Let dads learn
Updated: Apr 29, 2020
Remember when it was your first time holding a baby, and you didn’t know that you had to support their head?
Remember when it was your first time changing a diaper, and you didn’t know the front from the back?
Remember when it was your first week at home with the baby and you hopped onto Google at 2am ‘How to get baby to sleep in their bassinette'?
Those are all moments we needed to learn. As mamas, we are normally given the space to learn these things without anyone hovering over us.
Dads need that space too. They’re an equal factor in the equation that made you both parents.
You’re going to laugh and say ‘they’re not the ones who were pregnant, and who laboured for 30 hours to push that baby out’. You’re going to roll your eyes and say ‘they definitely don’t do half the work at home’, but that’s the reality for most of us, and to a certain extent, we need to roll with the punches.
In the majority of households, mamas take the bulk of the parental leave. We stay home, anywhere from months to years to do this. We’re experts in our children, and though we don’t often think we are, our kids are what we live and breathe daily and it’s normal for us to want to hold some form of control over them at all times. It is absolutely so natural. It isn’t easy to let go, but we must. Trust me when I say it feels damn good. Leave dads alone with their kids. Let them learn the way you once had to, too.
I’m going to warn you, though - it won't all be rainbows and unicorns (but it will be entertaining).
He’s going to put the diaper on backwards at some point (or not put one on at all for nap time at a 3 months old but it’s fine I’m not still laughing at that one Sean). And guess what’s going to happen next: your kid might end up full of pee or in a puddle of poopsplosion, but they will be fine. Make dad deal with the mess - he won’t do that twice.
He’s going to miss nap time to do an activity at some point. Or, for no reason at all. And guess what’s going to happen? Your kid will be fine (cranky, but fine… nothing you can’t overcome - plus, crankiness is unavoidable, no matter how you parent).
He’s going to let some of your breast milk spoil on the counter. It’s going to suck. But guess what’s going to happen? Your kid is going to be a-okay. You might not be okay, but your kid will be.
He’s absolutely going to put your kid down without a bath - like all the time. But I mean… we do that all the time too, right? We’re too tired to do that shit so often. Difference is, we don’t have anyone breathing down our necks, so we don’t worry about upsetting anyone with some stinky feet. End of the day, kids are fine. One load of sheets in, and you’re over that travesty (or you can leave the sheets on and skip bath time two days in a row - your kids will be okay, I’ve tried it).
You’ll tell me that you don’t have it in you to deal with the consequences, and I hear you - often, we don’t have it in us to clean an extra dirty bum, to hear ‘mama’ one more time, or to sweep for the 73rd time that day. But you’re not the only part in this equation. There is a dad who has every right to special experiences with their children, just like you do.
And most importantly, there is a child who needs to establish a safe and comfortable bond with their own dad. Part of that bonding process is opening boundaries, and empowering them to take the lead.
This hasn't always been easy for me - at all. But I'm making a conscious effort and getting better at it every time.
Whenever I leave for a weekend, I always ask: “What do you want to know?” (I give him the ability to ask for the information he needs, rather than bombard him with a 3 page routine).
When I was preparing to go away last weekend, all he said was “naps”.
Okay, all he wants to know is when the baby naps. Don’t over complicate it.
“2-3-4”, I say. “She takes two naps, and those are usually her awake times between naps.”
“Done” - that’s his cue to me that he doesn’t want any more info, and that he’s good. I need to trust him.
As I drove away I thought of 30 things I should’ve told him - like where the diapers are and what the baby's Tylenol dosage is now that she weighs more than the last time that he gave her some, and where I put her PJs, and what’s in the fridge for dinner, and, and, and. The list went on. But I consciously force myself not to call him or text him instructions about the kids unless it is absolutely, positively necessary. If he needs information, he will ask for it.
My husband has seriously thrived from his freedom, and has become such a confident father. This guy always trucks it around town with the kids (yes, since they were newborns)! This past weekend he took our 2 year old and our 9 month old hiking in the woods - I’m pretty adventurous with the kids but I feel like a hike in the woods is even too much for me!
He’s killing it, guys.
I know that many of us deal with mental health issues and with life situations in which these things may not seem as simple as they are. I know and am so grateful that I have a partner who’s taken parenthood by the reins, but I give myself a portion of credit for empowering him to do so. Give it a try. Start with an hour, or two. You’ll be surprised at how good it’ll be not only for them, but for you, too.
One day, you’ll wish for these moments back, and it’s only fair that we let dads have moments they’ll cherish so dearly too. Yes, mama - your kids will be fine.