I am a capable person. I get things done, at work and home. I make lists and set deadlines and I like things done a certain way. I'm productive and have a good work ethic, but sometimes I have been known to try to take over or micromanage tasks.
The area I have noticed this personality flaw the most, is in my role as a parent. I share the duty with my husband and the father of our son and, while not intentional, I've noticed moments when moms like myself don't realize we're shaming dads. Despite the best of intentions, I have had to come to terms with the ways I might be doing a disservice to the man my kid calls "Dad."
It can be hard to ask for help if you're a confident go-getter like myself, but parenting alone is really hard. So, if you have a parenting partner, it makes sense to enlist their help as much as possible. Dads aren't just useful "helpers" who should only be involved when they're asked to be. Instead, they should be involved on a constant basis, because they are equal parenting partners and they deserve the respect and prestige of being a full-time parent, not just the accolades of mother's trusty assistant.
There are certainly some ways I inadvertently downplayed my husband's role or shamed him as a dad, but the first step in fixing a problem is admitting there is one, right? So, well, here it goes:
By Trying To Do It All
Moms are amazing. We can run businesses, birth babies, and keep the home in order. However, dads need to be involved too. When I first became a mom, I was so preoccupied with showing the world I could "do it all," that I nearly burned out.
Trust that your child's dad can, and wants, to be involved and do his fair share.
By Not Buying Neutral Baby Products
OK, first of all: men, like women, are all different. Many men love colors and designs that are traditionally deemed "feminine." However, if all your baby care products, diaper bags, and strollers are hot pink with a unicorn print, and that's not your partner's preferred look, you might be making him uncomfortable. You may also be increasing the likelihood of ignorant people presuming he is only offering temporary care as a "babysitter."
I couldn't live without my breastfeeding pillow. You slip your arm inside, so it doesn't move around, and my husband loved using it for bottle feeds. I made sure I ordered it in a navy blue with a stag print, so that it was clear it was for both parents to use.
(But again, there's nothing wrong with a man wearing a pink whatever. The day we stop assigning gender to things like toys or color or products, is the day we make it much easier for people of all genders to be active parents. So, you know, let's just knock off this whole assigning gender to things, shall we?)
By Complaining About Him
We all need to vent sometimes, especially as mothers because, well, becoming a parent is a stressful time of constant change. Therefore, it's natural to feel a little dissatisfied with your partner.
However, constantly complaining about him to anyone that will listen is deeply shaming and could affect his feelings of self-worth.
When You Disregard His Emotions
Women are expected to have lots of conflicting emotions after giving birth, but many people don't realize this is a time when dads also have all the feels.
My partner's life has changed dramatically, too, and he should be able to talk about his feelings and have a cry (if he needs to) without being made to feel "weak" or "emasculated."
When You Think It's All About You
Birth is mostly about the mom, for sure, as she certainly did all the hard work. However, it's important not to downgrade or disregard the father's feelings once the baby is born, or the efforts he is making to be an involved parent.
He needs time and opportunities to bond with the baby, and in some ways this can be harder for men as opposed to a birth mother. After all, the non-pregnant partner hasn't had the physical experience of the pregnancy to connect them with their new child.
(Friendly reminder: pregnancy doesn't necessarily mean a mom will automatically bond with her baby, either.)
When You Compare Him To Other Dads
If you are guilty of comparing your child's father to every other dad out there, including celebrity dads, please consider stopping.
First and foremost, when you see what you think is the "perfect" dad is usually only a snapshot. Rarely if ever are we seeing the times they lose their temper or need a break. So, essentially you are basing your comparison on the advertisement and not the full product. Yeah, that's not fair. Besides, would you like to be compared to every other mom out there? I know I wouldn't.
When You Limit His Chances To Play Imaginatively
Dads can play with their children in exactly the same varied ways moms can. However, dads often get locked into sports activities or rough and tumble physical play that limits the ways they can connect with their children.
My husband and son love to have dance parties. I say, encourage dads to paint, make crafts, bake, and play make believe with their kids, regardless of gender. I have a feeling most dads will enjoy it as much as the kids.
When You Make Sexist Comments
Making sexist comments about what your kid's dad can or can't do around the home, can (read: will) affect how they see themselves as a parent. This is a shaming mechanism that keeps parents in set, strict roles, and if your child overhears they'll undoubtably assume those sexist gender roles should continue for another generation.
When You Limit His Chances To Offer Affection
Dads should be hugging and kissing their kids just as much as moms do. However, so many people make dads feel uncomfortable for showing physical affection towards their children. In the end, though, the children are the ones that really suffer when affection is withheld.
Dads should be equal partners in the parenting journey, so go on: give a dad a hug today. They may just need one.