Moms, if this father is your partner, wake the hell up.

With Father’s Day this weekend, so many of us have big plans to thank that very special man in our kids lives. But what if your kids father is, well, absent? And I don’t mean not physically there. What if he’s just not interested in taking an active role in your kids lives? While I can’t personally comprehend this situation, Jeff Pearlman writes over at CNN.com about physically present/emotionally absent dads who, unfortunately, do exist. (A Father’s Day Wish: Dads, Wake The Hell Up.)

In it, he describes dads who would rather play golf for 5 hours on Sunday then spend quality time with their kids, painting their toenails pink and waking up early to play. He makes the argument that just because you spend time at the office all week, doesn’t mean you have the right to come home and spend the rest of your time recovering from it.

Can I get a freaking AMEN?

I, and most of the moms I know, am lucky enough to have a partner in this whole parenting deal who follows each of Pearlman’s 10 Commandments of Righteous Fatherhood. Sadly though, I’ve seen many moms who aren’t technically single parents, but are still left doing this thing alone.

And while I’m not meaning to put all the blame on these women, and I DO think the men should MAN UP and take on their fair share, I’ve got to say, some of these moms are… enablers.

Moms, I know we have a tendency to feel like our way is the only way, but the lesson to be learned here is just because it’s not done the way you would have done it, doesn’t mean it’s not right. Don’t nag your partner because he doesn’t match the kids clothes like you would, he doesn’t do the dishes like you would (guilty!), he doesn’t swaddle like you would.

While it’s one thing to offer help and suggestions when they are entirely clueless, it’s something completely different to say, “Ugh. You NEVER DO THIS RIGHT. Just give the baby to me. I’ll do it myself.” And then, from then on, you just assume you are the only person intelligent enough in your household to put a diaper on the correct way and take on the responsibility yourself. The result? A father who never changes diapers.

If you aren’t that mom, and you could drop your baby with a loaded diaper on his lap, walk away for 30 minutes, only to come back to a man who still flat out refuses to change it? Whoo boy. Wake the hell up. Poopy diapers are probably one of the least messy jobs of parenting.

And he’s never been alone with the kids? Ever? Why? Is it because he’s terrified? Is it because you think you’re the only person qualified to keep them alive? Try this little experiment. LEAVE. Without the kid(s). Just leave. It’s not illegal. You’ll come back. The kids will be fine. And, when faced with the challenge, I’m pretty sure you’ll find he won’t kill any of them. If in your heart of hearts you are genuinely afraid he will, wake the hell up and leave with the kids.

What I’m trying to say here is don’t make yourself a martyr. It takes equal parts mother and father to make a baby, and it takes EQUAL parts to raise one. (Edited to add- This isn’t me saying single parents aren’t capable of raising a kid. It’s just me saying that those who have a partner in all this, should expect equal input.)

And this isn’t just a SAHM thing vs. a WOHM thing. It doesn’t matter what your 9-5 is. The hours you and your partner are with the kids together you should be approaching parenting as a team. Yes, even at night.

I understand there are exceptions. My best friend’s husband flies planes for a living. Obviously, the nights before he flies it’s pretty imperative he gets good sleep. But you know what? He makes it up to her on the weekends. My husband, on the other hand, is not responsible for keeping anyone alive at his job… like I am. And napping at home with the kids, for me, is not an option these days. We share in the misery of frequent night wakings TOGETHER right now.

So you’re crying about how little time your husband spends with the kids, how little he does to help you out? I ask you, is it because you’re enabling him? Playing into the stereotype that men can’t ever parent as good as women can? If so, wake the hell up and realize you’re creating your own hell. If it’s because he genuinely, flat out refuses to be an equal partner in this? Wake the hell up and… get thee to counseling.

Be good to your baby daddy this weekend if he’s your equal parenting partner. If he’s not, well you probably already bought him a gift. Go ahead and give it to him on Sunday, make him pose for pictures with the kids. Then, starting Monday, wake the hell up and expect demand more from him.

Kendall is 3 years old and Leyna is 5.5 months, and I am damn blessed to have procreated with such a fantastic man.

  • Jackie S - THANK YOU for this. I so needed to hear this today.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - LOVE IT!!! I have an amazing partner but totally know some like you are talking about and it ANGERS me….ReplyCancel

  • Adam - Fathers like the one in this article are the ones who give us a bad name. They’re the reason that when I tell some people what my son needs/wants they dismiss me, thinking there’s no way a DAD would know that.

    They’re the reason Hollywood keeps making ridiculous movies about dads who can’t take care of their kids, and get absolutely no criticism for doing so. They couldn’t get away with making movies like that about mothers, yet for some reason it’s funny when it’s a dad.

    Being a parent isn’t that complicated. You spend time with your kid, you do what they want (most of the time), you meet their basic needs and you let them know you love them. Sure it can be tough at times, when they’re getting on your last nerve, when you’re bored as all get out at home with them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. But at the end of the day it’s totally awesome and totally worth it.

    So good on Pearlman for telling it like it is.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Thanks for the father-ly input, Adam. I bet it is super frustrating to have your role nearly always portrayed as comic relief. If ever a movie were to be made about me, I’d hope they’d make fun of me because I laugh at myself every day. ;) ReplyCancel

  • Miranda - AMEN. Do I sometimes do more than my “fair” share? Yes. But if I ever look at my husband and say “Dude, get up and do something!” he does. And I wouldn’t stand for anything less.

    Women who say “Oh, it’s just easier for me to do it myself” and are then burnt-out? STOP DOING EVERYTHING YOURSELF.ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Precisely. If a woman really, truly WANTS to do it all. Okay, I guess. But don’t complain about getting burnt out if you haven’t expected help. Personally, even if, for some weird reason, I enjoyed doing it all myself, I think it’s important for my kids to grow up with a male role model who takes and active part in our family functions from day to day.ReplyCancel

      • Miranda - It’s absolutely vital. It’s also vital to not raise a generation of men who are misogynists thinking women are supposed to do the housework and take care of the kids! THIS IS NOT THE 1940S! Boys will not learn this if they don’t see Daddy doing things. If Daddy sits on his ass and Mama brings him his dinner and his slippers and his paper? Little boy is going to expect the same treatment one day. And the cycle continues ad nauseum until someone goes all kamikaze on them.ReplyCancel

        • Kate - Exactly! My husband can be lazy about housework and I knew this when I married him. I stay at home and I try to get as much done during the day as I can but with an active 2 year old it’s not enough. I actually made him read “The Politics of Housework” about 6 months ago because I needed him to understand why it was so important to me that our son saw both of us taking care of the house. It pissed him off for about 18 hours (no one likes being called out for being lazy) but after he calmed down he acknowledged that I was right and he’s been much better about helping around the house ever since.

        • Ell - This is exactly what I went through with my husband. Trust me, the cycle stopped with me, but not before his mother’s anachronistic parenting style led to him having INSANELY unrealistic expectations of marriage which almost ruined our relationship, and a SEVERELY deficient set of life skills which led to many, many problems for him that he’s still working to correct.

          Mothers, if you’re still raising your son like it’s a version of the 50s that only existed on television anyway, you are not doing him any favors. You’re creating an emotionally hobbled adult who is going to have to go to a lot of counseling on top of having to learn basic life skills at a time when all of his peers (and potential life mates who expect him to be a functional adult in order to consider him an acceptable partner) have already mastered them.

  • tracy - You are so right, back when I was married my kids dad was really not interested in them at all- till my son was 7 or 8 then my son would join his dad for the marathon Yu-Gi-Oh days at the card shop- a game my son introduced to his dad. I also am not really sure if he ever changed one of his daughters diapers, not sure of he did in the hospital or not he never did once she came home.

    Thankfully now that he’s out of the house, and after 2 years of very sperodic contact he has gotten a lot better. He will finally see them every other Sunday for 7-8 hours. This schedule works as long as he’s not working, if he’s working it seems to go down to once a month.

    Thankfully my two (15 yr old son and 6 yr old daughter) know their dad and accept him as he is, I reinforce the fact that he loves them (I can’t see it by how he treats them and my daughter at times questions it) but, for the kids I’ll re-iterate it.

    My dad is a way more constant influence in their lives, and going to be even more as we move within walking distance to them. He is the model of a father as far as I’m concerned, not perfect ;) but pretty darn great.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley - Sadly, I see this A LOT in the families I Nanny. Especially where I am now. Mom works all the time(doctor) dad works from home. I use that term loosely because he doesn’t really do much except play video games and still when it’s time for me to be off the dad doesn’t want me to go till his wife is home and he gets mad at the kids within 5 minutes of being with them. Makes the wife ALWAD get up with the baby at night when he can sleep in the next morning and she can’t. It makes me sad.ReplyCancel

  • Alexis - Hear hear!
    I have a few friends who are TOTAL enablers. They have to have cell phone in hand every time we go out so that their partners can call in questions. Seriously? My husband knows not to call unless en route to the hospital. All else can be sorted out without my input.

    I think sometimes people like to feel needed so they create this whole feedback loop where they’re the only one who can handle anything. Personally it just sounds exhausting. If the babysitter doesn’t call every 5 minutes when I leave the house, why should the father of my children? (BTW – my husband is awesome with the kids. Everything is a disaster when I get home but the kids are happy and safe and I can roll with the mess.)ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Thank you!!! My husband and I don’t have kids (yet), but we already have discussions about how he will be different kind of father than his dad, brother, cousins, and friends! He has one friend who is involved and true partner to his wife in parenting. Just ONE friend. His brother has never even changed a diaper! When I mention that I will expect him to do just as much as I do raising children, his female cousins or sisters-in-law pipe up with, “You don’t really expect him to get up at night? He can’t breastfeed a baby!” Uh, no, he can’t, but he can sure as hell bring the baby to me!

    Also, my dad was one of those totally involved, “there’s nothing my wife can do that I can’t do” dads when it came to raising me and my sister. Because of that, we have never doubted his love for us and we were just as likely to go to him with problems as were to go to our mom. I think that helped us in our relationships with men. Unlike my husband’s cousins, and SILs, who grew up with absentee fathers and are now married to men who act just like their dads.

    I need to get off my soapbox before I write a book!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea - Great post, Jill! Makes me think of just how lucky I am to have a husband who is 100% supportive and involved in everything related to our impending arrival, as not all are. He hasn’t missed a single prenatal visit, babysitter interview, pediatrician interview, baby class, etc and I know he’ll be the same once the baby comes. The idea of always swooping in to “save the day” with a dad is just like in management if you are ALWAYS second-guessing and doing things for your employees, they will never learn to do things for themselves and therefore you’ll always get stuck doing it! Not to mention you won’t be helping the dad/employee to develop their own skills and dad/job satisfaction at all (not that I am likening the mom:dad relationship to boss:employee but in this case I really believe it’s relatable). I was on a forum today and read a post from a young woman who was venting that her husband stays out all night, going to bars, not calling, not coming home when she’s 36 weeks pregnant. I just was thinking of how this is probably the easiest this woman will have it – now, before the baby comes. Because if it’s tolerated and accepted now, the behavior will continue no matter if the baby’s in the belly or the bassinet!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel T - Awesome. I don’t have kids but I do have a husband who does more housework than I do. Whenever I get my self in a tizzy over whether the dishes are done the way I would have, or the bathroom or whatever I say “Hey, at least he did the dishes/folded the laundry/washed the counters.” It got done. If I want it to be done I either buckle down and do it myself or ask.

    It is truly about partnering and sharing the load, not fulfilling stereotypes or maintaining control.ReplyCancel

  • LauraBee - Thank you for this post and the link. Hubby and I had an argument this morning because he took a day off work expecting to do what he wanted only to find out this morning that day care will be closed Monday, which means he will be watching our daughter instead.ReplyCancel

  • Kyra - Love it! I am 34 & have 3 half-sisters that are ages 4, 7 & 8. When the oldest was about 2, I was talking to my dad one day and when I asked him what he was doing, he said, “babysitting.” I asked, “Who?” until I realized he meant his own daughter! I quickly explained to him that when it is his own child, it is most definitely not referred to as “babysitting!!!” I don’t think he made that mistake ever again!ReplyCancel

  • Kendra - If you don’t mind a little profanity, go check out Louis C.K.’s interview on Slate and scroll to the part about lunch with his daughters. The waitress made it sound like “fun, special time with daddy!” when it was really just him, being A PARENT like any other. So true… somehow we don’t expect as much from dads, and we should!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - If I don’t mind a little profanity? hahahahahaha! I’m going to google it as soon as I get a minute ;) ReplyCancel

  • Jill - And I want to add, I don’t mean a literal 50/50 split of all things. If you enjoy doing housework at night and your husband enjoys getting the kids ready for bath and bed, then perfect. If you don’t mind the sleepless nights, and he makes up for it by making breakfast, great.ReplyCancel

  • M - I am so guilty of this behavior myself. What I want to know from moms: how do you handle your kid suffering because he’s learning? Our daughter isn’t hurt, of course, but he has trouble putting her to bed–he goes (very lightly) with the routine and doesn’t do a great swaddle. So she doesn’t nap/go down well with him. I don’t want her overtired and crabby, but I don’t want to backseat parent. How do I show him there are things that work magic if he’s willing to try (like freakin’ standing UP to rock her)?ReplyCancel

    • Jill - I think you have a conversation with him when the moment has passed or before it happens again. Maybe remind him you appreciate the help, but that you think you guys can work together to make things a little smoother. Hopefully he’ll be more receptive to it and less defensive if it’s not the moment that the baby is crying or tired and you both are worn out.ReplyCancel

    • Lisa - First, you stop saying things like your kid is suffering. Just stop thinking of it like suffering.

      Second, if you could contain yourself to showing him the swaddle that works, he might be receptive to it, but it makes me think there are lots of helpful hints you are giving him on many things.

      It’s hard. I KNOW. You are in those early animalist/biological stages where your maternal instinct is still on overdrive. Step back. Even better, step out, out of the house. Go away for an hour or two. Let them figure it out on their own.

      I still have to remind myself to chill out when I hear husband lose his patience with toddler. I try to remember that I lose my patience, too, and I get to do it when he’s not around to see me do it. In fact, he pretty much never gets to be around for my mistakes.

      If you are there, you won’t be able to stop yourself from reacting in some way, even flinching. So go, go out and get a cup of coffee.

      Oh, but do show him the swaddle thing. Promise you won’t make any other suggestion if he will just do the swaddle this. exact. way.ReplyCancel

      • Jill - Love that advice, Lisa.ReplyCancel

      • Lisa - PS – Go get two Miracle Blankets, immediately. There is only one way to swaddle and they are AMAZING for a kid who needs a tight swaddle.

        And thanks, Jill. Us control freaks need to help each other out. :-) ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Amen!

    I do think so much of this starts early when we are all hopped up on maternal instinct, “Yes, honey, I know she’s your daughter, too, but when she is crying, every cell in my body screams at me, ‘COMFORT YOUR BABY! STOP HER CRYING!.’” You are driven that is HAS to be you, and we can thank our survival of our genes instincts for that.

    Even if we go back to work (like I did at 14 weeks) the pattern is well set. You have to make a conscious effort to break out of it.

    The only way I could was to leave the premises. If I was around, I couldn’t help but interfere, I couldn’t stop myself.

    Leaving really helped my husband figure things out and let me stay out of things when I was around.ReplyCancel

  • Kmarie - Lovve this. Posted your link. Thanks for the thoughts. Nice to know there are other women with a similar mentality- here I am called ‘new agey’ and ‘unbiblical’ when I suggest the man is equal. ( That does not stop me. My hubby jokes I am the blacklist of all my friend’s hubbies.) Funny I know but it is one of the sad aspects of religion.
    Anyway, it is always so refreshing to read your blog, ThanksReplyCancel

    • Jill - It’s funny to me that some argue this behavior is justified by the bible. I’m fairly certain Jesus would not be an absent, douchebag father. Thanks for the kind words :) ReplyCancel

  • Meg - A-Freaking-Men! I have been saying this type of stuff for years. It gets so old, having my grandmothers and mom comment on “Just how lucky I am” that my husband is so active and involved. Umm, hello?! That’s how it should be. (And it doesn’t make me any less of a Mom for it!) Thanks for writing it out so well :) ReplyCancel

  • Mommy Points - Yes. This. You summed it up well. I would not survive if I did not have an active partner. I may do more in some areas, but he does more in others. Couldn’t agree more with not enabling behavior that you want to change. Great post!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle B - One thing my mom taught me was the a father needs to help. I always remember my dad really being in our lives.
    So lucky that my baby daddy is hands on. I’ve never felt scared or anything to leave him with Jack. I might get some guff now and again, but it’s not much. I also have no problem having my alone time. Whether its a trip to the store or a girls night out.
    If I don’t want to do baths, I’ll offer him a choice: bath time or dishes. He’ll always choose bath time. :) ReplyCancel

  • Janine @ Alternative Housewife - Well said! I am working on being an enabler. I trust my husband and he is a great dad, but I feel like I don’t want to burden him by leaving him to watch the baby alone… And then I complain when he doesn’t know “what it’s like.” But I am getting better. And man does it feel good to just dump my son with him and walk away when I need a break!ReplyCancel

  • TheFeministBreeder - I’ve posted similar sentiments on my facebook page, and been SHOCKED that (women on a feminist page!) are quick to say “But I love doing all the housework/childrearing/houserunning! It’s not my man’s job to help me out with these kids – he WORKS!” And I’m left weeping for future generations.

    But I’m going to post this again, and we’ll see what happens :) ReplyCancel

    • Lisa - Color me shocked, too.

      I do consider keeping up the house “my job” since I was laid-off, but PARENTING?!?! How is that solely a woman’s job?

      Here is the ultimate argument to, “But, honey, I’ve been at work all day, I’m exhausted, I need to unwind and relax.”

      “So, unwind and relax with your children.”

      “Are you crazy? They aren’t relaxing. They are more tiring than the office.”

      “EXACTLY! See you in an hour or two.”ReplyCancel

  • Imogen @ Alternative Mama - Brilliant post! I am also lucky to have a fantastic husband who is also an amazing dad. He works 50+ hours a week, and when he comes home he’s straight on the floor with our 3yo and 8mo boys playing cars. He does everything with them that I do, bar breastfeeding obviously lol, and our kids adore him. I really hit the baby daddy jackpot and it really really annoys me when i see my friend’s husbands and partners bitching and whining about how the mrs expects them to – shock horror – PLAY WITH THE KIDS when they come home from work.ReplyCancel

  • Jen - Dude, (yeah, I said it!) that would NOT fly in our house. I am working this entire weekend, 9-5 each day, and people ask me who is watching our son. Um, his father? The general response? “Oh, that’s so great that your husband babysits!” NO!!! He is parenting his kid. Caring for your own child is not ‘baby-sitting’ no matter your gender or bread-winner status. Really?ReplyCancel

  • Queenie - I have to say, as much as I enjoyed your post and the article… there are a few things that I disagree with. Working is NOT easier. Both working out of the home and staying home have different challenges. As a working mom, I spent my lunch break running to daycare to nurse my baby and has so much guilt/sadness about leaving him that I could hardly see straight. I also do not like the idea that Dad should not play golf on weekends… at all. My H and I both work, and I think we both deserve a little break/time alone on weekends. I agree that kids should come first and parents should spend time with them as much as possible, but some balance needs to happen in order to maintain sanity! Finally, I have to say that in some families and cultures, men and women still hold very traditional roles… and thats OKAY!!! If one parter is unhappy, of course, the issue needs to be addressed… but I think that for some, keeping “traditional roles” works, and we (the rest of the world) should not jusdge them for that. There may be a dad who does not change diapers… but contributes in many other ways and that doesn’t make him a bad dad. Of course, not in MY HOUSE, but maybe for some. Happy Fathers day all!ReplyCancel

  • Michael - Part of me lauds the author because of the NEED for this topic in general. I’m an active father and without me, my son would be absolutely foundering in unwarranted privilege sans guidance, combined with reckless abandon and complete lack of accountability, all rolled up in momentary, convenient affection which would be dropped at a second’s notice, leaving him devoid of comforting arms, confused and forced to make his own way in a world made chaotic by his so-called mother. PARENTS, not just fathers, need to step up to bat and realize they need to be PARENTS, not their child’s “best friend”. Nevertheless I admit, it galls me as a man when I see men NOT taking the reins actively when it comes to their child’s welfare and I DO think the phrase “Man up.”

    Then another part of me wonders very specifically why we never see comparable articles on Mother’s Day since even THIS article notes such fathers are the exception rather than the rule. It does its job: “I know this is your day, but it’s a great opportunity to take a dig at men in general by stating that only the exceptions are lacking in character and social fortitude… but really letting you know that it’s enough MEN this just HAS to be said before our li’l ol’ hearts just burst with the effort to contain our collective disappointment and ire.”

    If the author of THIS article really believed that such men were the exception (as she and the majority of her friends are privileged to understand), this bit of writing wouldn’t have a leg on which to stand.

    Perhaps such “fathers” aren’t the only ones who need to wake the hell up.ReplyCancel

    • Michael - EDIT: I retract. It’s early, and a second reading demonstrated that I missed a key point.

      Sorry.ReplyCancel

  • Steve - I am a Dad, have two little ones (5 months and 2.5 y/o boys) and a wife who stays home. By the time the weekend rolls around, wife needs a break and there are lot of things to do around the house. We each do what we can. We are tired all the time, and don’t have time to do anything for ourselves except a very occasional date. Whatever. Why is this article written on Father’s Day? Another chance to take a shot at men? Boo hoo! Too many people aren’t happy with their lives and this is a poor time and a poor outlet for it. Go Dads!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - I’m not going to speak for Pearlman, but my response was based on the timing of his article. It’s also a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, so I took this opportunity to let it be my muse. And, believe me, I’m all for chanting GO DADS! for those that are contributing to their family and helping out in whatever way they can.ReplyCancel

  • GSchneider - At my best friend’s baby shower one of our friends from high school asked me where my then 10 month old was. I told her she was at the grocery store with her father as I had to put together the shower then host it. She had her 9 month old with her. When I told her where my baby was she was amazed, her semi exact words were “wow, all by themselves, my husband would never be comfortable taking the baby on an outing like that- he just watches her around the house so I can do some housework”. I just stared and said that my husband was really good with our kid and left it at that.ReplyCancel

  • Christine - I’ve read the article, and I want to comment from a different perspective. My dad was this guy, he came home from work, ate dinner, plopped on the couch and fell asleep. On the weekends he went to play golf, both days, if my mother was working, I was left to watch my little sister (7 yrs younger). I never spent any “quality” time with my father, if I tried to talk to him after he came home he informed me he was tired and didn’t want to hear me talk. It sucked, I grew up without a relationship with him, I still don’t have one, and he now says *I* was/am an unloving kid. So to everyone out there, this affects more than tired moms, this affects the kids, big time.ReplyCancel

  • Janalyn - I agree with the “man up” idea for lazy parents (be they a dad or a mom), but as a soon-to-be-SAHM I do wonder where the line of fairness is drawn. I definitely want my husband to spend quality time with our child(ren) and help me out with housework when he can, but if it’s my full-time responsibility to be taking care of the kids and house, I imagine I will feel guilty at times asking him to do more. Any advice on how to combat that possible issue?

    Love the comments on how to guide them, rather than just taking over and doing it “the right” (your) way- I can see how that would become problematic quickly!ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Janlyn, the way I see it, my husband and I work the same hours. I’m the “full-time” parent when he’s gone, that includes office hours, the time he’s commuting and the weeks he travels and stays in fancy hotels and “networks” while having adult beverages and adult conversation. When he’s home, we’re equal parents. Of course, there is give and take. He does his best to make up for that extra time he’s away by letting me sleep in most weekend mornings, but if I know he’s run down or he has a big presentation to prepare for, I step in and take on extra. Yes, being a mom is a “full-time” job, but so is being a dad. Don’t feel guilty for wanting a break and a partner the hours your husband is home with you.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - Thanks, I needed this. I have tried everything and I don’t things are going to ever change. My husband and I have been together for 16 years and we have four children. I feel like I am responsible for the children and everything else. I am so burned out. I think the only thing that will make him wake is leaving with children. I don’t know what else to do. He is just a very selfish person. If anyone has any advice please let me know. ThanksReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*