It’s Father’s Day weekend, and maybe, like me, you’ve been scrambling a little to find the right gift or the right words to honor the most important Dad in your life. (Anyone else’s husband like mine: next to impossible to surprise and even harder to buy gifts for??)
Thinking about the best way I can honor the amazing father of my own children, I thought about what means the most to me, on Mother’s Day or my birthday. And hands down, the best gifts I ever receive are the ones which show me my husband (or my family, or a friend) listened to something I said and acted on it.
So today, I want to share some insights from dads. Things I, as a mom, didn’t realize dads needed, until I asked. You might not find the perfect gift to wrap in a bow and place beside his breakfast on Sunday morning, but maybe you’ll take away something you can do to show that special man in your life how much you appreciate all that he does for you and your kids.
Back in November at Calvary MOPS, the mom’s group I lead at my church, we invited four men to come talk to us about their experiences as fathers.
The men we invited were dads of kids ranging in age from 3 – 23-years-old. (One was even a new grandfather.) They had been married anywhere from 6 – 18+ years. Each man brought a unique perspective, and their words were so powerful and so wise, it brought conviction to my heart listening back to their answers this week, as I prepared to write this post.
They gave us their thoughts on the best ways to create one-on-one bonds with kids (everything from special Daddy-Daughter dates, to routine time together cooking or doing chores, to spearheading a special Father/Son program through the church), and assured us that even though you can’t always schedule “quality” time, making sure you have plenty of “quantity” time pays off in the long run, when routine everyday moments turn into “quality” unexpectedly.
They talked about what they needed from their wives as their daughters entered the teen years. Pro tip: a little female insight into the mind of an adolescent girl goes a long way. Those “girl secrets” moms and daughters sometimes share are fine, but giving Dad a little heads-up so he doesn’t stick his foot in his mouth on a sensitive subject is always appreciated.
On Letting Dad be Dad
We asked our panel, “how can we as moms do a better job of letting you be dad, without steam-rolling you?” The biggest takeaway: we need to let dads mess up.
Two of the men confessed that if their wives were overly critical (even if she was just trying to be “helpful”), it would shut down his desire to try in the future. One of them laughingly said, “There’s a reason I don’t dress my kids! It’s because I’ve been told so often that I don’t do it right!”
They also expressed a desire to help with the things we usually consider “mom” tasks. Men feel the need to share those bonding moments (feeding, changing, bathing, etc.) with their children as well. Accepting that while dad’s way might be different, it doesn’t make it wrong, goes a long way toward encouraging him to step up more often. (Also, letting him deal with the consequences…ie. he gives the kids ice cream at 8:00 pm, he deals with the crazy bedtime.)
Another common theme: parents need to present a united front. Several of the men agreed, they would feel undermined if their wives opposed them on discipline or consequences in front of the children. They were open to those discussions in private, but they stressed the need to be supported in front of their children, so as not to allow the kids an access point to potentially split the parents and drive a wedge. While a mom or dad might have differing boundaries on certain issues when he/she was one-on-one with a child, if one parent made a decision, the other needed to support and honor it.
On How Kids Change Your Marriage
One of the most impactful segments of our panel was the discussion of how having kids changes marriage for men. Often as women, we focus so much on how our lives change after kids, it’s hard to understand the impact the new dynamic has on our husbands.
The biggest point all four men emphasized: the weight of responsibility a man experiences upon becoming a father is astronomical. And when they see how difficult the early days of motherhood are on their wives, most men are going to try to shield her from the added pressure they’re feeling.
The top tips our panel gave for encouraging our husbands in his new role were,
- Reassure him that he’s still your first love. Let him know that your intense focus on the baby in the early days is temporary, and that you still value and prioritize your relationship as a couple. (And make sure your intense, solo focus on the child IS temporary, unless you want to wake up in 20 years and wonder, “who is this man in the bed beside me?”)
- Don’t overload him the minute he arrives home. (I struggle with this one, I’ll just be honest.) That new level of responsibility and pressure he feels is magnified when he walks in the door to be immediately hit with all the stress of his wife’s day. Giving him even a few minutes to transition in peace makes it more likely he’ll be able to effectively take over with the kids and give you a break as well.
- Give him time to adjust to his new role. One man pointed out, “Moms have a 9-month head start on bonding with the child.” Often in the chaos of newborn days, and adjusting to a new normal, dads lose their sense of purpose. Each of you has to take on a new role, and some people take longer than others to grow into that role. Just give it time.
- Figure out the best way to communicate, “please help me.” If a man feels affirmed and capable, he will hear this request and rise to the challenge, bending over backwards to do whatever you need. But if he feels disrespected or belittled, he will do just the opposite.
On the Power of a Praying Wife & Spiritual Leadership in the Home
We asked the panel about the role the prayers of their wives have played in their marriages, and they were unanimous in their view that it has been vital, not only in their lives as a whole, but also just in the day-to-day.
Things the men knew or hoped their wives were praying for them:
- Courage to do the right thing
- To keep the adversary at bay
- Strength to continue to be a good provider
- Stamina against weariness and exhaustion, which would tempt a man to just give up
- Whatever he needed for the specific day
There was an emphasis on the wife/mother’s role in cultivating a prayer response in the home. We heard stories of miraculous breakthroughs in the workplace on days when a wife prayed for her husband. One dad said, “I can feel the difference on the days when my wife prays for me!”
(And if that doesn’t convict you to hit your knees on your husband’s behalf right now, I don’t know what will.)
Prayer was especially mentioned as the number one tool wives have when their husbands aren’t following God, or aren’t carrying out their God-given role as the spiritual leader of the home.
Additionally, it was advised for a wife to first approach her husband logically on these topics (ie. taking the kids to church teaches good morals, etc.); that she not do anything to blatantly circumvent his role (and thus perhaps drive him further from the church); that she follow her husband’s leading of the family, so long as he did not ask her to do anything diametrically opposed to the Word, and that she grow comfortable drawing firm boundaries around things she could not do in good conscience. And finally, when the husband DOES step up to his rightful place in the home, that the wife relinquish the role willingly.
On How Fatherhood Changes Life for the Better
The panel ended on a positive note, with the question, “How have you seen your life change for the better since having kids?” The dads talked about the joy of making memories with their kids, even in the mundane, everyday tasks of life. They focused a lot on how parenting brings about a realization of one’s own selfishness, and how it becomes a joy to be selfless, giving your heart away as well as your time and energy. Even when things get a little crazy, the memories and the joy of having a family outweighs it all.
Honoring our Husbands this Father’s Day
As we head into Father’s Day weekend, I hope these insights have given you some ideas for how you can honor the special dad in your life. Take some of these topics, ask his opinion, and really listen to his answers.
Parenting is stressful, for both dads and moms. But there is a blessing in working through the stress, learning to communicate, and creating a life of shared memories.
At the end of the day, our husbands will be here long after our kids are grown. We can’t expect a strong relationship in twenty years if we don’t work at it today. Let’s grow closer to Jesus and to each other, and enjoy this crazy ride of life together.
Special thanks to our Calvary MOPS Dad Panelists: JD Coomer, Michael Simpson, Chris Steiner and Dave Tanderup, for sharing your insights and giving me permission to recap them here.
- For more thoughts on letting dads be dads, check out this post I wrote last year.
- I heard a great podcast episode this week on fatherhood (and got a new podcast recommendation out of it as well.)
- This post by Abbey Wedgeworth speaks to the disillusionment some moms feel when their husbands aren’t the dads they’ve always imagined.