When I was pregnant with my first child, a friend told me, “Remember, daddies do it different. And that’s okay.”
I didn’t think much of it at the time – I assumed she meant that he might put the diaper on funny or dress the baby in mismatching clothes. What I didn’t realize was that my friend was warning me against a phenomenon known as “maternal gatekeeping.”
I have seen so many women inadvertently discourage their husbands from doing their share by being too controlling or critical. Social scientists call this “maternal gatekeeping,” which is a fancy term for “Ohmigod, that’s not the way you do it! Just move aside and let me!” – Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead
While we may not be aware of it, so many of us moms are guilty of gatekeeping: interfering with Daddy’s child-rearing and household efforts. This may sound surprising – why would anyone want to stop their spouse from helping with all the work that comes with having kids? Why would we try to do it all ourselves?
Many of us have a “mother knows best” attitude, and when they see Daddy doing it differently, they stop him and take over. I was definitely guilty of this, especially in the first few months after our baby was born. I was neurotic about everything, and I wasn’t doing my exhausted, overwhelmed self any favors. The more I got in the way of my husband’s parenting efforts, the less inspired he was to try to help. I was really struggling with the reality of having a newborn, and yet I was alienating my biggest ally! So I tried to loosen up, and let go. In doing so, I found that the more I encouraged my husband’s efforts as a parent, the more involved he wanted to be! And we both discovered what an amazing father he is. In fact, there were some things that he was able to do far better than I could, like giving the baby her bath, or calming her down when she was fussy. His intuitive nature with both of our children astounds me every day.
In the four years since we became parents, I have learned to stand back, step aside, and let Daddy do it – HIS WAY. I have learned to encourage him. I have learned to appreciate him. I have learned not to question or criticize his efforts. And I have learned not to insist that he do things my way – unless I want to wind up doing it myself going forward. I’m not perfect – I still have my moments where my mommy control flips on and I think that my way is the only right way. But, deep down, I know better. I know just how good Daddy is at being a daddy!
What is the division of responsibilities like in your home? Do you let Daddy do it his way?
Read more on Tara’s blog