I have a great husband. He loves being a dad and is very involved in our boys’ lives. He changes diapers, participates in discipline and picks up from preschool.
And yet…I can never seem to shake the feeling that I wish he would do more.
Ever since I got pregnant with my first, Eli, it has seemed to me that the burden of parenting has landed more squarely on my shoulders than it does on my man’s. He can never be home enough, involved enough, or concerned enough for my taste. At my worst moments I feel (and sometimes say) that I have to do everything in our home. I reduce his role to being nothing more than our kid’s pal who comes home and wrestles them while they squeal with delight. I just have a hard time seeing what he does for our family and acknowledging that is contributions matter.
We mothers make the best of all martyrs.
Misery truly does love company. I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one who struggles with discontentment in this way. Many of my mom friends have expressed frustration that their husbands work too much, move too slowly or engage too little. Before your mind starts writing a list of all the things your husband does wrong, might I propose a radical solution? Let him off the hook.
Oh, I do understand that he doesn’t do things your way. Yes, I’ve seen first hand what happens when dads are left to dress their children unsupervised. And I am well aware of what they think qualifies for a nutritious dinner. (Please pass the cheese puffs). But think hard about this predicament with me for a moment. Do we really want husbands who parent just like us? I know that you have mothering instincts and that no one knows your children quite like you do, but is having two identical parents really what’s best for your little ones? I’m thinking that God’s plan to create children through the combination of a woman and a man was not a floop. Perhaps the ways your husband parents differently from you actually have the power to benefit your children. (Feel free to read that sentence again to let it sink in).
The Mommy Wars shined a white-hot spotlight on the fact that our culture esteems a version of motherhood that is impossible and unattainable (to wave your white flag in surrender to that ideal click here). But no one cares to mention the Daddy Wars. A good dad needs to work at least one full-time job to be a good provider, spend quality time with each of his children while perpetually wooing their mother, be the spiritual leader of the family, be the emotional leader of the family, be the moral leader of the family…coach sports teams, lead family devotions, be involved in his church, never loose his cool, help with housework, manage lawncare, keep the oil changed, be the kind of man his daughters should marry and his sons should emulate and for heavens sakes he darn well better remember to take the trash out.
I’m not saying that any of these qualities are unimportant, but girls, lets acknowledge that even we could not keep all of these plates spinning perfectly (and we are Wonder women!).
For Father’s Day, I’d like to suggest that you give your man the gift of lowered expectations. We tend to frown on lowering expectations in our culture. It is seen as settling or a step in the wrong direction. I’m not advocating that you shoulder 100% of the parenting burden, but rather that you make a conscious decision to admire the partner you have rather than wishing for someone who does things differently.
Parenting together is a constant process of negotiating and re-negotiating boundaries and responsibilities. What’s more you are learning on the job. (I call Eli my petri dish child, because he is one whopper of an experiment!) Your hubby should give you grace as you make mistakes, ride the rollercoaster ride of hormones (whee!), and do all that you do the best you can.
Doesn’t he deserve the same measure of grace from you? (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes!)
So, skip the tie this year. I doubt he even wants that really cool fishing tackle thingy you got him. Instead, make the choice to see the things he’s doing right as a dad instead of fixating on all the ways you wish he would be more. That might sound a little something like this, “Honey, you are a great dad. I am so glad we are parenting together. Our family is lucky to have you.”
In light of those kind words, I’d like to make a little prediction. The more you acknowledge the things your husband does right, the more likely he is to keep doing them. The more you focus on the ways he’s a great dad, the less likely you are to see the areas where he misses the mark. The result is a dance where you each do your best and become each other’s biggest cheerleaders. Sounds nice doesn’t it? But here’s the rub—it requires you to stop falling on your sword and fixating on the feeling that it’s all on you. It also requires you to do the hard work of parenting because it matters and it’s ministry and not to earn words of affirmation, positive strokes or atta girls from others (including your husband). It’s not an easy shift to make but it will make life easier on you, your husband and your kids. And that, my friend sounds like a winning ticket for a truly happy Father’s Day.
p.s. Since nothin’ says lovin’ like free stuff, I’ll gladly ship a free copy of “Choosing Gratitude” to two of you who will leave us a comment sharing what makes your husband a great dad.
p.p.s To see an interview with the aforementioned great dad and husband in my life, hop back on the blog on Wednesday where I will be interviewing him about what its like when your wife becomes a mommy.