It’s no startling revelation that moms and dads are different. And while we see non-stereotypical, emotional role-reversals from time to time, often times the mom ends up with a large slice of household and scheduling duties. This doesn’t necessarily mean she is the better parent, or that kids will have a greater affinity towards her, but it definitely can put her in the position of “guardian” or “gatekeeper” of the home. Now, before anyone gets bent out of shape on any attempt at defining roles, or thinks for even a second that I’m somehow indicating that one parent is or does more than the other, let me clarify. If children are growing up in a home with both a mom and dad living with them, there are going to be roles, and though different, both roles are of equal and utmost importance. But . . . they remain “different.”
By mere default, in the experience of many families – mine included – the dad is often more in and out of the house, while mom is relegated to family calendar keeper and taxi driver. It’s not that the father doesn’t do his share, or the mother doesn’t also have a career outside of the home, but moms tend to be the ones to take on the seemingly “extra” kid duties. As we celebrate moms this month, I keep coming back to two thoughts regarding motherhood:
1) Dads and children can (and should!) appreciate and celebrate all that moms do.
2) Moms can (and should!) help dads and kids connect in more meaningful ways.
Why is the latter on the mom? Well, because a guardian or a gatekeeper has a lot of power, and it’s important that power is used in positive ways for the entire family’s benefit.
To the first point, it is so easy to take moms for granted. And fellas, it doesn’t take much, or not doing much, to make a mom feel completely under-appreciated. Though my wife is highly a skilled, educated, and capable career woman, she will tell you that her favorite gigs are that of wife and mom. But, while she deeply loved spending time with our kids and running our home and all of our various activities with Swiss-like accuracy, it was easy for her to feel invisible. As she puts it, “At some point, you just start feeling like a diaper-changing, cup-filling, meal-fixing, owie-mending, laundry-washing, uncool mini-van driving machine. And, on top of that . . . every . . . day . . . is . . . the . . . same. It is the same, with so many mundane tasks vital to the family’s existence, that largely go unnoticed.”
Dads. Husbands. We must do better. Set the example well and the bar high for your kids. Thank your kids’ mom, right in front of them. Tell her how much you appreciate the little things, right along with the big things – not in a cheesy or grandiose way, but in a sincere, truly appreciative expression that makes your kids take notice and hopefully emulate. She’s partnering with you, not only caring for your most precious gifts, but in raising them to be kind, respectful, productive, contributing members of our society.
We don’t appreciate to be appreciated in return. That’s not true appreciation, and it is most certainly not true love. However, in living out our genuine gratitude for our partner, it may just help her help you connect better with your kids. You see, even though she may appear to be the kids’ “handler” or “assistant, “or “manager,” she is so much more to them. They may not always appreciate her, but they very often run to her, and run to her first. You and your wife have to find a way to communicate how to allow the children, especially as they grow, to have healthy and consistent relationships with the both of you.
My wife opted to run a side business from home for almost a decade of our boys’ childhoods. Consequently, though they loved me and were thrilled to see me when I made it home from work, she was their go-to for most of their life issues. However, she worked with me (and it wasn’t always easy) to encourage the boys to see me as an equal in the relationship department.
In the end, it turned out some pretty sweet young men with whom both my wife and I are very close. But, I will tell you, at times it was a little bittersweet for my wife. As our boys hit middle school, they would wait until I got home to “talk” about a problem. The first time our oldest expressed the desire to talk to me over my wife, she was a little hurt. Fortunately, a wise, older woman said to our boys’ mom, “Honey, don’t feel sorry for yourself. How blessed are your children to have a dad they want to go to. Not every child has that.”
As we celebrate moms, let’s also celebrate all of the great things we can accomplish with moms to see our kids be everything they were meant to be. And let’s be the dads with whom moms always feel confident in sharing the love.