You can make a man a father, but only he can make himself a dad. Recently, Spiro and I were asked for advice by a couple that was getting ready to have their first baby. With a lost look in his eyes the father asked, “What’s the number one piece of advice you can give me? I have no idea what I’m doing.” The truth is that none of us have any idea what we are doing. Most men will stress the importance of helping with diapers and the nighttime feedings, and while those things are important, that’s not what Spiro told him. Spiro looked back at the soon to be father, and with pride in his voice replied, “Make sure you take care of your baby mama.” It was one of the proudest moments I’ve had with him since becoming a parent.
My partner is Greek and culturally the father’s approach to parenting is a little more hands-off. Not all Greek fathers are this way, but I caught myself a special one so when it comes to nighttime feedings, changing diapers, organizing the schedule, outings, play dates and dressing her, I pull most of the weight. That’s just the way our family works. I used to struggle with this, I would fight it and say it’s not fair, so and so’s husband does this or I saw a forum that this dad was doing this. Then I realized that this isn’t a game of comparisons because life isn’t a game of comparisons. If that’s how I was going to live I was going to drive myself completely crazy.
Parenting is something that everyone does differently. Being a mother is different than being a father. It wasn’t even necessarily that Spiro didn’t want to do those things, they just weren’t coming naturally to him. When I became a mother, it was the most natural thing to me, aside from shopping. Everything clicked and all the pieces came together — I could read her, I could feel her and I could sense her. For Spiro, he didn’t know what the hell was going on. He knew that he was supposed to love her and knew what it meant to become a parent, but he didn’t know what it meant to be a dad.
With Spiro’s journey, I’ve had to learn to have a hands-off approach. When those moments come that Spiro wants to step up, I need to let him. What I see from myself and so many other moms around me is that we think we can do it better than them so we just take care of it or when dad steps up to do something we are telling him exactly how to do it. When it comes to making lunch, I might know the perfect bite size for her and how to make a balanced meal, where as he only knows how to put food on a plate, but if he wants do try it I have to let him.
For a long time, I found myself micromanaging him and saying “this is how you do it” or “don’t do it this way”. Then one day when I was standing in the kitchen being overbearing and bossy, I realized that I wouldn’t want him doing that to me, and began questioning why I was doing it to him. From that moment on, I decided to let him do the things he wants to do how he wants to do them (within reason).
A perfect example of this took place a few weeks ago, at Zelda’s swim lessons. Spiro decided that he wanted to be the one in the pool with Zelda. I immediately knew it was a bad idea. Spiro gets a little anxious in the pool and doesn’t always exude the relaxing energy needed by Zelda that she would typically receive from me. However, the point was that Spiro wanted to do it, so even though I knew the lesson would go awry, I had to let him do it. If you watch the video below you will see that the lesson didn’t go smoothly, she didn’t emerge from the pool as an Olympian and now has a slight fear of water, but I had to let him do it. This is all part of becoming a dad.
Everyone’s journey is different but it is also the same in so many ways. If you have a baby daddy who has been slow to come around, don’t worry! He will find his way but on that journey, it’s essential not to clip his wings so he has the space to find his path. A lot of what we complain about results because we don’t allow our significant others to find their own way in parenthood. Every mother has a different way of doing things and so do fathers. I challenge all moms to put their hands up and surrender — even if you know the kitchen is going to be a mess or you know your child is going to miss their nap. Let dad find his own rhythm, I promise it will be so fulfilling.