What Dads Want Their Daughters to Know About Being Women
I must have been destined to have girls because even during high school I remember sighing at the use of the word “lady” on girls sports uniforms. Why was a girls team purposely making themselves out to be different than the boys (and as a result, giving them a lesser-than feel) by adding this unnecessary word on their jerseys? The boys didn’t have “gentlemen” on their uniforms.
So I like to think I’ve always been a proponent of gender equality, and now as a proud father of girls I’m graced with the wonderful task of helping raise them into becoming good future women, and who knows, possibly moms. That’s a lot of pressure on me – especially because of the unfair stigma that people continue to place on dads, but more importantly the fact that I will never know what it’s like to be a woman.
However, here is a short list of what I’d like my girls to know about being women and moms from a dadly perspective.
Treat your husband and father of your children with the same kindness and respect you expect from him. Too often women view and judge men based on a few bad apples. The reality is that most men are good human beings. Refrain from devaluing your husband's role as a dad. I've read many articles and seen advertisements that bash dads and it's easy to fall into the trap and commiserate with other moms who constantly criticize the way a dad parents. Be his number one fan. You may not always agree with him, but you can always love him.
Be kind and respectful to other moms. I've also read about and witnessed how cruel moms can be to each other. I believe it is not intentional but rather because of the unrealistic expectations and pressures our culture places on moms to be the perfect parent. When you judge another mom it will more than likely influence you (without realizing it) to judge your husband. If you can't be respectful to another mom, it will be difficult to be respectful to your husband and also model appropriate and constructive behavior for your children.
Include your husband in every part of the pregnancy, birth, and caring of the baby. Your husband will likely have the same level of interest and commitment as you and desires to be part of the entire parenting responsibilities. Unfortunately, hospitals, the birth care industry, and medical professionals do not do a good job of welcoming or inviting dads to participate. Therefore, encourage him to participate and share this wonderful birthing experience with you.
Be humble. As a mom you will have no more instinctual ability to parent than your husband, so that doesn't make you the superior parent. The increasing population of dads who have taken on the role of the primary caregiver prove a dad is just as capable as a mom in caring for a child.
Embrace the different way your husband will care for the children. Just because he parents differently doesn't mean it's wrong – it’s just different. Dads see the world differently and their priorities as a parent are also different. Good parenting requires unity between a mom and a dad. When you speak in terms of “our” children it sends a message that you and your husband work as a parenting team.
Respect your husband's feelings. Sadly, men often get labeled for not having feelings or showing emotion, but men have every bit the same amount of feelings as women. Again, their feelings – or the way they express them – are different, not wrong. Just because tears may not flow doesn't mean men are not feeling hurt, lonely, or dejected. Giving your husband a hug will help show him that you respect his feelings.
Invite your husband to share his feelings; don't ask or demand it. After he shares his honest feelings, embrace his answer. It may not be the answer you're looking for but he's telling you how he truly feels. Too often I hear moms say to their husband, “How could you feel this way?” Doing so will only provoke him to shut down or result in an argument. The correct question to ask him is “Why do you feel this way?” This reply will encourage him to open up even more and lead to a constructive conversation.
Give your husband the same intimacy you desire from him. Sadly, many women assume all men only desire sex. But a husband will also desire and value a deep, intimate relationship with his wife. A husband also likes to be romanced with loving, intimate words or gifts, and also likes to hear the words “I love you” as often as you will.
Forgive your husband as soon as possible. Don't hold a grudge at something your husband did or said. We all make mistakes or comments we regret saying. Avoid being a person who is unable to let go of the anger and who continues to find ways to punish a person for what he or she said or did. Share your frustration, let it go, and move forward to enhancing the loving relationship you both desire. Never go to bed angry with your husband. Ever.
View your husband's role as a parent as important as yours. Your family and home belong to both of you. Your place isn't inside the home, and his place isn't outside the home. But even if that is the case in your family – there’s nothing wrong with this family dynamic. Each of your roles has value and is no more important than the other.
Remember that parenting is a shared responsibility. To have an exact 50-50 share is an unrealistic expectation, so avoid keeping score. There will be times when you do a little more than he does and vice versa. In the end, the score doesn't matter.
Include him in as many decisions about managing the household, like shopping, children's activities, and vacation planning. Your husband desires to be part of managing the family responsibilities on some level (perhaps higher than you think), and his perspective is as valuable as yours. He will probably miss time to help due to work and other obligations, so make him feel valued and important when it comes to making decisions for the family.
Give your husband the same empathy you'd like from him. The reality is that men and women are biologically different. There is no way a man could ever feel what it's like to be pregnant. Nor do men discount or downplay a mom's physical pain. To ask a man to understand what this physical phenomenon feels like is unfair and unrealistic. The best way you can invite your husband to empathize with you is to show empathy for the many emotions he's feeling about being a dad.
The common theme throughout all of this is that you and your husband deserve the best of each other. The only way to accomplish this is to treat each other with the same level of respect, kindness, and love.