In ‘stereotypicalland’ Mum spends more time at home looking after babies and kids. Mum is organised, efficient – and sometimes a little bit crazy – keeping the household rolling. She will also have her way of doing things, and will often expect Dad to do things the same way.
But alas - dads are wired differently. Their brains just don’t operate in the same way (– as ‘normal’ mum ones do!).
I was given some good advice as a new mum. It was to expect that Dad wouldn’t parent in the same way that I would.
And that is OK.
In fact, it is wonderful.
This wise person strongly suggested I resist the urge to tell ‘Dad’ how to do it ‘properly’. This will be hard, she said. But you need to hold your tongue. Zip it.
And it was hard.
I remember one busy morning about 10 years ago asking my dear husband to dress the kids when we were getting ready to go out. We had a baby and a toddler at the time. The baby’s clothes were a cute overalls-and-shirt set. When the baby came out wearing the shirt on top of the overalls I wanted to scream “How hard can it be?!” But we were already late and this was one of those many times I needed to take a deep breath and let go of the control.
And nothing bad happened.
Luckily for me, my family has given me many opportunities to practice this. (Who am I kidding, I still find this difficult sometimes!?!) But looking back, some of these little things were actually really important. As they showed me in my new mummy brain, many of the things which seemed monumental were actually not.
I am coming to understand that some of these different methods of parenting – ‘Dad Hacks’ – have merit. Sometimes this genius happens in secret – when Mum is out, and she has left a toddler in the care of Dad. One dad, who shall remain anonymous, confessed to me that when Mum is out, he puts the toddler in the bath to give her her dinner. To him it makes complete sense. Miss One is only going to make a huge mess, and then she is going to need a bath, and the kitchen is going to need a clean...
Dads like to think outside the square and be creative. Why not make less work for himself and have some fun? Thats what dads do – right?
So while much of this genius does occur in secret, some dads are proud of their ‘hacks’. They film themselves and their antics and share them online. If the internet is anything to go by, dads are contstantly coming up with new and innovative ways to ‘care’ for their children.
‘Dad hacks’ are hardly a new phenomenom, but thanks to the internet we are starting to appreciate the true genius that is happening all the time in homes all over the world. Many dads have become internet celebrities – like the dad who uses a vacuum cleaner to quickly style his daughter’s hair into a pony tail (see here)
Research also suggests that dads play differently from mums.
Actually, I made that up.
There probably is some research somewhere that supports that theory, but I have definitely seen it first-hand, in many families. And the kids have got everything to gain from it.
When Mum goes out, some dads I know are particularly good at organising things so that they have maximum time for play, rather than wasting it on the domestics (like Mum does!)
One dad I know sees it as an opportunity to take the kids out to dinner so he doesn’t have to cook. Another shamelessly invites his mum over, knowing she will probably bring a lovely home-cooked meal (and wine!).
“So I see my mum, she gets quality time with her grandkids, the kids get entertained and fully fed plus I usually get to drink all the wine because she has to drive home. Oh, and the kids fill the dishwasher. Everyone's a winner baby! (But mostly me.)”
It’s easy for us Mums to become control freaks about looking after our kids – particularly when they are babies – but, as with most things in life, it’s rare to find situations that have just a single method or solution. This ‘control’ can actually alienate some dads from being involved as a parent – if Dad is always being critisised for the different way he parents, then it can seem easier for him to do nothing, thus leaving more tasks and responsibilities on Mum’s shoulders...
So let’s embrace those crazy ‘dad hacks’. As the ol’ saying goes, there is always going to be more-than-one-way-to-skin-a-cat – or even tie up a ponytail!
Children learn more from watching their parents than listening to them, and I like to think that because mums and dads have different ways of doing things our kids are therefore learning and appreciating diversity (and hey, we all might get a few laughs along the way).
So keep doing what you are doing dads. We love you and we celebrate you.