If you knew Mike and I in person, pretty quickly you'd size us up and realize that Mike is probably the better parent. Verging on complete, ridiculous bragging territory, I get told a lot that Mike is an amazing dad - okay, so I totally bragged, but there's just no non-braggy way to say it. And it's true. In my book, he's the world's greatest father and I am so, so, SO proud to share the load with him in this crazy train of parenting.
Part of what makes him so amazing is that there's nothing he won't do, and Mike's never said to me, "That's your job," (besides breastfeeding, I suppose). More than simply playing with Eli, Mike bathes him, takes his temperature, gives him medicine, makes dinner for him, monitors diaper rashes, puts him to bed, and well, truly does it all. And to be honest, I don't think that's the case with every dad. And while I don't believe there's any problem with parent's having different preferred roles with their children, I do think often moms hinder their husbands in being really great, confident dads.
I think that, because I did that.
It wasn't always this good for us. The first month or two of Eli's life, I was frustrated with Mike a lot. He wanted to be helpful, but he didn't know how to be. I was the one researching like crazy, reading the books, talking with other moms and essentially making all the decisions. I would ask Mike what he wanted to do, but because he had no knowledge base to build from, he would just tell me he didn't know but he believed I'd make a great decision. I'll be honest, there were many times I felt angry with him and I felt very alone in the first few weeks of parenthood. I wanted an equal partner, but instead I felt like I was the leader - a very insecure, ill-informed, reluctant leader, with Mike following - who was even more insecure and ill-informed than I.
A couple months in, we changed our strategy. Instead of me doing all the reading, I would do most of the reading (let's be honest, as a SAHM I had more time and it was more interesting to me) and then I would select a few things for Mike to read that I found interesting or relevant to the current issue we were facing. Then we'd discuss it and make a decision together. Everything from what bottles to buy to understanding what sleep signals were, to where to keep the bibs, to what the first foods should be, I gave Mike the tools he needed to educate himself so he could be involved in the decision making process with me.
Sometimes this meant ear-marking just two chapters for Mike to read out of an entire book. Sometimes it meant emailing him a couple articles, and other times it meant just being intentional to verbally download everything I had read and learned from fellow mothers while in the car or over dinner together. After we talked about the options, we made a decision together. Sometimes, I would have an idea of what I thought we should do, but it was important to me that Mike felt like he had a voice in the decision, and when he did, without fail, he wanted to participate more in what we decided.
Particularly in those first six to eight months of baby's first year the questions, changes and decisions come fast and furious, and I'll be honest, sometimes it was easier and faster when I just made decisions on my own. As mothers, it's natural for us to make a quick decision because we're involved in the mommy-world all day every day, and typically women are more comfortable with children than men. It's easy to just say to our husbands, "I'll take care of it," or try to "hold his hand" through each step in what needs done when it comes to caring for our babies, but by doing this we are hindering our husbands in being the best dads they can be.
It's a cycle. If your husband feels confident in taking care of the baby, he'll want to take care of the baby. When Mike didn't know how to care for Eli because I was making decisions and just telling him what to do, he didn't want to care for Eli. No one likes to do things they're not good at! It's easy for men to say, "That's just not my thing," when really, they just feel insecure about how to do "that thing." There were a few weeks where I would get so frustrated because Mike forgot to feed Eli on time and didn't know why he was crying, or he forgot diaper rash cream, or I had to be the one to bathe Eli because Mike didn't want to do it alone. But when I took the time to slow down and actually involve Mike in what was happening, I found that he started to just do things naturally, without me asking him every time to or directing him in every single step.
Mike is a great dad because he's a confident dad. Because he knows what he's doing with Eli and he's very involved in how we raise him and care for him - even with the trivial things. Those first few months I was hindering Mike in being the best dad he could be because I didn't involve him as much as I should have. My personality (and most mother's I think) lends itself to thinking through things more and naturally thinking ahead about the next milestone we're going to face with Eli. Mike's doesn't - and most men's don't! By me just telling him what we were going to do, he didn't have time to play catch up and figure out the why behind what I had asked him which meant that often the information wasn't retained or it wasn't as important to him as it was to me.
But as soon as I started talking through what I was thinking and learning concerning caring for a baby, we immediately started to notice a difference in both our attitudes and understanding of one another. And we both felt more confident in our roles as parents. Mike because he was more educated and felt involved, and me because I felt like I had a partner and teammate who knowledgeably supported every decision that was made. I still do the majority of the care-taking for Eli, but I'm not afraid at all to leave Eli with Mike and sometimes, I think Mike does a better job because when you're doing it all day, every day you find yourself taking some shortcuts!
All this to say - as couples, learn about your baby together. Moms, slow down when caring for your baby and let your husbands be more involved. Of course, you will probably always have a better memory for making sure the sunscreen got put on and that diapers are always well stocked in the diaper bag, that's just the way women are wired. But give your husband a chance, I'll bet he'll surprise you at just how good a dad he can be.