License to Mom: Do Dads Get Pushed Aside?


DSC01467 I
used to think my husband was just being whiny about it all.  From the moment we learned we were expecting,
he kept pointing out seemingly benign moments (to me) that were insulting to
him.  Pregnancy books directed only at
the mom (duh!), a few pregnancy books aimed at dads, all with titles like “The
Caveman’s Guide to Surviving your Wife’s Pregnancy”, with the central theme
basically being: Do what she says, do it quickly, and don’t talk back.  The people at Buy Buy Baby handed me the scan
gun and never said a word to him.  He
spent 2 hours seething while I registered for the lists upon lists of baby gear
I “needed”.  Like I said, little moments
I did not pay attention to.

But
then D was born and I saw clearly what he was talking about.  It started at the hospital: they kicked him
out of my shared room at 2 am, leaving him to make his own way back home after
an exhausting and emotionally wrenching day for all of us.  In the following days, the nurse would walk
in with the baby and start talking at me about nursing and swaddling, and do we
want to use a pacifier?  He would try to
ask questions and offer opinions, but these nurses were not having it and he
started simply walking out of the room when they came in.  And finally, 3 days later, it was time to go
home.  I could still barely walk from my
c-section so he went down the hall to the nursery.  I will never forget the look on his face when
he returned a few minutes later, with no baby. 
“You have to get her.  They won’t
let me.”

In
the 2 years since we’ve been co-parenting, I can list thousands of incidents
like these.  Praising me for how cute D
dresses (he buys her way more clothing than I do), innuendos from people who
should know better that he must be struggling tonight because I have to work
late (wink, wink, nudge, nudge), pediatricians who don’t make eye contact with
him, the woman who cuts D’s hair just blatantly ignoring him.  And the worst perpetrator: me and the many
times I assumed I knew better, though I’ve been a parent for exactly the same
amount of minutes that he has.  I
vocalize when I feel frustrated with his parenting choices, yet feel insulted
if he comments on mine.  Granted, I
acknowledge that my husband runs on the further end of the sensitivity
spectrum, but it has made me stop and notice something.

Mamas,
I know we have a great deal on our plates, and I know what a favorite sport
husband bashing can be amongst our friends, but we need to look at what these
Daddies are experiencing and ask ourselves: Are we allowing them the opportunity
to be a parent, to be involved, to ask questions, to offer opinions?  Do we send our husbands to the pediatrician
alone, or does that somehow feel wrong? 

If
we want our spouses to truly partner with us in raising our families, then we
need to be sure that both people in that partnership feel valued. There’s a
revolution out there of hipster Dads that are “allowed” to co-parent, but for
the rest of them, men experience a world where the father role is not nearly as
celebrated and embraced as the mother role, and many men don’t even know how to
think about being a dad in any other way than to toss kids high up in the air
(which kids love, of course) and lug heavy things when they need lugging (which
we love, of course).  They’ve got it in
them; those who show very little interest, those who are comfortable in their
man world, and even those who never seem to prioritize the time – those Dads,
when given the true opportunity of making a parenting choice, will almost
always find some satisfaction which leads to more confidence in their
parenting.  Start small, like asking him
to plan a family outing of something he
wants to do on a Sunday morning, or letting him pick a class to take with one
of the kids.  Many of you may think this
will never work, or that it’s not necessary. 
Perhaps that’s true, but there’s no way of knowing how or if it will
change your family until you try.

He
might be just great at doing character’s voices when reading a book, somehow
gets that picky kid of yours to try a new food, and is always up for another
trip to IKEA.  For Father’s Day, give
that man a hug, give him some special fun time with his beautiful kids, give
him an hour or so of perfect peace and quiet, and at the end of the day, when
the kids have gone to bed, if you haven’t passed out on the couch at 9:30 pm,
give him some.