In the article, the moms said they cancel play dates while they’re gone to make it easier on their husbands. They freeze meals so their husband doesn’t have to cook. They write a detailed itinerary of the kids’ schedule to make sure their husband knows what to do. They text and Skype their husbands to remind them what to do, but not too often for fear they will feel like an employee.
To Cat, these women sound like attentive moms who are just trying to help.
Some dads see it differently.
“What is this strange Times-y world where households crumble the moment Mom walks out the door and Dad is so flummoxed by the demands of care-giving that he has to lie on the couch until the next set of wired commands comes through?” asked dad Louis Bayard of NPR.
Former at-home dad Brian Reid of Lincoln explained in Forbes that “it’s absurd to think that a working parent (of either sex) can’t get dinner on the table. To imply otherwise is offensive.”
Cat wasn’t amused.
In her blog, she wrote: “…some of these dads need to get a grip. I don’t recall any of the quoted women saying they do this (because) their husbands simply can’t handle being the only parent for a few days.”
True. The moms didn’t say this, but their actions clearly did. The level of detail these moms went to says they don’t trust their husbands to parent effectively.
I’m sure these moms feel like they are being helpful. Some probably feel guilty about leaving the family and this makes them feel better. Unfortunately, these moms haven’t considered how their actions may make their husbands feel.
If a dad is actively involved with his children, he already knows when soccer practice starts. He has the phone number of the children’s doctor on his phone. He knows where the grocery store is and the types of food his children like to eat. Telling him what he already knows is condescending.
If a dad is not actively involved with his children, this level of pre-planning doesn’t help either. It allows such a dad to continue subverting his responsibility as a parent since he only has to do what he’s told. He never has an opportunity to figure things out on his own and become the active father his children need.
In that case, it is fine to give him a list. But then he needs to be trusted to handle it, not texted a reminder. He might miss some things or make some mistakes (I have many times), but the end result is what matters: Happy, healthy kids.
Treated this way, the dad may start to feel more empowered to be an involved parent. (It worked for me).
And that really is the point in all this.
Dads who don’t care about their kids aren’t going to change. Dads who already are very involved probably don’t have wives like those from the article.
But there are a lot of dads in between.
There are dads who want to be involved but are afraid their wives will be angry about the way they do things. It might be different, but not wrong.
When they read Cat’s blog, they see how their honest feelings are considered inconsequential whining. So, they decide to do what they’re told instead of trying to be an engaged parent.
I don’t think any of that moves our families forward or benefits our children. What does, is accepting our differences as parents, communicating as effectively as possible, treating each parent as an equal and being accountable to our parenting duties.
Many dads are trying to step up. Many moms need to consider letting them.
Al Watts is an at-home dad of 4 children living in west Omaha and the President of The National At-Home Dad Network. He writes regularly for The Good Men Project and Role/Reboot and is co-editing a book project titled “Dads Behaving Dadly: Chronicles of the Fatherhood Revolution.” Read him Wednesdays on momaha.com.