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Today’s ‘recipe’ is a little tongue in cheek, yet also pertinent to BOTH parents.
With nearly 4 years of parenting under my belt to our twin boys, and having survived thus far, I have been reflecting on the parenting pros and cons of how we, as parents, have done raising our boys. Meh, we’ve had our days but we also have two very happy, bright boys who are thriving on our love, guidance, routine and boundaries.
In addition to my own personal household experiences, I am also going to draw on actual experiences from places like the ‘Multiple Dads Sanctuary’ Facebook group and real life as well to see if us Dads are doing a good job.
So, how do we stack up? What issues are at the core of the regular Dads issues with his wife / fiancé or partner? I did a 13 part series on ‘Tips and Tricks of become a parent to Multiples’ a while back now, so this is going to be a sort of compendium to this. Shall we indulge?
How do Dads stack up in the parenting department?
From what I can ascertain, most Dads today are being far more hands on than previous generations of Dads. While we still don’t know everything, we have become far more involved in the day to day raising of our kids. Stay at home dads are far more common than you would think, helping with feeding, household chores, just to name a few, are no longer ‘jobs for the ladies’. Taking the kids to the park, Bunnings, the play centre or play group are no longer just a ‘Mum thing’ either. It looks like we’ve been picking up our socks a lot but we still have a ways to go though!
In all honesty, as much as this is a wonderful thing, it has a flip side to it that is causing a lot of Mums & Dads a lot of angst, frustration and friction within their relationships. We, as Dads, are encroaching on what has been know in the past, as traditionally female territory. How each couple deal with this personally seems to vary from mild annoyance to outright open warfare. I mean, when you stop and think about it, any woman can feel threatened (consciously or not), by a well meaning Dad as he tries to step up and help, no matter how well intentioned, it can throw things into chaos. To play devils advocate here, from a woman’s point of view, he’s now meddling in her domain yet it’s a catch 22.
Mums all over the world want Dads to help, yet he is met with a plethora of resistance when he tries. We don’t do things right, mum always knows what’s best, mum gets the last word….the seething and underlying tension builds rather quickly and a ticking time bomb is now ready to detonate.
So this is where the title of today’s blog comes from, “How do you roast your Husband”. Is it a slow boil like the frog in hot water so that he doesn’t even notice, or is it a case of ‘off with his head’ and silence all the critics in one foul swoop?
Let’s step into an average Dads shoes for a moment, let’s see what / how he is thinking.
Now while I write these words, I want to forewarn you all, these scenarios I am going to rattle off are REAL. They are not an emotional response, nor are they here to criticise. There are here to help you ‘think’ about how we, as parents, BOTH react to each other.
I’d be lying, or at least a wanted man, if I told you I know how a woman thinks….I’m not that brave / stupid!
Scenario 1: The lady of the house asks: ‘Can you help keep the place clean?’
Dads thoughts: Wash the dishes or stack the dish washer, sweep / mop the floors, throw anything laying on the said floor into any drawer or spare room, empty the rubbish bin and throw all the clothes into the washing machine. There’s no mould growing anywhere in the bathroom so a wipe down is the only thing warranted.
Dad scores himself 9/10 for helping out, Mum on the other hand gives him a 4/10.
What Mum sees wrong….dishes aren’t stacked correctly in the dish washer, he didn’t separate the whites from colours in the laundry. Everything put in a draw is in the wrong draw and has to be resorted, mould or no mould, the bathroom needs to be pristine and spotless and he is told so in no uncertain terms. He forgot to do X, Y and Z as well!
Dad wonders why Mum didn’t state exactly what she wanted. He equates it to handing you the chainsaw and saying, ‘Can you trim the garden please?’ And hoping not to come outside and finding everything lopped off at ground level. Dads are not natural housekeepers and usually need guidance as to what is ‘expected’ of him and where things go. He’s learning!
Thought: If one parent is doing another parents roll to help out, discuss what is expected and then halve that expectation as they learn / adapt to it. We won’t put things in the wrong draw if you don’t lop off every tree at ground level….but please tell us…then it’s a win / win!
Scenario 2:Doing what we think is best for our kids.
This is going to be a broad stroke of the brush here, I hope you get the underlying drift of what I am saying as it can be almost any topic on raising kids, but more specifically about how / where we get the information to do this.
If Dad does ‘X’ ,(bottle feed, puts kids down to sleep, changes a nappy, etc), and does it one way, he is suddenly told, NO, you have to it ‘this way’ says Mum.
Cue the bickering or comments of ‘do it yourself’ or ‘I can’t do anything right can I?’ start to fly out of Dads mouth or Mum says ‘You’re useless’ and baby starts to cry and it escalates further with the ‘now see what you’ve done!’ from Mum. (Don’t get picky on how it exactly transpires here, this is just one example of hundreds!).
Dad had given himself an 8/10 for trying then felt like it was a -6/10 for ‘not doing it correctly’.
Dad feels useless and is less inclined to want to help out. Being berated by Mum, MIL, Aunty or any female for helping out is a REAL downer for Dads. As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat! The bottom line is who cares how’s it is done? So long as it it poses no safety issue for the child, and is done lovingly, isn’t it a case of if it gets the job done, that’s all that matters?
If you want Dads to engage more and he offers, or is requested to do something, don’t proceed to then tell him how to do it, unless he has no idea at all or asks. The words ‘I’ve got this” are not metaphorical, they are literally his word to you that he has got it….don’t shoot him down for doing it a different way.
To simplify all the possible scenarios I could put up here, I will bullet point a few observations that Dads really find frustrating, myself included!
* If a Dad helps out, no matter how good or bad, a small thank you goes a long way to him wanting to do it again. You can work on the how when you get a chance to ask each other why they do it a certain way. This is best done when you’re BOTH in a conversation much later when there is no chance of a heat of the moment exchange. If the job is done, it’s good right?
* If a Dad asks a question, give him facts, not your opinion. Dads thrive on information not an emotional response. A Dad wants to know WHY he is doing it this way or that. Once he knows why, then there is virtually zero resistance on his part.
* PND – it’s a killer, ESPECIALLY when you see your spouse (& even more so when his/her friends notice and comment too), and the person in question refuses to acknowledge that they even have an issue that needs professional help. Nobody has ever achieved a harmonious relationship by refusing to even entertain the thought then may have PND. If only for the sake of your kids, ask your GP for assessment. It’s treatable and maybe ether single best thing you do to keep your family together as a unit. The same goes for depression of any kind, and he’s, I’m talking to both Mums and Dads having either of these symptoms!
* Don’t put him in the doghouse without an explanation. It’s simply not fair and is childish for being so unrealistic of whatever Mum’s expectations were. Most of us guys are just big kids at heart to one degree or another. Perspective check, your husband doesn’t laugh at you and mock you when you ask him to open that vacuum sealed jar of spaghetti sauce. Respect each other, don’t resent each other.
* Ask the MIL / Aunty / girlfriend to refrain from intruding with her opinions, this is your child not hers. It’s not the 70’s, 80’s or the 90’s now and techniques change. It’s now up to you and your spouse to make these decisions. Having two or three ladies telling a Dad how he should do things just leads to a total shut out of Dad and nobody wins here. You’re supposed to be on the same side not the opposite side.
The bottom line is to communicate, which apparently we all fail at one time or another for any one of a hundred reasons. Us Dads want to learn, you ladies want us to be more hands on, so something has to give to find a balance for all concerned. BOTH parents have an opinion and BOTH are just as valid as each others, so ladies, if you want to encourage your spouse to engage, just remember that you do it emotionally and Dads do it factually. This is just stating a fact and not a judgement on how we are hard wired as males / females!
Trust me, I’m working on these things every day. Some days are good, some days are not so good, yet on the whole, we’re in a much more even and confident relationship than we used to be. Pulling in the same direction is a bucket load easier than a match of tug of war. There’s nothing more rewarding for your kids than to know that BOTH Mum and Dad are engaged with them and on the same page. Conflicting information for a young child can have all sorts of consequences down the track. Remember, you’re the role model, not the child.
Oh and in case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t think your kids give a rats how things are done, so long as they are fed, bathed, loved, healthy and happy…after all, isn’t this what matters most?
My closing observations and food for thought:
Sometimes it just needs to be said, or read, to open our own eyes to the way we each do things differently. As much as we think we are flexible, we are not, and this is doubly so for those of us that are first time parents over 40, trust me I know this to be true as I fall into this category myself.
You want to be a good parent? Great, but now start acting like one. Setting aside trivial differences or looking after each other is far more rewarding that the service to self model, oh and check in with your GP, even if you think there is nothing wrong. Self denial is something we’re all good at. 😉
Thanks for listen, Stay safe and love one another.
Until next time…be well