There are oodles of resources out there for new moms, covering everything from breastfeeding and attachment parenting to sleep training and discipline. Moms are often viewed as the point person, captain, and leader of all things related to child rearing. Where does dad fit into all of this? Aside from celebrating Father’s Day and giving dad a token task, how can we as moms ensure we make room for dad?
I will admit that I am extremely lucky. My husband is a naturally enthusiastic dad at age 49. So natural, in fact, that my son prefers his company to mine and is plastered to the window from about 5:30 to 6 p.m. every afternoon, hoping to catch a glimpse of him turning into the driveway! We began our parenting journey as equals who knew absolutely nothing about caring for a young child. Together we learned how to diaper, feed, and swaddle the baby. We were both terrified to leave the hospital and shocked that anyone would ever entrust us with caring for anyone beyond our cats — which made us partners in parenting from Day One.
It didn’t just happen on a whim. Sure, my husband was game, but I also included him in the fun.
Here’s how you can make room for dad, too.
- Take turns feeding. I bottle-fed, so it was a little easier for me to pass off formula duty to my husband. And he really enjoyed early morning and night feedings as a way to bond with Everett as an infant. He also learned to recognize his hunger cues so I wasn’t the only one wondering why the baby was crying.
- Get up together at night. This began as a mistake: we both woke up and panicked together initially, but then we found that two sets of hands were extremely helpful when it came to changing wiggly babies at 2 a.m. Also, one could fetch a bottle while the other soothed the baby. We were tired and remain tired, but no one feels left out.
- Alternate daycare drop-offs and pick-ups. The drop-offs and pick-ups do fall mostly to me, but I’ve found it really helpful that my husband occasionally participates. This way, he better understands Everett’s routine, has built a relationship with his teachers, and has a deeper appreciation of the stress that accompanies the transition between car and daycare.
- Divide up discipline. No one wants to be the bad guy in their toddler’s eyes. Gone are the days of “wait until your father gets home.” Why would you want to position Dad to be the bad guy? Or in my case, I don’t want to always be the heavy. Both parents need to equally divvy out appropriate discipline from the get-go, set boundaries, and take turns saying no.
- Encourage a regular routine of activities, both together and apart. Everett and I like to wander the neighborhood and collect sticks on weekday afternoons. I also tend to prepare his food and hang out with him while he eats half of it and throws the rest on the floor. Mike and Everett like to take Saturday morning walks in a nearby cemetery (no cars), visit Grandma on Sunday afternoons, and have an early-morning routine of books and PBS cartoons. Together, we all visit nearby farms, take short hikes, or visit area playgrounds. Our little routines have hopefully helped Everett understand he can hang out with either or both parents. (He still prefers his father).
[box type=”note” style=”rounded”]Resources for Dad[/box]
- Families First (Portsmouth, NH)
- Your local hospital – check class listings for “daddy boot camps.”