How to Involve Dads in Parenting

Dads. There has been a lot written about dads over time. I tried to think of a clever title for this post, but I didn’t want to be misleading. This isn’t going to be a post about 10 ways to involve dads in parenting. Or 50 ways to involve dads in parenting. Or 5 things dads can do to get involved with their kids.

Because my list isn’t any of those things.

Are you ready for my list?

Here goes.

Dads can do everything moms can do.*

I don’t say this to be anti-mom. Really I love moms. Moms are amazing and do so many wonderful things. You all should know by now that I am a mom myself.

But recently-ish, I read about the concept of maternal gatekeeping. The TLDR version is that it’s sometimes very easy for moms to shut out other people because they feel like they are the only one who knows how to take care of their baby good enough. Of course, most moms would never say that out loud. I would never have said that out loud. But yet I recognize, that especially when my oldest was little, this was essentially what I was doing.

And part of it was the attachment parenting I had fallen into because I worried that if I gave him a bottle, that was it, doom for our relationship. I can recognize now that this is not the case, but in the beginning, I was sucked in hard to all the – I’ll say it – rhetoric. And I didn’t even realize I was doing this.

Believe it or not, this has actually been studied. “SEM analyses revealed that mothers were more likely to close the gate to fathers when mothers held greater perfectionistic expectations for fathers’ parenting, had poorer psychological functioning, perceived their romantic relationship as less stable, and had higher levels of parenting self-efficacy.” While not all of these apply to me, I can definitely relate to the one about perfectionistic expectations and the one about parenting self-efficacy. I read all the books! I thought I knew all the right things to do! (Oh younger/earlier self) And perfectionism has long been a struggle for me. These two factors co-mingled for me I think and made me anxious. Especially in the beginning, where I still thought that I could try hard enough and do this the “right” way. Whereas now, I have realized that there is not a magical formula where if you do x y and z that your kids will turn out well. I know that sounds silly and I would never have said that out loud, it was the way I was living my life practically.

As moms, we do stand at the gate. We can choose to open the gate and let other people in, to let dads in particular in, but others as well. Or we can choose to close the gate and try and carry everything all on our own. Even when it’s not easy, let’s try and encourage each other not to hold the gate shut. Let’s try and encourage each other to let others in.

How to involve dads in parenting

What do you think are the best ways to involve dads in parenting? Do you struggle with maternal gatekeeping? 

*I feel like someone is going to mention breastfeeding and childbirth. It may be true that dads can not breastfeed, but they can still feed a baby. And fed is best. And while they may not be able to give birth to babies, there are many options for them to be beneficially involved in the process of childbirth, like skin to skin care. The support of my husband in labor was invaluable to me. 

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