was gone.
Cue the mom-rage.
Luckily before I could launch into my tantrum my little Gus ran up to me desperate to sing the new song dad had taught them over breakfast. As he sang Bernadette joined in and the baby sat on the floor bouncing along.
Oh, maybe they had been doing something while I was gone. Maybe it was more important than dishes, and getting dressed. Maybe.
Every time I leave the kids with my husband I am always amazed at what they come up with to do–it is usually totally outside of anything I would have thought of. And that’s how it should be. Sure, the laundry isn’t done, and the dishes are just piled up, but they’ve been busy learning things only dad can teach–and this is why they need dad time.
2. Segregate Duties
It’s hard for me to step aside, even when I really want and need a break. Something that has really worked for us is segregating duties. If I am part of anything I have a tendency to micromanage it to death so it is better if I am just not a part of a few things.
In our house, bath-time is dad time. This gives me time to do the dishes in peace while dad manages the kids. I love the alone time and I love listening to the wild bath-time fun from the kitchen.
3. Allow Dad to make mistakes
I am beginning to realize that when I pack the diaper bag, set out the kid’s clothes, figure out lunch, and plan their itinerary I am implying something–that left to his own devices, dad would screw this up.
And that’s just not fair. My husband is anything but a screw up.
Sure, there will likely be a few bumps in the road, getting somewhere without diapers or snacks, but you know what, he’ll figure it out–just like I had to figure it out when I do those same things.
For me at least, it feels like parenthood is just a series of mistakes you learn from (over and over again) and the last thing I should do is rob him of that learning.
4. Stop Undermining Him
I never thought I would struggle with this, but I do.
I struggle most profoundly with undermining my husband when it comes to discipline. It’s so hard to know how to discipline but sometimes all I *think* I know is that dad is doing it wrong. And so I say something–right there in the heat of the moment–and it all falls apart. The kid sees an out and I’ve just insulted my husband and damaged his credibility. Yuck.
It is far better to keep my mouth shut and trust (see TRUST, that is what is missing in all of this) that my husband really does love his children and is doing what is best for them. And so, I am going to hold my tongue. I am going to hold me tongue…
5. Draw my Primary Support from Him.
My children have 2 parents, and they need both of us. What is more, I need my husband in order to be a good mother. I need him to listen to me when I vent, to take the kids for a walk so I can rock a sick baby, to encourage me during labor and to wrestle with the kids before bedtime. I not only need these things from someone–I need them from him.
The closest family for us is a 3 hour drive away. When I hear about all my mom does for my sister that lives close to my parents, in terms of watching her kids, I get jealous. Here I am hauling 2 toddlers with me to the midwife or having to ask my husband to miss a work event so I can take our oldest to the dentist. It’s hard when you don’t have the support of family nearby to help with childcare–but in some ways it has also been a blessing for us.
Without family around we are forced to rely solely on each other–and in this we are giving multiple opportunities for sacrifice.
Okay, I don’t love or look for sacrifice, in any part of my life, but I will say that having to sacrifice my wants, desires and plans in favor of what is right for my family and my husband has bonded me to them like I never thought possible. And, if this is true for me, it is true for my husband.
Sacrifice is the fire in which a family is forged.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this. Am I the only one standing, at times, in the way of a man being a good father? If you have an insights or tips on this topic, please share so we can all learn and grow together.
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