DUMB DAD QUESTIONS
DUMB DAD QUESTIONS
During my current unexpected spell being home in the day, caring for my two sons, as I wait to start a new job, I have heard myself come out with the most bizarre questions to my wife, such as:
“Shall I dress them now?
“He sounds upset, should I go and get the baby?”
“He hasn’t had his lunch yet, what should I feed him?”
“Shall I change the nappy now?”
What really makes such questions bizarre is that I have no problems with these situations when I am caring for the boys on my own.
On my own, I just get on with it and do fine. I can play with my sons, feed them, and clothe them all by myself. But as soon as my wife is present I find myself deferring over the most straightforward parenting issues.
Why does this happen, why do I find my confidence apparently less in the presence of the boys’ mother?
Partly, I think it is that in our situation she has been the person mainly responsible for the boys’ day to day care. She has generally had a better awareness of what the boys have eaten or done during the day, so part of me feels I have to defer to her and her wishes. I don’t want to break an established routine or way of doing something.
What this deferring subtly does is chip away at my confidence to parent and ends up with me apparently playing dumb as a parent when my wife is present. I don’t do this on purpose, and yet I hear myself ask my dumb dad question! And in response, I’m sure my wife thinks “is he really asking that?!!!”
Where this comes from, i.e. wanting to support my wife who has most hands-on time with the children is good, but where it undermines me in my role as Dad, I find frustrating. And the problem is also that it has a consequence on both parents, undermining confidence on both sides.
The other weekend, I overheard a friend from another city, telling her friend that she had left her partner with a long list of how to care for their children while she was away for two days. Although she was joking, there was an air of apprehension in her voice.
On a more subtle level, I have become aware of how many times in shops or at social gatherings, I have heard a man say “ask your mother”, over some apparently straightforward request.
So in thinking about how I want to respond to this, I feel slightly reassured that I am not the only Dad who finds a wobble of confidence in my role and actions. I guess it boils down to reminding myself that my role as Dad is just as important as the mother’s role – there may be differences, which work out very differently due to practicalities with work commitments, time or even personality differences – but I matter to my children and my actions as Dad need to display this.
For my own situation, I have found that I have a choice. It is a choice to step up and operate out of my role as Dad, to be deliberate in the actions and decisions I take as a father.
There will be some difference between how my wife and I parent, but that is ok, because after all, my decisions as a parent aren’t bad – just different. My participation and active decision making gives my sons more to relate to and helps me develop my relationship with them, rather than being some glorified babysitter just enforcing mum’s wishes. I know that I feel I do better as a dad when I choose to step up and make the decisions required, participating as a parent regardless of whether the children’s mother (or anybody else) is present.
What also encourages me, I realise is that achieving this active participation doesn’t require overwhelming change or reworking on my part. Essentially it comes back to reminding myself to be confident in my role as a parent, and confident in my relationship with my boys. I have also found that where I spend a little time thinking about how I want to parent my sons, helps me know what to do in advance of a situation.
Part of being a good dad is also being honest about the things we can do, honest about our strengths and abilities- and then being actively involved with them. I think in this active participation I can see how I am building a relationship with my sons and building my confidence as a Dad.
…even if I still have to ask the occasional dumb dad question!