I am better at loading the dishwasher than my wife. I can fit more stuff in and I put specific dishes in specific places in order to maximize the space and fit as much in there as possible. I admit here and now that I often partially unload it at night so that I can load it how I want to do it. This works out since I am the primary dishwasher loader. I am also better at loading cars full of our crap and I am better at plunging the toilet, which I have to do far more frequently than I would like thanks to what is apparently an inferior low-flow toilet. Laura can also do these things. She might not fit a much stuff into cars and dishwashers, but the dishes might be cleaner and fewer things will be crushed. The same is true with our parenting styles.
One of Us is Better than the Other
Laura is better at dealing with tantrums without yelling. Laura is better at singing lullabies than me. Laura is currently a more popular bedtime story reader than me. I am better at getting the girls up and out the door for school on time. I am better at crafting a meal out of bits and pieces of food in the house the day before we do groceries. Frankly I am better at sewing and ironing – I even have a badge from Boy Scouts to prove it.
Who is Buzz Bishop?
We are each capable of doing the things that the other is better at, but we do it differently. Buzz Bishop, a fellow Canadian dad blogger (from one of the strange western provinces) wrote a piece on Babble today about how we dads do things differently as parents than mothers. He makes the case that parents don’t need to do everything the same way in order to be doing it correctly.
Buzz makes the case that the parent who spends the most time with the kids often plays the role of team captain and directs the activities of the team. He says that it is that team captain role that can lead to conflict if the parent who is playing that role expects things to be done his/her way.
Not in My House
It is possible that I am oblivious to this team captain thing. I don’t see that in my family. Laura is the primary parent during the day in our household and most days when I get home from work that role changes. She tags me in once I’ve had a chance to get in the door and change out of my work clothes. I take over getting dinner ready and manage the kids in the lead-up to dinner while Laura recharges in our room where there are no kids. Bed-time is a joint affair – usually, although these days the girls have decided that I am to play a lesser role.
I don’t ever feel that my co-parent is judging how I do things – although she may have an anonymous twitter account where she critiques all the dumb things I do and I just haven’t found it yet. I don’t think either of us expect the other to do things exactly the same way as we do it.
Blame it on Parental Leave
Laura and I learned to parent at the same time. I took two months of parental leave immediately following the birth of our first child and while we were both home with our new bundle of sleep deprivation we learned how to parent together. We shared our struggles and successes and we told each other our respective tips and lessons learned. We alternately being the primary parent based on who was the most lucid or who had the breasts with milk in them. Actually breastfeeding was a terrible experience first time around and required both of us to be fully engaged – Laura was, well, engaged and I was chief water boy and moral support.
Share and Share Alike
[bctt tweet=”We set a pattern in those early sleep-deprived, semi-coherent days when we were both learning how to parent”]
We set a pattern in those early sleep-deprived, semi-coherent days when we were both learning how to parent that has continued through three kids. We still share our lessons learned with one another. We offer each other suggestions based on what has worked for us and neither of us feels that the other is telling us that we are doing it wrong.
“Society” teaches us that women are naturally better parents because they are genetically more nurturing than men. That sentiment is of course bullshit. Nurturing is not genetic and it is not sex-specific. It is true that some people are more nurturing than others and in some cases those people happen to be mothers. It does not mean that their partners are incompetent parents. It does not mean that the nurturing parent is the better parent. It makes sense that the parent who spends the most time with the child(ren) builds parenting skills faster due to the higher volume of work. It does not mean that those skills are necessarily better or that the way they do things is more correct than the other. I have heard and read enough comments from women that suggests many still feel that they make better parents and that their male co-parents aren’t to be trusted to parent on their own.
Give Dads Space to Parent
I would suggest that any parents out there who feel that their partner isn’t capable, would do well to back off and let them figure it out. In parenting like anything else we learn by doing and through practice. We learn by screwing up and figuring out how to do it better next time. There are no such things as perfect parents. It is all a bunch of trial and error. Every kid is different and it seems that the techniques that worked last week are at least 50% likely to fail next week. Give your co-parents space to parent and figure out what works for them. Let go of your pre-conceived notions of what works best and recognize that we dads know what we are doing.