Parenting is more enjoyable for the father when the family takes time to appreciate and acknowledge Dad's hard work.
I was blessed to grow up in home where my parents loved each other well. Even today, 36 years later, their love and commitment to one another is legendary. They understand that a good marriage comes from seeking ways to bring out the best in each other, and they let their joy in one another’s successes show.
As kids, we all thought our mom was the best, and our dad was the greatest. It wasn’t until I was married with kids of my own that I realized how much my perception of my dad had to do with work my Mom was doing behind the scenes to, as Dad puts it, “make him look better than he should.”
I also learned after being married for 15 years and counting, that these good things don’t just happen by accident.
Here are a few practices, some big and some small, that I saw my Mom do. They helped make Dad a father worthy of celebration. Her attitude and choices made a difference. Because of how she chose to set my Dad up for success, time and time again, we grew to love and appreciate the best in my Dad.
The best things about these ideas are that they aren’t complicated, you can start small, and you can start today!
1) Make Dad Coming Home from Work a Big Deal.
I know you are tired, Mom. I know you have had a long day. I know you live for the moment you hear that door crack open because help has arrived! I know this because I feel the same way every day! But please don’t let the first words from your mouth be “Well it’s about time, can you please do such and such, and take care of so and so, cause I have been waiting ALL Day for blah-blah-blah.” Just don’t go there. Send the kids out to greet him and make it a big deal. Let the overriding feeling of this moment be: “Daddy’s home, our day just got better!” Give him a few minutes to get out of the “work box” in his brain and into the “home box” with you. And then proceed with your blah-blah-blah-blee-blee-blee-blee. You’ll be amazed at how much better it all works when he knows he’s wanted at home!
2) Grow the Weird Factor in Your Home
Everyone has things that they love that make them unique, including your husband. They are probably the things you thought were so cute when you were engaged and sooooo annoying after you had kids. Embrace them, or at least, some of them. Make them a part of your family culture. It sets your husband up for success, and gives him a chance to build a relationship with you and your kids around something that he feels good about. Just because every other dad you know loves to play baseball with his kids, doesn’t mean your husband has to. Maybe there is something else he loves that can be shared as a family. It can start with you helping to make it happen.
A couple of things we have intentionally grown are:
A.) Josh reading favorite stories and classic novels to the kids. My husband and I both love reading. Either one of us could do it, but it has been a conscious decision for me to let Josh be the one to take over the family reading department. The kids love it and he looks forward to it. They build connections and have something that they share together that is both a good memory and something that they can talk about together. The books have changed as the kids have grown, but their love of sharing that time with their Dad hasn’t, even as our oldest approaches her teen years.
B.) We make watching hockey games a big deal. Josh loves to watch hockey. More specifically, games featuring our favorite team, the Vancouver Canucks.
A few years ago, we started making playoff games a big deal. We buy “playoff chips” and always eat them when the game is on. (Hint: anything becomes special if you give it a special name!) We wear hockey jerseys. We cheer, we make banners and we have friends over for playoff parties. We love to love (and sometimes complain about) the Canucks together.
Here is the kicker. I don’t like hockey. As in: at all. I could so easily spend the night griping and complaining about how he wants to watch that rather than Extreme Home Makeover. But having a great attitude about it and making it part of our family culture, gives the kids something to love about their family. Their Dad is a Canuck fan, and they think that’s cool. Right now, they want to be just like him, jersey and all. My husband feels loved by his family—we’ve embraced some of his weirdness and made it our own, and he thinks that’s pretty cool too.
And hey, if you love home makeover shows—make “Move that bus!” a big moment in your home too—you won’t regret it!
3) Praise Your Husband.
In the workplace he can get bonuses, promotions or recognition—what does he get at home that tells him he is doing his job well?
Take time to notice things he is succeeding at—especially when he does well as “Dad”. When it comes to fatherhood, most dads I know feel like they are just stabbing in the dark until they are told otherwise.
Figure out what it is that means something to him in terms of affirmation, and in the words of another great leader: make it so.
You might think he should just know he is doing well. But don’t we all perform better and make positive changes when someone notices we’re getting it right? It’s true that sometimes he might do well because you have done the work in the background, creating opportunities for him to succeed. Praise him anyway. He needs it. He needs to know that you believe he can succeed.
My Mom had a keen understanding that when she made Dad look and feel like an important part of the family, he in turn, made her feel loved and appreciated for who she was. This made us kids feel loved and secure. It’s a vicious cycle of goodness. I don’t know who started it in my parents' marriage, but like all cyclical things it doesn’t really matter where it started once it gets going.
It just keeps getting better.
Written by Karina Loewen