I am, and always will be, grateful for the father of my two children. I grew up with a toxic, hurtful dad, so to watch my two sons and my wonderful partner interact in the loving and adorable ways they do makes me feel so incredibly thankful. We've been together for six years and, every single year, I'm reminded of just how lucky we all are to have him in our lives. But even the best men among us can... falter. In fact, there are signs your partner is a low-key do nothing parent, even if, from the outside looking in, he appears to be the most engaged father on the block.
Dads navigate a very, shall we say, peculiar space in the parenting sphere. On the one hand, they're praised for every single thing they do that's even remotely parenting related, and on the other hand our culture treats them as these completely inept parents, innately incapable of caring for children. Neither approach, of course, is helping. On the whole, dads are just as capable of taking care of children as mothers, and because they're just as capable they shouldn't need a damn ticker tape parade any time they change a diaper or put a baby to bed.
But because the dads in our lives are treated in such an infantilizing and simultaneously celebratory way, it can be difficult to tell if your partner is really pulling his weight. Thankfully, there are a few subtle signs that will let you know that even if your partner is enthused and engaged and seemingly on the ball, they could step their dad game up a notch or two:
He Asks You What He Can "Help" With
First and foremost, a parent doesn't "help." A parent parents. My co-parent isn't a built in babysitter, my friends. He's an equal parenting partner that has as many obligations and responsibilities to our children as I do.
Any grown-ass parent should be able to look around their home, assess the situation, and start doing whatever needs to be done so the house, the kids, and everything in between are taken care of.
He Doesn't Take The Initiative
If you are constantly having to nag, or ask, or beg, or nudge, or drop "subtle hints," or outright demand that your partner step it up in the parenting department, something is wrong. Even if they're always willing to pitch in the moment you say something, there's an issue. Why? Because you shouldn't have to ask. You shouldn't be doing the emotional labor that is asking someone to do a thing that obviously needs to be done.
You're Still Making All The Decisions
I don't want to be the only person making decisions for my family. I don't want dinners, vacations, our 4-year-old son's extracurricular activities, the baby's transition to solid foods, and everything else my responsibility to decide. I need a partner who will also make choices with me, so that together we can figure out how best to raise our children. If I'm always the one to end up saying what we do and when and how and why, I am the one doing all the damn work.
You Have To Leave Detailed Instructions For Him When He's Left Alone
Maybe he's so excited for a night in with the kids while you're out with your girls. Maybe he can't wait to watch the babies while you leave town for work. Maybe he will just have the kids for a few hours longer than usual. Regardless, you shouldn't have to write a dissertation on child-rearing in order for your partner to sufficiently care for your children. If you have a certain way of doing things, that's cool, but let your partner figure out his way of doing things, too. He shouldn't need his hand held while he watches his kids.
You're Always The Parent With The "Final Say"
This is just another way I end up getting stuck with all the decision making responsibilities. I don't want to be the "final say" parent. The one who has to look at my kids after my partner says, "Well, go ask your mom." I want us to, again, make decisions together. I shouldn't have the final say anymore than my partner does. We should both be putting our feet down together, as a cohesive parenting unit.
You Are The One Your Kids Go To First
My kids shouldn't look at me as the main or only authority figure in their lives. I shouldn't be the only parent they run to when they want and/or need something. I want my boys to view their father as someone who is equally capable, equally reliable, and equally responsible for them. That can't happen if they're running to me, and only me, anytime they need or want something.
You Have To Keep Him On Task
Focus, gentlemen! Don't make your partners parent you the same way they parent your children! Be the adult! Focus on the adult things that need to get done, instead of assuming you can leave them to your partner. Be present in the moment so you are, in fact, an equal parenting partner, and not just a grown-up version of your toddler that your partner has to take care of, too.
He Wants Praise Every Time He Does Something Parenting Related
Look, everyone likes to hear "thank you" every once in a while, right? We all want to be seen. We all want to feel validated in our efforts.
But I am not — I repeat, am not — going to roll the red carpet out and shower my partner with praise and attention every time he does something even remotely parenting related. He's a dad. This is his job. He shouldn't be praised for accomplishing what is expected of him and, make no mistake, it is expected that he be as engaged a parent as I am. If your partner wants you to metaphorically kiss his feet every single time he does something for the benefit of your family, he's low-key a do-nothing dude that needs, at the very least, a stern talking to.