Dad on duty: Is he as good as Mom?

Categories: Parenting, The Juggle


When I went back to work after having my first baby, I was working days while my husband worked nights. He’d hang out with our baby during the day, then take her in to the office at the start of his shift. My shift ended when his started, and he’d hand her off to me and I’d take her back home for what I called my Second Shift with the kids (my first baby was also our fourth child).

I often said that the thing that made returning to work after my first maternity leave most manageable, for me, was the knowledge that my baby was spending the day with her dad instead of with someone I didn’t already know and trust. So Carolyn Hax’s piece over at The Washington Post today really struck a chord with me.

In the article, which Hax writes was adapted from an online discussion, an angry working mom complains about her stay-at-home husband’s parenting skills (he left the baby alone, in her playpen, to answer the mom’s phone call). A stay-at-home dad responds with his own story of micromanagement.

We’ve all heard the jokes about how dads are clueless when it comes to their kids. Diapering the wrong end, dressing them in stripes and polka dots at the same time, letting them eat chocolate cake for breakfast (it has flour, milk, and eggs, just like pancakes!), etc. We’ve all heard stories of fatherly incompetence from our friends from time to time, and horror stories about neglectful parents, male and female.

And, goodness knows, there have been times when my husband has wholeheartedly given the kids permission to do something that I definitely would have vetoed (like playing “Rock Band” until 1 a.m. or watching Predator on cable). But, during the year and a half that our now-preschooler was home with my husband during the day, it never, ever occurred to me to micromanage his parenting.

Maybe it was because he was already a parent when we met — since he’d done the baby thing three times already, why would I have to tell him what to do with his fourth child? Maybe it was because I assumed that a nearly 6-month-old baby who loved to nap (three hours at a stretch! I miss those days) would be a piece of cake. Or maybe I was so worried about earning enough money to support our expanded family that it was a relief not to have to worry about who was taking care of her while I was at the office — even if it meant my husband and I were like ships passing in the dead of night for a while.

But what Hax’s piece really made me wonder about was this: How can moms complain that dads aren’t involved enough or nurturing enough if they don’t trust their husbands to be good parents without supervision?

What about you? Do you feel the need to micromanage when your child is alone with his or her dad?

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10 comments so far...

  • This is just my opinion, but I think that micromanaging fathers has a lot more to do with a mother’s insecurities and/or control needs than with a father’s actual competence - MOST of the time. Perhaps I’ve been lucky, though - both my husbands have been great at taking care of their kids.

    Dads may not do everything the way moms would, but that doesn’t make them wrong - and they may not always agree with how moms do everything either. As long as the kids are safe, secure, and cared for, I don’t see a problem.

    But Lylah, you’re exactly right - if moms want dads to be involved with their kids, sometimes we just have to trust them and get out of their way.

    Florinda  |  July 17th, 2008 at 9:23 am

  • ahh so true Florinda! i occasionally get into it with hubby over parenting styles. but mostly we just try to both figure out what works and what doesnt and go with what does! Ultimately i never worry when hubby has the boy all by himself - he ADORES that kid and the boy loves to wrestle with daddy!

    My only frustraition (in my case) is that my husband tends to go for the quick fix instead of looking at the long term. if every time your kid cries you give him a lollipop you are teaching him to cry to recieve a reward. i dont want that for my child (a number of reasons including i dont like using food as a reward!) Ok so this was last weeks issue haha! but as soon as he understood where i was coming from (and vice versa) we came up with a plan we both agreed on and moved on.

    i think it has more to do with talking to your spouse and getting on the same page. not micromanaging!

    maybe i should go read the article before i get on my soap box? haha!

    Kate  |  July 17th, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  • The way I look at it is this…our son is as much my husband’s as he is mine. I want my husband to be involved, so I do not micromanage. I sometimes have to bite my tongue or walk away. The two of them have to make up their own relationship. I think it’s good for my son to learn that there are different rules with different people. My husband and I have discussed and agreed on the absolute basics. The rest is between them.

    Mary  |  July 17th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

  • Ha, I’ve had this struggle for about 5 years now. When my daughter was younger I waitressed nights, so my husband was home with her (then her and a new baby) for 3-4 nights a week. I loved the fact that he had to learn as he went. Yes, of course in the beginning I was trying to “control” his parenting and what he did and when. But now that my kids are older and he’s home for the summer while I”m working, I feel ok with the fact that they are with daddy, even if daddy doesn’t always play barbies, or if things don’t get done my way. The kids are with dad, and they are loving it!
    I do want to add though, my husband confessed to me that the 5 years I stayed home to raise my kids was definitely just as difficult as going to work everyday, and he never knew all I did till this summer. One point for mom!

    Tracy Popolizio  |  July 17th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

  • when I taught prenatal classes, I warned the expectant mothers (while their partners sat beside them) about this. Psychologists call it “gate-keeping”. And I hereby admit I was a pretty diligent gate-keeper when my eldest was a baby. (You learn from your mistakes!)

    If you start micro-managing dad’s every interaction with the baby from day one, insisting that the way you do it is the only right way — “pat her back, not stroke it”, “swing, don’t jiggle”, “the diaper tabs go here, not there” — keep that up long enough, and in six months you’ll have a dad who just isn’t bothering anymore, and you’ll be resenting him for not “helping out”.

    Why would he, when everything he did was wrong?

    He’ll learn by trial and error, just like you did, and at the end of the day, your child will have two involved parents, with two different styles.

    MaryP  |  July 18th, 2008 at 6:56 am

  • My husband has been a stay at home dad for 5 years. I absolutley had to “let go” and let him parent his way. I don’t always agree what he does, but he a great father and my two boys are so well behaved. Everyone always compliments me on how great they are and my response is always, “there Dad is responsible.” Don’t get me wrong, I am an active working Mom, but there is something to having two boys raised by their Dad.

    Lynda  |  July 18th, 2008 at 9:47 am

  • I NEVER complain about my husband’s parenting. He is a FABULOUS father. So what if he does things a little bit differently than I do? It doesn’t make my way better. Or his way better either, for that matter. When my daughter is with her father, I never have a moment’s worry. If we could afford it, he would be a stay-at-home dad.

    Robyn  |  July 21st, 2008 at 10:29 am

  • [...] Recommended reading: When I went back to work after having my first baby, I was working days while my husband worked nights. He’d hang out with our baby during the day, then take her in to the office at the start of his shift. My shift ended when his started, and he’d hand her off to me and I’d take her back home for what I called my Second Shift with the kids (my first baby was also our fourth child). [...]

    Jeremy Adam Smith » Blog Archive » Trust  |  July 21st, 2008 at 5:45 pm

  • I don’t complain about my husband’s parenting, or micromanage him. I’m glad he’s there for my daughter, and he had an absentee father (very absentee).

    That being said, I’ve had to “let go” of my expectations and understand that the way he does it isn’t wrong, but it is definitely his way.

    It’ll be interesting to see how their bond progresses as she gets older. We have one child, age 5.

    kelly  |  July 21st, 2008 at 7:17 pm

  • [...] older kids have had more time to get sick and hurt, after all — but I’m the Mama… he may be infinitely capable, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should be the one curled around her on that [...]

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