Over the last thirty-four years as a marriage therapist I have watched with a heavy heart as women, at times unintentionally and at times purposefully, undermine their husband’s desire to be an involved and active parent. Women can rob their husband’s joy of being a father. In today’s blog I am making three requests of women to help both sexes embrace parenthood.
It can start so innocently. It can come from such a good place in a woman’s psyche. Women who have anticipated motherhood and whose greatest desire is to be an excellent mother can cause their husband to feel or actually be excluded.
Request #1: Please don’t assume that you have a greater ability to nurture a child.
Many women when they were little girls had an absent, an uninvolved, or an abusive dad. As a result their perspective may be that they don’t need a man to raise a child. This attitude on a woman’s part results in both an arrogance and a possessiveness that leaves no room for daddy.
Unfortunately many men are happy to let their wives take over with regard to parenting. Partners of both sexes often voice their belief that children want and need their mothers more than they need and want their fathers. It’s as if once the sperm meets the egg, the men are no longer necessary.
This misbelief can lead to an assumption that it is a woman’s right to make most of the decisions about anything that affects the children. Many husbands acquiesce to this mindset and remove themselves totally from the discussion. If a husband questions a decision his wife has made, he is often viewed as critical and unsupportive by the woman he loves.
Many dads who find themselves absent during the week try extra hard on the weekend to make up for what they can’t do during the week. Women can encourage or discourage this desire on their husband’s part depending on whether the mother considers the father important in the children’s lives or whether she doesn’t. Leaving your children with your husband for a weekend is a fabulous way to foster a bond between your husband and the children. It’s also a great way to up your husband’s appreciation for all that you do. In the process you will come back a renewed woman.
Request #2: Please don’t prioritize your children ahead of your husband!
A man wants alone time with his wife! He delights in his children, yet he doesn’t want to sacrifice adult intimacy with his wife. He wants to continue to make memories with his lover. He desires physical intimacy and intellectual intimacy with her. No husband wants to be viewed as a necessary nuisance by the woman he loves. If your child is nine years of age and you have never left him/her with a babysitter to celebrate alone time with your husband, your priorities might just be out of whack!
Request #3: Please don’t step in when your husband is having a challenging moment with your child and he hasn’t asked for your input.
A client I admire was away on a business trip when she received a text from her three children, ages 11, 8, and 6. The eldest child explained their predicament. Daddy had sent them to bed without reading them a story or tucking them in. He was downstairs immersed in a basketball game on television.
What would you have done?
This clever woman sent a text back to her children. She told them that their daddy loved them very much. She informed them that daddy’s ways of showing love are sometimes different than mommy’s ways. If they really want a story, she encouraged the older child to read one to all of them. Interestingly she received no further texts from her children. Her husband had no idea how she had supported him. When she returned home, the kids couldn’t stop talking about all the exciting adventures they had shared with their dad. He had loved them in his way.
When your husband isn’t responding to the kids as you would, when he’s playing and it seems like it’s getting over the top, or when he’s upset and letting them have it, what do you do? Interrupt, get in the middle, roll your eyes in front of the kids, so they know you think he’s an idiot, call him names, or let him work it out?
If you feel the need to discuss the incident, please do it in private, so the children are not your audience. Your husband’s interactions with your children will be uniquely his. He may need to grow as we all do. Give him the opportunity. Hopefully he is wise enough to consider your input.
Men who co-parent receive an enormous amount of pleasure from increased intimacy with their children. Men who expand their capacity for intimacy have wives who benefit immensely. They have husbands who are less emotionally defensive and more emotionally open.
Isn’t that what women really want?
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…