In honor of Father’s Day, I’d like to tell you about the way I messed up as a new mother. Embarrassingly, it wasn’t until solidly into my second child that I realized my blunder.
I wasn’t letting my husband be a dad.
Like many new moms (and I still consider myself a new mom), I was trying to protect my babies from any stress that I could. I didn’t want to hear them cry, so I just took them. It’s easier to hear your baby cry while you try to hold and comfort them than it is to hear someone else fail at it.
Inadvertently, this practice was preventing my children from developing a relationship with their dad. I should have seen it, of course, but I was in that haze of infant care — one minute in front of the other.
Once I realized that my husband needed time and space and permission to try — and fail — the whole thing became easier. For all of us.
Isn’t that just life: give yourself permission to fail, and things just sort of work out.
Dad will parent differently than mom, and that’s good.
A second parent plays a crucial role. Besides being there and being loving, the most important aspect of the other parent’s role is simply being different. It’s better to have two parents, simply for two ways of being, two perspectives, two approaches.
We all spend time figuring out who we are as parents. What we will emphasize, what we will do with our children, what we will say when they are hurt, what we want to show them about the world. We all have slightly different ways of showing and sharing love.
He needs to figure out what that means for him as a father, and so do your kids. For that he needs time parenting alone.
As the primary caregiver, I had to physically leave for he and the kids to fall into their own relationship. I didn’t leave for the purpose of giving him space as a parent, like some kind of pre-arranged therapy session. I just left because I had to. Work, grocery shopping, nights sitting in parking lots talking to friends, appointments–I started being OK with more of the things I needed to do when I realized the importance of my absence.
If both of you work, finding time to parent alone might be more tricky. Every family has their own rhythm.
This is crucial for you as a person (and thus as a parent) and it’s crucial for your partner as well. You can’t develop a relationship with someone and you can’t get good at something if you don’t do it regularly.
I wonder how much of the recent “Dads Can Parent, Too!” campaign we have rising in our culture happened because of the increase in time dads have with their kids. More and more women are working. There are two sides (or more) to that coin, of course. But one of the sides is that more often dads are getting time with their kids. We’ve needed that for centuries.
If we want our children to have a strong, comfortable relationship with their father (or any parent figure), we have to give them the time and the space to do that. Let them be. Let them struggle. Let them watch more TV or make a bigger mess than you’d like. They’ll probably get ice cream again. It’s OK. You go be you. You need that. They need that. He needs it.
Happy Father’s Day!
Image Credits: mricon via Flickr CC, mikezu via Flickr CC, Aurimas via Flickr CC, Big D2112 via Flickr CC, amira_a via Flickr CC, Karen Sheets de Garcia via Flickr CC, dani vasquez via Flickr CC, torsten magner via Flickr CC, Stewart Black via Flickr CC, rick flores via Flickr CC