Several weeks ago, I joined a group of friends from church to go see the movie Moms’ Night Out, and indulge in a little cheesecake and conversation afterwards. We talked about moments in the film that stood out to us as moms – that endless inward pressure of wanting to make everything in our homes and families perfect; not wanting to ask for help, but simultaneously feeling helpless some days.I told my friends about one of the biggest fights Cliff and I ever had early in our marriage, when I felt exhausted from trying to do everything and asked him to help a little more around the house – like cleaning the bathroom.
“I would help,” my well-meaning husband told me, “but you’re just better at it then I am.” (Yes, because pushing a brush around a toilet bowl requires great skill and talent.)
“And besides,” Cliff added defensively, “I help with Caleb!”
“You help with Caleb? You help? Babysitters help. Dads take care of their kids!”
My friends chuckled and nodded, all too familiar with my story, but then one friend’s face got a little more serious. “I can’t get my husband to help with anything,” she said. “I made the mistake early on of always telling him he wasn’t doing it right when he did try to help, so now he won’t help at all.”
Her confession got my attention because I think a lot of us moms have been there. Many of us are living out our own real-world version of Father Knows Best, but in our worlds, it’s Mom Knows Best – and there’s not always a whole lot of room for Dad.
See if you do any of these:
- Do you correct your husband constantly? Even when he does something that isn’t wrong, but not the way you do it?
- Do you tease your husband for a mistake he made with your kids? Maybe he put a diaper on backwards, or skipped naptime, or bought the wrong cereal – and you enjoy making sure he doesn’t forget it? Along with the rest of your friends and family on social media?
- When you ask your husband to do something, do you use the same tone you use with your kids when you’re telling them to put the toys away?
- When your husband does help with something, like putting the dishes away or cleaning up the kitchen, do you go behind him and “fix it” because he hasn’t done it the way you do it?
- Do you talk badly about your husband in front of, or to your children? Do your kids say the same kinds of things to their dad?
Did you say yes to any of those? All of those? I’ve been there. One reason we had that fight in the early years of our marriage was because I’d grown accustomed to having everything in our home done my way – and so had my husband. He kept the peace by keeping his distance, and by letting me handle everything. When I eventually started cracking under the strain of trying to do it all, suddenly I wanted his help, and my poor husband just wanted me to make up my mind.
We do our husbands, our kids, and ourselves an injustice when we don’t let dads be dads, and parent the way God designed them to parent. Despite culture’s attempts today to convince us otherwise, there are genetic and emotional and other differences between men and women, moms and dads, and those are good differences. We can bless a child with the best parts of each parent when we embrace those differences and we don’t see them as threats to our own contributions as a parent.
So what would it look like if you supported your husband in his role as a father instead of trying to manage him? Get started with these five ways you can use to encourage your husband in one of his most important jobs: Dad.
1. Be his biggest cheerleader, not his trainer. It’s easy sometimes to include our husbands with our kids, handing out orders to them when they get home from work, and telling them what we need from them, instead of asking for their help. Dads may sometimes admit more readily they’re not sure what their kids need from them, but they still want time to figure it out. Compliment him when you notice him being a great dad, and be more willing to edit or hold your words when you’re tempted to point out what he’s not doing right.
2. Make it easy for him to spend time with the kids. Our husbands sometimes miss the fact that their kids need dad time, especially if they work a lot of hours or travel for their jobs and are away, and as kids get older. Teenagers may not raise their hands in the air and scream “Daddy, Daddy” like younger children might when dads arrive home, but they still need those one-on-one moments with their dads, too. Offer suggestions occasionally for things he can do with the kids, and let him know it’s ok if he doesn’t get to a task around the house you asked him to do, if it means he’s getting some playtime with his children.
3. When he makes a decision in disciplining your kids, support him. This one can be difficult, especially if your husband is harder on your child than you might be when it comes to correcting for something wrong. But back him up; if you disagree, than wait for the right time to talk with him later, when you’re by yourselves. The quickest way for a child to lose respect for a parent is when the other parent’s actions or words indicate that parent’s authority doesn’t count as much. And if you’re tired of hearing your husband say, “go ask Mom,” then he needs to know you’ll reinforce what he says, just as you want him to support you if the situation is reversed.
4. Compliment him to your kids. Tell your children the things you love about their dad, and point out the great things he does for them and for your family. You’re helping nurture and encourage a relationship that’s very important.
5. Give him specific ways he can be there for his kids. Dads don’t always come with an innate sense of what to do with their children, especially when they’re small and don’t do much more than sleep and eat. If your husband seems a little unsure of what to do, give him some ideas. Suggest he take your oldest out for ice cream, or encourage family time with a walk around the block after dinner. But don’t give up on him if he does more muddling through than maneuvering with ease, at first. He needs to know his calling as a parent is just as important – and needed – as yours.