Mothers and their children have an intense, indescribable bond. Because of this, many mothers can see only one "right" way to relate to her child — her way. But fathers and their children have to find their own unique bonds, and it’s important to allow dad the space to do so.
Let your baby fall in love with dad
Mom is often the primary caregiver (a study by the Families and Work Institute finds that 66 percent of women take more of a leadership role in the care of their children), but that doesn’t mean she’s the only parent who has something to offer her child. In fact, a child’s father has many attributes that mom alone might never be able to provide.
"A mom must trust that the characteristics that drew her to the child's father are what she wants to impart to that child," says Robin May, L.P.C. "Was she attracted to his humor? Calming presence? Gentle strength? Those are the same qualities mom must be intentional about allowing baby to experience."
One parent is not better than the other
There is no "vs." in parenting. There is mom’s way and there is dad’s way, but they don’t have to butt heads. Moms are more likely to sing, talk and constantly interact with their children. Dad’s idea of bonding may include wrestling or simply sitting beside baby and enjoying each other’s company. Neither method is wrong.
Try to avoid commenting or interrupting dad and baby time unless dad asks for help. "Allow dad to grow and learn how to navigate parenthood," adds May. After all, there is more than one way to dress a baby, feed a baby, diaper a baby... you get the idea.
You’re in this together
Parenting is a learn-on-the-job kind of gig. No one can truly teach you how to be a parent. So allow dad the room to make mistakes, explains May (you know you make them too — dad just probably doesn’t notice!). Swooping in with the supermom mentality isn’t fair to dad or baby.
"What we see in counseling is a tendency for men to feel criticized and undervalued and for women to feel unsupported," says Julie Emmer, director of clinical education for Seminole Behavioral Healthcare. "Moms need to be able to give up control every now and then, and dads need to be proactive and volunteer to help. There is a perception that men are not as able as women to care for their children. This is simply not true."