Let Dad Lead {Learning to Take a Backseat Role in Parenting}

I cringe when people praise me as a mother

I don’t believe I am great, by any stretch, though I know I do my best and that is what counts. A significant hardship for me is stepping back, out of the role of “mom” for even a few minutes at a time. As exhausted or frustrated as I may be when my husband finally walks in the door after a long day at work, I struggle with backing off to let dad lead. Many moms have trouble flipping that switch from being a parent to just being a human. Even with capable and willing partners ready to step in, we don’t let dad lead.

We know our partners will keep kids from bolting into the street or reaching up to a hot stove. Dads can swing bath time, read books in character, and make dinner (my chef husband definitely has me beat there). They can kiss boo-boo’s and bandage them up, break up sibling rivalries, give advice on school incidents, cheer at sports games, oversee homework and wrestle the night away (another area my husband for sure has me beat). 

I’m Pulled to My Children by an Unknown Force

Even as I am headed out the door to meet a friend or run off to an appointment. I hear them ask their dad a question, and can’t help but answer from across the room. I see them run toward him in tears, yet I swoop them up before he has a chance. Little did I realize, this was impeding upon my husband’s wants and needs. He needed to be their dad in those moments,  the one they turn to, and the one who answers their calls. 

The wave of regret caused my head to spin when he first expressed this to me. My poor husband gets to be a non-parent adult all day. Receiving text message updates about our activities and events throughout. He spends two or three waking hours a day with the kids most weeks. He works hard so I can stay home. And here I am, sheltering him from parenthood the moment he walks in the door, without realizing that being a father is exactly what he wants.

I Viewed His Choices through My Lens

I am the woman who spends every waking moment with her kids. Who controls and schedules and coordinates and cleans and dresses the kids every second of every day and sometimes sleepless nights. All I crave at times is a break, and all my husband wants is to be running the show as the primary caregiver when he is there. Oops.

Rather than step on his toes any longer, I have to learn to do my best to back away. Whether I retire to our bedroom, head out the door to meet a friend, or force myself into a long, hot, quiet shower, I must let go and let dad lead. Really, what is better than a partner who is telling you, “Hey, back off, pamper yourself, do you, so I can take over?” Not much. In fact, maybe nothing is better than that.

So I let dad lead

As I learn to relax into evenings with my husband home and running the shop, he gains the confidence in his ability to take over for mom. I gain trust that I can back away even more. He gets to be on, I get to be OFF. Clocking out is a right for any working human. There is something to be said for having the ability to do the same thing, while working a job that never actually ends.

One can probably guess how priceless it is to have a partner who actually wants to step up and do more at home. Let’s be real, I need to take full advantage and give him praise. Because as primary caregiver for two busy, bustling boys, I really do deserve a break. Even if at times I struggle to actually take it! I have to learn to let dad lead the way he, himself, chooses.

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