We women are notorious for doing it… We complain that we need help, but then we are critical of our husbands when they lend a hand. Raise your hand if you’ve ever done it. I’m raising mine too!
Mentoring other parents like myself over the years, I see this as a repeated issue between husbands and wives. Yet, I don’t think mothers realize how much they shut their husbands out of the parenting equation with this unintentionally critical spirit.
We mothers tend to be hyper-vigilant in our quest to give our child the best care. Typically being the main caregiver, we eat, breath, and sleep management of our child’s condition. We develop an expertise as a triage nurse, special education advocate, and in-home therapist.
Nobody can do it like Mom can!
And while our intentions are noble, therein may lay the problem of growing our child to their best level of self-care or competency.
We mothers can find ourselves frustrated that the fathers of our children become disengaged or develop compassion fatigue when we need to discuss serious issues of concern. Do we ever stop to think that we may have fostered that deterioration by demanding our level of perfection?
When our son was diagnosed with severe hemophilia the day after he was born, God smashed my control freak tendencies to bits. I quickly learned that this disorder would be largely unpredictable in nature. At the same time, I felt passionately that I needed to make sure that someone could competently care for our son if I “got run over by a truck.” This combination of stark realities made it much easier for me to relinquish sole responsibility for our son’s care. Right from the first day, we alternated administering our son’s intravenous infusions of clotting factor. One day my husband would do it. Two days later I would do it.
My husband didn’t infuse our son the exact same way I did, but that was okay. As long as he was properly following the basic protocol, it would be fine. He loves our son. I knew he wanted what was best for our boy, and if I wanted the help, I had to make sure not to shut him out by opening my big mouth.
Interestingly, Jesus assumed competent fatherly care when he preached the Sermon on the Mount:
Some of you are fathers, so ask yourselves this: if your son comes up to you and asks for a fish for dinner, will you give him a snake instead? If your boy wants an egg to eat, will you give him a scorpion? Look, all of you are flawed in so many ways, yet in spite of all your faults, you know how to give good gifts to your children. How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to all who ask! (Luke 11:11-13, VOICE)
If God can expect that basic care out of every earthly dad, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume the same of our husbands.
There will be mistakes along the way. One time my husband put our son into a bathtub with his PICC line fully exposed, putting him at great risk for infection. Guess what? Our son survived! Yes, we had to get some extra medical attention, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Honestly, how many times do we mothers also have missteps as we muddle through the care of our children? Yet, no one is breathing down our necks, wagging their bony finger at us in disgust.
I used to joke that my bare minimum requirement was that our children would be alive when I returned home. My husband took it in good stride. There were plenty of stories of my children’s antics when I was out of town speaking or working on legislative advocacy — dancing on the roof of our van, attending jam sessions with the Irish musicians at our local Celtic Pub, inviting themselves over to neighbors’ homes for lengthy stays. It made for head-shaking, ear-to-ear grin stories over the years.
Fathers have something to offer that we mothers simply can’t — a male perspective. When we push our husbands out of the full care of our challenged children, we deprive our children in addition to depriving ourselves. There is a certain fun factor that dads tend to bring that we moms don’t quite have. They take bigger risks with the kids, which helps them stretch outside their comfort zones. Their strength coupled with a less emotional temperament can also broaden our children’s horizons. Men tend to rough-house with our sons and daughters more. They also have a better handle on certain types of life skills that we women
This Father’s Day, why not give your husband the gift of inclusion in the fullest sense of the word? If you find that you have pushed him to the margins of your child’s care, open the door to his involvement. It may be frightening for you to let go, but your family will be much richer if you take that step. I promise you, it WILL be okay.
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Gary R. Sweeten says
Great article. It is counsel I give to every wife about parenting any child but is ten times more important for parents of a special child. My web has a video with a Role Play of how such triangles work and cause difficulties in a Special Family. It is called “The Impossible Dream”.