I have heard more women than I can count complain about what their husbands do or don’t do – and generally the message is that they are not good husbands/fathers. That’s subjective, of course, but nonetheless, that is the message on blogs, forums, twitter, facebook – you name it. It’s sad, but it’s true. Moms complain more than they compliment. Or at least I think they do. (Not what you were expecting for a Father’s Day post? Bare with me.)
How many women – really – do you hear bragging about how their husband ‘gets’ their kids? How many women do you hear going on and on about how their husband automatically understands how stressed they are and picks up the slack? How many women out there do you hear gushing over how great it is to have a husband that goes to therapy every week and coordinates the IEP meetings too?
Yeah, not many.
Now there are exceptions to every rule, for sure.
Take Alysia’s husband for example. Although he remains anonymous in her writings, we know he went out of his way to find a solution to their son’s need for intense sensory input in the mornings before school. And that’s awesome. But, judging by the comments on her post, rare.
For another example, take Ryan, a SPDBN regular contributor, who decided to take his son for regular fieldtrips all over the eastern seaboard to help him get used to new sensory environments. From malls to an Indoor Track Meet (what is this guy crazy?), he has dedicated his free time – his weekends – to helping his son learn coping skills. And I am impressed. But, this too, judging by the comments, is rare.
And perhaps an even more unusual and rare example would be Erik Linthorst, who took advocating for his son to an entirely new level – he made a film. And dedicated his life to raising awareness for his son and Sensory Processing Disorder. Now that is something most husbands can’t compete with, right?
Perhaps these men are the exception – or perhaps they are just the few who are actually getting credit publicly. Bare with me as I delve into the ‘stereotypes’ of Fatherhood, that I am sure some (most) of the men reading this blog don’t embody, but perhaps many moms reading this think their children’s fathers do. And, of course, why I think these dads deserve more credit than they are getting.
“My husband doesn’t ‘get’ the kids.”
I probably hear this one the most. What women really mean is, “My husband doesn’t view the kids like I do.” Often times husbands/fathers are at work during the day (not to say moms don’t work), and are not getting the same kind of interaction with their kids as a stay at home mom would. Many dads see their kids for shorter periods of time than moms, and may just view their children differently.
If you reframe the thinking to find a positive spin on what your husband does see it might give YOU a different perspective on how you see your husband too. Seeing your child from multiple angels is a gift. Your child is not one dimensional, and neither should your view of him be. Take your husband’s perspective and work with it. It is more valuable than you think.
“My husband hasn’t done the research I have done.”
Let’s assume this is a valid statement. I wrote a few months ago about how us moms get on ‘hyper-focus’ and go full speed ahead after information when our children get diagnosed. And that isn’t an entirely bad thing. But, let’s be honest here – gathering, analyzing and using that information is a full time job which results in your PhD in Google searching. If your husband is like mine, he already has a full time job. How would he fit in another?
If you reframe this together into a mutual understanding that you are the one who is the go-to expert on SPD (or whatever), that will give you a sense of ownership. Not martyrdom. This has worked well at our house – there is no reason for me to have my husband attempt to duplicate the work I have done over the last 6 years. If there is specific background work I have done before a meeting (researching medications, behavior interventions, etc.), I brief him before we attend. Then, we agree on our platform prior to entering the meeting (with doctors, teachers, therapists, behavioralists, psychologists, etc.). Since my husband works in the corporate world, this division of labor where each of us has our own ‘specialty’ or ‘expertise’ is what he is used to, so it works for us. I encourage you to try it.
“My husband is doesn’t follow the routine/rules.”
I get this one when talking to moms about leaving their young kids with their husbands for ‘babysitting’ (let’s be clear here though, watching your own children is not babysitting – it’s called parenting). Children are capable of understanding there are different rules with different people and adapting. In reality, it is actually good for your kids to learn this lesson. School, the supermarket, the neighbor’s house and yes even when your husband is in charge, all have different rules and routines. Kids can and will acclimate. Even your kids. And let’s be honest, everyone needs a little respite from the rules!
“My husband is too harsh.”
Try and give your husband a break on this. Dads FATHER. And in my home, that is very different than mothering. My husband gives less chances on bad behavior (I am totally guilty of giving my kids too many chances for too many things) and on the flip side, plays much harder and crazier than I do with the boys (think full blown lightsaber fights through both floors of our house at 8pm at night). But that makes him Dad. And my boys (and I) love him for this. Plus, my kids already have a mother, they don’t need another one. So, don’t try and take that away from your kids by forcing your husband to parent like you do. Your kids need a dad that FATHERS.
The bottom line is this:
Special Needs Fathers are not getting enough credit from us moms. Period.
Just because your husband didn’t put togther a sensory diet, doesn’t spend his weekends at the mall with your child, or hasn’t reinvented himself as a film maker and dedicated his life to raising awareness for your child’s special needs, doesn’t mean he isn’t playing an incredibly valuable role in his children’s lives.
I encourage you all to help move our special needs community in the direction of honoring the role that special needs fathers play in our children’s life. Social media is dominated by mom-bloggers right now, and my husband sure as hell isn’t going to start a blog any time soon. Well, let’s be frank, at least not one on special needs. But, more and more dads are starting blogs to share their perspective of this journey, and that point of view is incredibly important in our children’s lives.
So, let’s get more dads out there blogging and in the meantime, you can start blogging more about what your husband does well (not just complaining about what he doesn’t do!). And not just on Father’s Day – every day.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing men out there who support, provide for, and FATHER their special needs children each day!