After being a stay at home dad for awhile, I feel I can give some advice to men about how we need to think differently about being a father. I think a lot of guys could make the mistake in believing that, in order to be a good parent, we should listen to moms or use them as a role model. I remember when I first became the stay at home dad, I thought to do things the way my mother did, and I used this as my point of reference for how I took care of my kids and the house. Now don’t get me wrong, women do a great job as mothers and they should be seen as a positive reference for how to do this job, but I think that we men aren’t giving ourselves enough credit. Guys have many inherent traits that lend well to child rearing and hard work around the house that simply aren’t recognized in mainstream parenting.
Now the first thing I should make clear is that I’m not trying to change the end goals of any of the activities that dads need to do. What I mean is, you still need to have the house clean at the end of the day, kids have to be fed, garbage taken out, etc… However, there is no reason you have to do it in any specific way as long as you get the job done. More to the point, you are never going to do any given task to the complete satisfaction of your wife or other mothers, so why bother trying to stick to their ‘codes of conduct’ when you have an almost guaranteed chance of failure.
In a practical sense, I do understand why many moms have certain ways of doing things that can sometimes seem too strict. In my experience, mothers are more cautious and controlling when it comes to letting their kids do things, while dads are a bit more relaxed and adventurous with kids. You have to understand that, for women, they literally spent blood, sweat, and tears in the process of making these kids, so they are a little more careful when it comes to a child’s safety than a dad is. For example, anytime my kids climb on top of the couch, my wife gets so scared they might fall off that she immediately yells at them to get down. I on the other hand, don’t freak out so much and let them have their fun. In fact, I feel that if you were to yell at them you might increase their chance of falling off since you’d be distracting them and possibly upsetting their balance. I certainly keep an eye on them and if things do get out of hand (like they start wrestling on top of the couch or pushing each other) I just grab them off the couch myself and let them know they should be more careful while tickling them for punishment.
Another aspect of motherhood that I understand, is that women are pretty judgmental of each other. Some moms might not allow kids to do certain things because they are worried what other mothers will think of them. Guys aren’t so susceptible to such judgement. I care very little what other dads or mothers think of how I do things. For example, my 2 year kept wanting to wear his Ironman costume well after Halloween this year, and I had no problem with it. We went everywhere with him in costume like the library, grocery store, park, you name it and he definitely got looks, but I didn’t give a shit and we both loved it. His need to dress as Ironman everywhere finally wore off after a few months, and we’re back to normal clothing again, but I look back at it as a real bonding time for us.
For my late talking son, I tried to spark an interest in him to speak when he was younger by trying to get him to describe stuff like farting and burping. He thought it was great, and at a time when he had very little vocabulary at all it was amazing to see him so entertained by learning how to say things like stinky, ew, and gross. My wife was mortified at first, but soon saw his interest and success in this kind of embarrassing talk as a good thing.
At the park or playground, while most moms are sitting around (chatting with each other or watching their cell phones) letting their kids play on their own, I like to play along with my kids and show them how to do things they might not of thought of. Have you heard of many moms taking the time to teach their kids how to climb a tree? How to make a loud burp? Sit and laugh with their kids while watching a movie where Captain Underpants fights Professor Poopy Pants? Dads have a different way of doing things that kids really appreciate.
I do a lot of things that I don’t think most moms would approve of or even think about. My boys throw laundry into the washer like it’s a basketball game. My 2 year old stands on a chair in front of a hot stove everyday and helps me cook meals, and he’s learned to be very careful of hot surfaces and other dangers. I use certain video games on my Playstation, which aren’t educational games, to teach them about different concepts and vocabulary (I can already hear most women saying, “yeah right”). The point is, I do things my way and just because moms probably don’t approve, it doesn’t mean that I’m not doing a good job.
I encourage dads to try to doing things around the house and with their kids in their own style. I also invite any dad who reads this post to comment with your own story of parenting in a distinctively man’s way. I would love to see other ideas and could use more tips myself.