Friday, 30 July 2010

Team Mum and Dad

I hear a lot of mums complain about their husbands' 'dad' duties, or lack of them. They lament that their husbands never get to experience a full day with their child and have no idea how challenging and tiring it can be. They feel like their husbands think they spend their days swanning round, having coffee with other mums whilst they are slaving away at the office. A couple of mums I know with young babies are only allowed out between feeds or naps because their baby won't take a bottle from the dad or because the dad can't settle them down for sleep. Don't worry, this isn't going to be a smug post about how wonderful my husband is, although I'm happy to say I don't have any real complaints. He does his fair share of nappy changes when he's at home, gets breakfast for my son every morning before work, takes him out to the park,  plays with him, reads and has fun with him at weekends.

Getting your partner involved with a child from the beginning is important for several reasons. It's good for bonding and establishing a closeness between child and father. It's helpful for you, knowing you can have a break whilst your partner takes over childcare duties. Raising a child in a two-parent family is teamwork after all. We had my husband give a bottle to our son the first time a bottle was introduced. Maybe we were just lucky but there was never any problem with him taking a bottle from my husband. During the sleepless nights at the beginning of parenthood, we took it in turns as much as we could to settle him back to sleep. Sometimes, my husband was more effective at settling him back down than me!

Mums generally attend to waking children during the night, trying to allow their partner a decent night's sleep before work the next day. They also are usually the ones stuck with an ill child, which can be particularly tiring and difficult. If you're a stay-at-home mum, you have things like teething, tantrums, falls, maybe hitting other children and snatching other people's toys to deal with, a lot of which dad never gets to experience. It's naturally these more challenging aspects to motherhood that make us feel a bit hard done by sometimes. The days when they skip a nap and get grumpy or when they won't eat or seem to cooperate make for long days. It's natural, as with anything, that people remember the negative things more and focus more on the hardships than on the brighter side.

If we stop to consider from a dad's perspective, we might view things a little differently. They're out at work all day with stressful deadlines, meetings and objectives to achieve. Lots of them work long hours and don't get to see their children much at all during the week. Maybe they don't get to see them in the morning before they leave or they get home after their bedtime. They miss out on the energetic cheery morning wake-up and the quiet tender cuddles before bed. Some rarely get to see them interacting with other children and seeing their personality develop amongst their peers. They might miss the exciting milestones of the first roll over, sitting up or walking those first steps. They miss out on a ton of smiles, laughter, babbling and chatter. Sometimes they wish their child would run to them when they're upset instead of going straight to mum. It's not easy for the dads either!

I think sometimes mums treat motherhood as a bit of a battle and don't stop to consider that whilst their partner might not be around much to help with the children, they are working hard to support the family and enable them to do all the fun things they do together. Like I said earlier, parenthood is about working together as a team, sharing chores and responsibilities, each contributing their bit towards happy family life. There are always going to be difficult days but ultimately, mums and dads share the common aim of wanting to do the best for their children. As long as there is love and respect for each other's roles and a reasonable balance in parenting duties, there should be little space for complaints!


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