I hear "jokes" all of the time about dads being incompetent parents. From their inability to put diapers on properly to sending kids to school in mismatched clothes and letting them eat candy for breakfast, dads are described as nothing if not clueless. While I have to admit these "jokes" are rooted in a little bit of truth, I hate how often we all reinforce gender stereotypes and, as a result, let dads off the hook. There are things us moms need to just let our parenting partners do, even if they end up doing something "wrong" or differently than we would do.
If I'm being honest, I have to say that I regularly find myself complaining to my friends about how I'm the primary, default parent at our house. I frequently shoulder more than my share of the parenting load, and rarely, if ever, get a break. But it's also super hard for me not to step in when my partner tries to contribute, or take over entirely when I see him parenting in a different way than I do.
Because I've been my children's main caregiver for so long I have parenting our kids down to a science. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying new things and finding out what really works and doesn't work for our family, to the point that our schedule is set in stone and consistently beneficial for everyone involved. Now that my husband is stepping up more and trying to play a larger role as a co-parent to our kids, I have to force myself to take a step back and, well, let him. Not just for my sake, but so my kids know that they can rely on him as a parent, too. If I want our relationship to change and for him to become a more active parent, I have got to let go and let him do more things... like the following:
Parent Your Kids Solo
Dads aren't babysitters. Full stop. They are parents. Still, as a mom it can be really hard to leave the house and know that my kids will be alright in my husband‘s care. I also feel super guilty about it, especially when I'm doing something fun without my kids. But I have to start trusting that my husband will do just fine on his own and without my supervision.
Plus, how will he learn if if I don’t give him an opportunity to practice?
Do Things The "Wrong" Way
If we want husband’s to play an equal role in parenting, and shoulder a larger parenting load, we have to let them actually parent. That means making peace with the fact that they will do things differently, and occasionally make mistakes (just like we do!). We can also kindly and gently give them tips and tricks, and without jumping in and taking over entirely or trying to do things for them.
Give The Baby A Bottle
As a breastfeeding mom it was really hard to get past the idea that someone else feeding my baby. But letting your partner give the baby a bottle and join in on the snuggles is a good thing. Not only can it teach your baby to take a bottle, but it will help your baby and your partner bond while you get a much-deserved break.
Take A Break
As a work-from-home mom, I need a break at the end of the day to decompress. So when my husband gets home from work I immediately want to just hid in the bathroom and eat candy. I’ve learned, however, that my husband needs to decompress at the end of the day, too. So before I hand him the baby and check out for while, I need to give him a break, too.
Dress The Kids In Mismatched Clothes
I’m the first to admit that I can be kind of a control freak. I spend a lot of time picking out adorable outfit for my kids and it bothers me to no end when my husband dresses them in mismatched or ill-fitting clothing. I have to get over it, though. Just because he doesn’t do something perfectly doesn't mean he shouldn't get a chance to parent anyway. Besides, they are kids. I need to make like Elsa and let it go.
For the most part I’ve handled bedtime every night of my 6-year-old son's life. As a result, he needs to be touching me fall asleep. That was, until, I decided to let my husband handle bedtime. Turns out he’s way better at it than I am, and now it’s not something I have to do every night.
Be The "Fun" Parent
I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it feels like I am always the "mean" parent, and my husband gets to be the "fun" parent. When I hear that my husband let the kids stay up late or eat junk food for dinner I immediately want to tell him to step up and actually enforce the rules. But I know that I should lighten up, too, because every once in a while breaking the rules is fine.
Be Involved In Parenting Decisions
Sometimes it feels like people look to moms to make all of the decisions about their kids' care. Even if dad is in the picture, and might actually have an opinion on the topic, everyone relies on mom and her position.
Parenting with another human being can be difficult, for sure, and especially when you disagree on a contentious topic like vaccination or circumcision. But if you’re going to co-parent with a partner you need to learn how to let them weigh in, how to talk things out, and how to compromise (at least about things that one can compromise on).
Be The Primary Parent
As a mom I'm so tired of being the default parent. I shouldn't be the only person who handles homework, doctor's appointments, calls from school, and requests for parent volunteers. So I’ve started letting my husband handle those kinds of things, like scheduling appointments and taking the kids for their flu shots. There’s no discernible reason why moms should be considered the "primary parent," and as a father it's only fair that he should get in on the action, too.