I I I don’t want to read this book, “How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids,” because, frankly, I’m pissed that I didn’t write it. Also, I don’t hate my husband, nor am I in danger of it because WE’RE THE PERFECT COUPLE. DO YOU HEAR ME? PERFECT.
I simply wanted to point it out to you because I love this part from a WSJ article about the book, which is so much better phrased than what I was trying to get at in my Quartz essay.
Let your husband screw up. If Tom bathed the baby, I’d hover over him, pointing out that he was holding her the wrong way. If he struggled with putting her onesie on, I’d roll my eyes. Psychologists call this behavior “maternal gatekeeping,” in which mothers can swing open the gate to encourage fatherly participation, or clang it shut by limiting dad’s interactions with the kids. The result is a self-reinforcing loop: As she criticizes or takes over (“just give me the baby”), he grows more uncertain of his abilities. Fathers should be encouraged to spend time alone with their infants without maternal meddling. If the baby’s onesie snaps don’t align perfectly when he dresses her, who cares?
Nat does things with the kids all the time that I probably wouldn’t do. Case in point: This morning, he gently squirted water on the baby while he was brushing his teeth. She squealed in delight. Sam, wanting in on the action, grabbed a small cup of water and then threw it on her (she wasn’t dressed for the day, thank you, parenting Gods). She didn’t squeal in delight but she wasn’t pleased when, seconds later, she slipped on the pile of water that was now on the bathroom floor.
It wasn’t …. ideal. But instead of huffing at Nat for being (what was he being, exactly? Fun? UGH. THE WORST. WHAT A MONSTER), I just had Sam dry up the floor with a washcloth, soothed the baby, and then we got on with our day.
Here is my simple philosophy regarding co-parenting: Is Your Husband Actively Killing or Harming Your Child? No? Then let them be. Yes? Then intervene. (And then call 911.)
You can’t form a relationship with anyone if someone else is hovering and criticizing your method (your brain already does that for you). Look, I’m not pretending that I’m all “La la la! Do whatever you want! Do you want to put Play Doh on the couch? SURE! GO FOR IT! What is clean furniture other than a social construct made to bring down your development?” as sometimes (actually, a lot of the time) I feel like all I do is clean up after the three of them. And maybe I bristle just a tad at the outfits he dresses them in to go out into the world. But so be it. If a little mess (and a messy child) makes for helpful fathers, sign me up.