The best thing you can give Dad for Father’s Day is … a break.
A recent survey by TODAY Moms and Parenting.com indicates that dads think they’re doing their utmost, and a lot of moms aren’t down with that.
I got a taste of this a few days ago, when we took our 2-year-old to the playground. At my urging, NJ climbed way up and plopped down in front of the highest, longest slide she’d ever contemplated.
Her eyes got big and she decided against it. My wife gave me The Look: You’re lucky she backed off. NJ headed to the ladder, but turned back around. This time she looked a little more determined as she sat atop the slide, ready to go.
Waiting at the bottom, all I could think was: If she falls off this thing, I’m toast.
NJ didn’t fall, of course – she slid like a champ, loved it, and did it another 15 times. As proud of her as I was, though, mostly I was just relieved that my suggestion to her didn’t end in tears.
Later on, I felt like a boob for taking it so hard, but the thing is, The Look hurt my feelings a bit.
I was right about the slide. Right, I tell you! And yet… I couldn’t enjoy it because of this perceived slight.
Seeing this survey of 4,000 moms and dads, I know it isn’t just me. I don’t think dads are getting their due. I didn’t get a sense of confidence from the dads’ comments on the survey. Sure, some dads were all “I am a great, involved father” and “good parent, more of a leader” and so forth. (My favorite: “GOOD AND MY PARTNER WOULD AGREE” – brevity and all-caps = win.) But as dads added their anonymous comments to the survey, there was definitely an undercurrent of doubt.
“I am a very good father but I spend too much time working. I'm tired when I get home so I don't feel like my kids get the best part of me. But I do try to make sure we get quality time whenever possible. My wife is a great stay-at-home Mom.”
Humble, honest, self-critical, generous. I hope his wife was one of the “My husband is great!” commenters.
Or this: “I am super – my wife thinks of me as a jerk.” Simple, and succinctly makes two solid points – Dad is good, Mom strongly disagrees.
And – heartbreaking, in a way – this comment:
“I am a great parent & I think I could provide more fun and activities and social interaction than my spouse. She might agree if I actually told her this.”
Dude: Tell her! After rephrasing to emphasize the part about wanting to get more involved. You’ll all be happier.
And then there are the moms. They’re a little disappointed – they think less of their mates than their mates do of them. “He doesn’t spend enough time with the kids” was mentioned a lot (and many of the dads lamented that they had to work so much). Some choice examples:
“He doesn’t help with anything with the baby unless I make him.”
“He doesn't seem to miss the kids. Once he's home, he feels it's his ‘down’ time, but doesn't offer to give me a hand.”
“He has a good rapport with the kids, which is good. I wish he was more involved in day-to-day activities, which is disappointing.”
Another clear sign that dads are trying -- 78 percent say they spend more time with their kids than their fathers did with them. Sure, men and women alike set out to be better parents than they had, either because they came from a bad family situation or because they want to meet the lofty standards their parents set. But 78 percent is a lot – much higher than the 49 percent of moms who say they’re with their kids more than their moms were.
Also: When asked to rate spouses, dads generally rate moms higher than moms rated dads. And there’s also a wide gap on workload perception – almost half of dads think the chores are split down the middle, compared to only 22 percent of moms (that’s because three-fourths of moms think they do most of the work).
Not to say that it was all grousing from the moms – plenty of dads are doing a good job. You can hear the awed admiration from one gushing mom, in particular: “He handles all the vomit, so that makes him my hero.”
So happy Father’s Day to vomit-cleaning dad and all the rest of us who are busting our butts. And hey, forget the necktie this year, OK? We have neckties. I’ll be happy with a kind word and the benefit of the doubt. Remember: Most of us are doing our damn best.
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