I hear the following scenario(s) a lot: Mom and Dad have a preschooler; Mom is at home: Dad has a lot of commitments: Dad would like to have some time to himself; Mom would like some time to herself and therefore would like Dad to spend some time with preschool-aged child OR Dad would like to spend some time ALONE with Mom but Mom is very attached to their child and finds it difficult to leave.(And I know some mothers who feel Dad cannot handle their child and won’t leave child with Dad or child doesn’t seem to want to stay with Dad). Whew! Lots of different things going on here!
I have many thoughts on these scenarios; let’s see if I can sort them out bit by bit.
Scenario #1 – Dad has many commitments. Mom would like a break when Dad gets home but Dad is rather tapped out.
Here are some thoughts:
The first thing my husband said when I said, “Quick! What comes into your head with this scenario?” was this: “Life before children is not the same as life after children. Can Dad back off on some of these commitments for these Early Years?”
Yup, he said that. No prompting, just honesty! I love that man!
So, Number One: BOTH of you look honestly at your commitments outside the home and ask is it essential or not? What is essential right now is raising your child. That has an expiration date and the time to this child-raising is now.
Also, these times may call for tough choices if all these commitments are economically necessary. Could you move to something smaller to live in? Could you go to one car? Could you cut back anywhere?
Okay, moms, before you get all happy over that (“See honey, I told you so! You need to be home!”) please consider this: Dad may need some time to switch gears prior to walking in the door and being handed a child. There may be several ways to handle this: Dads, can you stop on the way home and work out? Listen to something that settles you down on the commute home? Or Moms, can Dad have some time when he walks in the door to switch gears – sometimes feeding the children a snack or having a craft at the ready keeps the children from attacking Dad the minute he walks in the door.
And Moms, make home a place Dad wants to come home to. If all you do is nag and complain, why would he want to be there? Think about this, meditate on it, pray on it.
The other facets of this scenario to consider include these three things:
1. Many small children really only want their mothers at bedtime unless you have worked to make Dad the main bedtime person. Bedtime may not be the best time for daddy-child relationship success and yet it is the time of the day when mothers are completely tapped out.
2. So, if the end of the day is everyone (including the adults) falling apart, it may be your child is completely overtired. If you have a three or four year old who is not napping, they most likely will be ready for sleep at 6:30 or 7. Stop trying to keep them up to see Dad get home from work at 8 PM unless your child gets up late in the morning.
3. Moms, if you are that worn out at the end of the day, look back to your rhythm. Does it have a balance of out-breath and in-breath? Can you gear your whole afternoon toward bedtime? Dinner in the crock pot so you can spend a good amount of time outside in the afternoon? Switch up the routine so your child has a nice warming bath with a lavender foot massage, warm food, warm bed? Snore.
Scenario #2 – Dad would like some ALONE time with Mom, Mom is reluctant to be away from child.
I say this a lot on this blog: It is Attachment PARENTING, not just Attachment Mothering. A relationship with your child is not a substitute for the intimate relationship with your spouse. Check out the back posts on marriage here: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/07/27/more-on-marriage-how-do-you-work-with-the-differences/
However, I think there are many ways one can accomplish this without leaving your child with a babysitter. Much of this hinges on an early bedtime though.
Intimacy needs to happen sooner rather than attempting two hours after a small child falls asleep and is likely to wake up. This time needs to be a priority for both of you. The crafting, the computer, the TV, the reading can wait – let those things be the things that are interrupted, not the special time that holds couples together!
Scenario #3 – Dad is ready for a outings with child; Mom and/or child not sure about child having an outing with just Dad.
Mothers, you have to feel secure. If you loved this man enough to marry him and have children with him, (and assuming things have not changed and you still love and trust this man), please give Dad a chance to do things his way with his child. You may not choose to take your child to Chik- fil- A for lunch, but if Dad does, let that be Their Thing. Please do not micromanage their relationship.
Experiment. Is it better if you leave the house and have Dad and child do something at home or is it better to have Dad and child go out of the house while you stay home? Can Dad take child for a walk regularly to build up confidence on both sides of the coin before a big date out?
The other question is how involved is Dad in regular day-to-day care in general – it is parenting by both Mom and Dad that count.
Dads, be patient. Sometimes you have to get through “mommy-only” phases of development. As our older two grew, my husband and I had a phrase called “PPW” (Preferred Parent of the Week). Sometimes the PPW was him, sometimes it was me. Sometimes it is hard not to take it all personally, but don’t, because it just is. These phases come and go and pass.
And please, Dad pick things that are not too over–stimulating or crazy for the under-7 crowd. An under-7 child would be just as happy going to see a construction site for free rather than a huge tour of the museum or a carnival. Remember that under-7 children, while they love “new” and “special” don’t need to do everything under the sun whilst they are little. New can be a walk where they see something new, a trip to a construction site, shooting hoops in the park…it does not have to be “big and better and best” to get a child’s attention.
Just a few thoughts in this subject,