When I checked in for our flight home from Christmas, I could only get 4 seats across. 3 in a row, and one across the aisle. There was no doubt who would be sitting with the kids and who would be sitting across the aisle.
I’m a dad, and while I love my kids, and am perfectly capable of taking care of them on my own (I’ve flown with boys by myself numerous times), when it comes to the pecking order of parenting, mom sits with the kids, and dad is across the aisle.
Women are more high maintenance when it comes to parenting. They are more particular, more ideological, more high strung. It’s not that dads do anything wrong, we just do it differently and sometimes that’s too much for a mom to take. So we sit across the aisle, and watch from the sidelines as our wives console kids with sore ears, fix their snacks, and sort out in flight entertainment.
I could have very easily booked the seat next to my boys, this week my wife will travel for work and I will be home with them for 5 nights, taking them to soccer practice, art class, and a weekend away in the mountains skiing. I can look after my kids, just fine. But when we’re a family of 4, and not on “a boys’ weekend,” my wife can’t handle how I do it. So I defer responsibility to her, because her rules are tighter and it would drive her mad to sit across the aisle from the kids and watch me be laissez faire.
Doyin Richards is known online as Daddy Doin Work. You might remember him from the photo of a dad doing his daughters’ hair that went viral last spring.
His book, Daddy Doin Work: Empowering Mothers to Evolve Fatherhood, tackles this notion of dads not measuring up and moms not letting go head on.
“A lot of women are very well meaning, but there are cases where they tend to micromanage and the result isn’t good for anyone,” he told the Globe and Mail. “You know, like dad is giving his daughter a bath and he washes her hair last instead of first, the way that mom does it. And she’s there saying, ‘Why are you doing it that way? Don’t do it that way!’ Of course the guy is going to feel demotivated and then he just says screw it, and the woman is complaining about how she never gets any help. Moms, you have to let a dad do things his way. It might not be your way, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”
D.A. Wolf from Daily Plate of Crazy offers this tl;dr: “just because it’s different, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.”
Just as in relationships, parenting is a Mars / Venus solar system too with both parents often on opposite sides of the spectrum. It often comes down to who spends more time with the kids. Sure, parenting is a team sport, but one parent often will take control as the Team Captain and direct things. That control leads to the conflict. When one of the team players does something differently than the Team Captain, the default reaction is that “it’s wrong.” The Team Captain has spent so much time finding efficiencies in the routines that if one of the players steps out of that line, the angst sets in.
If the conflict erupts in to a full blown battle, the team player could stop participating over fear of “doing it wrong.” This is exactly why I no longer load or unload the dishwasher. I ‘do it wrong’ (according to my wife), so I no longer do it at all. This doesn’t help anyone on the team. The Team Captain resents the players for not participating, the players resent the captain for being controlling and we get conflict.
A piece in the NY Post went so far as to say “dads don’t give a sh–.” It’s not that we don’t care, we just care differently. This week, when my wife is away, things will not be done to her precise specifications, but they will get done. The dishwasher will be loaded how *I* want to load, we might skip a bath, and a bedtime story might be replaced with a Star Wars marathon.
I love my kids. I want the best for them, and I want them to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. The route I take to get them across that finish line might be different than the one my wife would choose, but I’m no less passionate about getting them across it.
Yes, Dads are not the Momma. And that’s okay.