When I wrote the post Motherhood: job or relationship, I had actually intended it to be a post about the father-child relationship. Although we’re three kids and six and a half years in, as parents, my husband and I play very different rolls and have had very different experiences.
When my first daughter was born, I decided to put my career on hold so that I could stay home. I knew my limitations. As a result of being home with my children, I developed an intimate understanding of their daily rhythms and routines–how their days and nights flow, when they’re at their best, when they are most vulnerable, when they fight, when they flight, etc.
Because of this, I have learned to choose my battles. I am willing to tread lightly at times so to not awaken the beast and I do not feel that doing so is an act of defeat. I am generally comfortable allowing my kids to act their ages because I’ve learned to detach from certain behaviors (temper tantrums, outbursts, fighting, temporary personality disorders). In other words, I don’t have to suffer just because they’re suffering but I am here to diffuse, guide, coach, encourage, referee, console, hold, kiss, love, offer logic and rational, direct and redirect. And I’m happy to help. They’re little people with developing minds and bodies trying to navigate a big, confusing world.
My husband, on the other hand, doesn’t have the luxury to easily detach because he isn’t privy to the giggling, good manners or sibling love fests that occur throughout the day that make it easy to forgive and forget the visits to crazy town. After a long day at the office, all he wants to do is come home to his three little girls who worship and adore him. What he gets is something very different. The witching hour can be so ugly in our house that sometimes I wonder why he doesn’t have more “client meetings” after work. I can only imagine how frustrating and disappointing this might be for him.
Barbara Leblanc, Director of The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital, made some great book recommendations for the modern father trying to balance work and home life, understand his role as parent and establish healthy and fruitful parent-child relationships.
The Measure of a Man by Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Ph.D. explores the profound effect a man’s relationship with his own father has on his parenting style. The chapter Barbara specifically pointed out as rather poignant: Why Can’t a Father be More Like a Mother. This book also reveals how mothers can sometime interfere, or hinder, a father’s relationship with his children. Men and women are different, so naturally we will parent differently. And that’s okay.
Working Fathers: New Strategies for Balancing Work and Family by James Levine, Ed.D., Director of the Fatherhood Project and Todd Pittinsky, reveals how closely interconnected a father’s work and home life actually is and how both play important rolls in the health of family relationships and work productivity.
My husband was very grateful for these book recommendations.