My wife is a wonderful parent. I tell you that because she’s standing over my shoulder as I write this. OK, I’m also telling you because I love her and because it’s true. She adores our three kids, ages 2, 6, and 8. She takes them on trips, cooks with them, and keeps them in new shoes.
But when it comes to day-to-day parenting, I’m better at it than she is. That might be a surprising thing to hear a dad say, but here’s my case: I do more. I pack their lunches, indulge their nightly pile-ons, and monitor their homework. They look to me for comfort and laughs and, when necessary, discipline. I know the songs they like best and the t-shirts that make them itch.
How did I get here? I was a part-time, at-home dad for much of my oldest son’s first four years, two of which also included his younger sister. Also, my jobs have tended to be less demanding than my wife’s. Then there’s the fact that I’m more immature and neurotic than she is—which sets me up perfectly to play Stratego with them after bedtime and keep up with notes from their schools.
On another level, it’s just who I am. I’m good at the job. And unlike other men who happen to excel at the nitty-gritty of parenting, I’m not shy about admitting it. My wife is just as honest. Lynn’s a working mom who neither looks down her nose at stay-at-home moms, nor envies them. She readily admits she doesn’t have the temperament or the skill set. (Rest assured she has a fully developed set of maternal instincts.)
All this makes me curious about dads in general. I know dozens of guys who are all too eager to tell me that their wife is "the boss" and that they "just follow orders." In other words, they have no idea what needs to be done without being told, and they don’t want to know. It’s always perplexing to run into a dad from my kids’ classes who can’t carry on a conversation about the teacher, curriculum, or other kids.
Are these dads stuck in the past? Do they think the daily chore of parenting is women’s work? Or is it that they don’t think they can do it, so they refuse to try? Whatever the cause, they’re missing out, because there’s value in being in the trenches. There’s a stereotype that kids should want their mothers when they don’t feel well, but stroking your little son’s back for two hours in the middle of the night because he’s ill makes you just as cool in his eyes as bringing home a pack of PokÈmon cards. (Well, almost.) And maybe some dads would rather be the ones who do ìthe fun stuffî—who wouldn’t?—but standing firm with a punishment for misbehaving at dinner, in spite of a daughter’s loud and lengthy protest, earns her respect in a different, more important way than giving a piggyback ride does.
Maybe your wife is different from mine. Maybe she’s willing to do all those things for your children on her own. Don’t let her. Step up. You can do it just as well as she can. Maybe better.