By Laura Lucy
Motherhood is having a real moment right now. You can’t sling a bottle of Pinot – Grigio or Noir, whatever your preference – without hitting a mommy blogger, vlogger or activist. After millennia of toiling and suffering in silence, women are finally being acknowledged for the hard work and challenges of mothering. As a mom who struggled with just about everything when my daughter was first born, I’m incredibly grateful to live in a time when women talk openly about their struggles, share advice, attend mommy groups and regularly schedule moms’ nights out.
But where does all this new mommy reverence leave dads? Unfortunately, the rise of moms coincides with a strange decline in respect for fathers. Watch most any sitcom, comedic movie or commercial with a dad in it, and you will see a bumbling, befuddled caricature of a father. Sure, I laugh along most of the time, but is this representation close to reality? Not in my world!
My husband, Patrick, also known as the father of my child, has been a super dad from the very beginning. In those early days of sleep deprivation, sore nipples and C-section recovery, there is no way I or my newborn would have survived without Patrick’s daddy game being on point. And it was. He diapered, shopped and bathed while I tried to work through pain and doubted my parenting skills. He just got it done.
Over time, the roles shifted as I healed and became more confident, but that never meant Patrick’s role was at all diminished. My days were filled with attending to my daughter Vivi’s needs, but Patrick was there to love her, support me and give me a break when I got overwhelmed.
One of my greatest joys in motherhood doesn’t even involve me. I love to observe the special bond between daddy and daughter. My husband does all the activities with Vivi that I either can’t or don’t want to do. I love our weekly trips to the library, chauffeuring Vivi to ballet class, shopping and going to the movies. Patrick teaches her to play golf and soccer, they go hiking at the state parks, he takes her to the arcade, he trails behind her on endless loops around our cul-de-sac on her bike. It also helps my mood when the two of them give me a few hours alone in the house so I can catch up on laundry, freelance work and the DVR.
Aside from the warm and fuzzy feelings Vivi hanging with Daddy brings me, there is also evidence that children receive many benefits from spending time with their dads that are different from the benefits of being with their moms.
Dads don’t play the same way moms do. In The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony T. DeBenedet, M.D., and Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., cite several recent studies indicating that roughhousing makes kids more intelligent, builds their socialization skills, increases their ethical standards and improves their ability to bounce back from adversity. Dads also encourage kids to take more risks but without going too far. He will throw you higher, encourage you to climb that tree and let go of the bike with no training wheels.
I think most kids (and society) expect moms to always be present. It’s a given. When I was growing up, my dad worked long hours in retail, but he was always there for me. He never missed a dance recital – and there were many – and his only complaint was that he had to sit through “everyone else’s no-talent kids” before he could see his baby girl perform. He was right beside my mom for spelling bees, band concerts and pep rallies.
I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but my father’s presence and encouragement had a profound impact on the kid I was and the woman I became. According to Linda Nielsen, Ed.D., Professor of Adolescent and Educational Psychology at Wake Forest University, whose research on the relationship between fathers and daughters helped inspire Mattel toy company’s “You Can Be Anything” campaign, girls with involved fathers are more likely to achieve financial success, have long-lasting marriages, flourish in demanding male-dominated careers and are less likely to have a teen pregnancy.
Dads, if you aren’t already spending time with your kids without mom, start now!
Moms, the next time you feel yourself getting anxious about your husband playing too rough with the kids, take a deep breath and give him some space. He is busy creating confident, independent, brilliant, resilient kids.
Happy Father’s Day!