Helping my Husband Help Me
or Setting Him Up for Success

Having store-bought bread doesn’t make my husband appreciate homemade bread more. Having *homemade* bread makes him appreciate homemade bread more.

I was just giving someone advice today about not making Daddy’s time alone with the kids a negative thing, and it got me thinking.

The Argument

There seems to be a school of thought that Mom should leave the kids with Dad whenever she feels like it, and if things fall apart or are really hard for the guy, that somehow this will make him appreciate her more, because he will now “identify” with what she (as a mom) goes through. These invisibles also imply the father will or should subject himself to this repeatedly.

Apparently this is a way to “prove” his love to you and/or his offspring.

I think this is incredibly unfair.

For one thing, most dads don’t have that presence like a mother’s that can near-instantly calm a child. Do you ever wonder why Dad’s always passing the kid back to Mom? Because it *works* that’s why!

So, anything Dad’s doing, especially with very young children, will be harder for him than for Mom. Also, unless he’s a SAHD, there’s no way he’ll have internalized preferences and schedules like the Mom, has. This is another strike against him.

It’s still fine to leave him alone in charge of the kids, it is still good for him, and for Mom, but for it all to go well (and happen again with minimum resistance) a little planning should be involved:

The Ideas

(ETA: Understandably, I hope, this is written from the perspective of a mother with young children, e.g., Me.)

  • Until a routine is in place, Mom should never leave without the parents discussing expectations.
    • Will the kids be in bed when she gets home?
    • Is there some item of housework you need him to do while you’re gone? (Is it a fair expectation?)
    • Are there snacks/treats the children’s misbehavior has lost them? Let Dad know.
    • Are you really concerned about nutrition for this one meal? Make it yourself, or don’t complain– it may not be his calling to think about every bite of food.
  • Set him up for success
    • Don’t leave right before nap time
    • Don’t stay out longer if you know baby will be hungry and resist the bottle
    • Make sure he knows what the essential book/movie/song of the hour is
      • and that he’ll recognize the child’s request for it
  • Help him brainstorm ideas of what to do while you’re gone
    • Dads aren’t stupid, but they know there’s probably things they shouldn’t do, and like most adults he’d rather do nothing than look foolish.
    • Once he has some experience and some parameters to work within he’ll start coming up with his own ideas. Encourage this.
    • Don’t be critical or call his ideas unoriginal. The kids will tell him that if they think so, but the young ones especially will be so glad to have Daddy they won’t care what they’re doing.
  • Be flexible
    • Especially when the kids are little, train yourself to make the most of short outings.
    • Carry your cell-phone and be willing to come home early
      • This can sometimes make the difference between staying home and getting out peaceably.
      • There will always be next time (perhaps more likely to be a next time since your husband knows you’re trustworthy.)

I think that time alone with the children can make him appreciate you, but let it be an appreciation of understanding rather than reinforcing the idea that he’s not ____ enough to take care of the children, or (even worse) that he doesn’t want to be around them

One of a mom’s jobs (I believe) is to be an ambassador between her husband and their children. Giving them opportunities to interact, and investing planning for those times to succeed can be a very effective strategy.

13 thoughts on “Helping my Husband Help Me
or Setting Him Up for Success

  1. I’ve been reading a couple of your blogs today and they’re interesting. My son Riley has been watching Monsters A LOT. So far he hasn’t gotten the idea that they’re in his closet or anything. He pretends to be a monster, but he kinda thinks monsters and dinosaurs are cousins. I guess different kids take things differently.

    As for leaving my husband with our son – I’d say he’s actually the better parent. He’s a lot more nurturing and patient than I am. I’m not saying I’m a bad parent, my husband is just better. He and Riley usually have a blast when I’m away. The first time I let him go out with Riley alone was a big deal. I think he was maybe 6 weeks old.

    The other day, Sean was folding laundry and I folded the towels. When we were done he said, “Thanks so much for helping me the laundry.” I laughed at him – well the comment. I never thought I’d hear that from him. :o)

    I have several friends whose husbands have a hard time with the kids for extended periods of time. Your suggestions would be good for those parents. I think it’s good to keep this in mind as you’re raising your boys – if you have any. They’ll be future husbands and dads someday.

  2. Pingback: Untangling Tales » Saying What I Mean

  3. I like these thoughts. I would want to be helpful and not spiteful if/when I am a mother!

    I am curious about something you threw out there. Why do you think it is a mother’s job to act as ambassador? Is it because it ends up that way? I know it usually ends up that way but I can’t imagine a reason it *should* be that way.

  4. Hmmm, that ambassador thing has ended up more cloudy than I thought.

    To clarify, I *don’t* think every child/father set needs Mom as a go-between.

    That said, if they don’t connect automatically (or find a way to figure it out on their own) Mom is in the unique position of knowing how to make both sides feel “at home.”

    The images/situations I see this applying to:
    –The father who overawes his children easily
    –The child who wants only Mama
    –The more negative situations where Dad is actually intimidating
    –A dad’s first times with a new baby or wielding a bottle

  5. I have to say that in my case, I imagine that it would be my role to be an ambassador. I think that whoever is in charge of more childcare will need to help foster the bond with the other parent.

  6. Great post and thanks for the reminder! I know I am too critical of my husband at times even though he is fabulous with the kids. He’s just not with them all day every day like I am to know how we do things. When the kids were little they would sometimes get mad at him because he didn’t do things exactly like I did them but now they really appreciate how much fun Dad is.

    I think sometimes Moms expect Dads to act and think just like they do but that’s impossible. Men and women are too different!

  7. These are all excellent points. Parenting doesn’t seem to come naturally to my husband. It isn’t easy and he stresses out rather quickly. You are right about a mother’s presence alone being calming to their children. And the father having to soothe them when mother’s presence is missing can be quite challenging!
    When I do go away (like this weekend – going away to a ladies retreat for 24 hours), I try to leave the house as clean as possible so he can find everything he needs. I leave easy foods to cook while I am gone (canned chicken noodle soup, etc) so that cooking isn’t an added stress. I will also be borrowing movies from the library the morning that I leave so that they have a couple of new movies to watch together. Stuff like that can make a big difference.
    I know that when I come home, everything will probably be pulled out, thrown everywhere, dug through, and scattered. But that’s ok. I’ll clean it up. It’s good enough for me that my husband parented on his own for 24 hours so I could get a break.

  8. My husband and I have four children…one boy and three girls ages 7,6,2, and 8 months…LARGE LOAD. I do it all alone and it is beyond exhausting. If you begin doing everything with the first child, go ahead and understand then that you have set the bar for your husband. It WILL NOT change on the second, third, etc. The old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” well it is true. I almost have to just walk out the door to get any type of break. Being an ambassador is great and everything, but once again, you have trained your husband that way. Do you want to have to bend over backwards to get everything perfect just to go somewhere? All of that is unnecessary. Start it off as a joint deal and you will have no issue

  9. Thanks for your comment Andrea, and I hear your frustration.

    I hoped to make it very clear in this post that all this preparation is most critical when the child(ren) are small. Most small children do not transition well, and many men have no idea what to do with them.

    That is what I’m talking about when I encourage preparation. I don’t meant to suggest you have to earn your right to some time out by preparing, just that in my experience it’s made regular outings easier for my husband to provide.

  10. I can see how these could be very helpful points, but I have to say I’m quite grateful that they don’t pertain to my family. My husband knows our kids as well as I do…I can’t imagine if I had to “prep” him to be alone with them.

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