This started out as a letter to my 20-something-year-old daughter. But feel free to jump into the conversation. While I try to never give unsolicited advice — especially to my adult kids — there’s something that is really weighing on my mind. So, if you chose to keep reading, consider this a message from Dad to all you daughters out there.
It’s about the guy who’s going to be the future father of your children.
Be he your husband, your boyfriend or your partner, I just care that he’s the man who’s going to be called “Dad” by the same little kid who will also be calling you “Mom.”
I know, I know. You’re wondering why I’m worrying about this when you’re not even close the world of parenthood.
Let me rewind.
Last week I read a blog post written by a mom. While she was trying to be humorous, it was a story I’ve seen countless times over the years, highlighting how hard she works when compared to the contributions of her husband. This particular story centered around all the tasks the writer does right before bed — while her spouse snoozes away. Cleaning, dishes, packing lunches, laundry, checking in on sleeping kids, personal hygiene, washing windows (seriously?), making “to-do” lists. Well, you get the idea. In her attempt to make herself look like a super mom, she kind of tossed her sleeping husband under the bus. It’s a story that I’ve seen repeated many times over the years. Different moms. Varied stories. Some funny. Some not. But the central theme is always the same: The father of my child is pretty worthless at most of the traditional parenting tasks.
So what does this have to do with you?
Honestly, I hope nothing. You’re a wise, wise person. I’ve made sure you have always known that. But I wanted to point out that we live in a world that loves to stereotype dads as imbeciles who are incapable of nurturing children or are unwilling to participate in (or manage) the domestic needs of a family.
And yes, I fully realize the irony of me talking to you — a 20-something-year-old, bright, talented female — about the impacts of stereotypes on a group of people. I know you understand this topic personally. Thanks for humoring me.
So what am I trying to say?
You know I love breaking things down into threes. So here goes:
1. Don’t believe everything you see in media.
Television shows and commercials love to portray dads as worthless, insensitive, lazy, and clueless bozos. Don’t let that influence you.
And sure, we need a sense of humor about things, but just be aware of how many times a day you see dads portrayed like bumbling idiots. I’m confident you don’t think of me that way. I know my way around the kitchen. I’m comfortable with domestic issues. And when it comes to being a nurturer, we all know I win the blue ribbon in our family for expressing my emotions. But I’m not unusual.
That’s what I want you to know. There’s a world of guys out there that are capable of being adept at every single aspect of parenting. Interestingly, there are a lot of brands who are starting to realize this, as well, and are portraying dads in a positive way — like Subaru, Dove Men+Care, and Huggies, to name a few. Just pay attention to the messages you see daily because there are plenty of companies who see dads for who they really are.
And I hope you see dads for who they authentically are, as well.
2. Pick the right guy.
If you’re ever planning on having children, then — when picking a mate or partner — look for a guy who will be the kind of father you’d like your kids to have.
This probably sounds obvious to you, but work with me, won’t you? This is harder than it sounds.
If you aspire to enjoy a future with a man who views your relationship as a partnership — one where you divide and conquer — then go find that guy with the attributes to make that a reality. Don’t expect to find someone and then change him. It doesn’t work that way.
Look for specific qualities that you value when you are dating him.
If you want to spend your life with a guy who views domestic work as a team sport (where you both have shared responsibilities) then he better show those traits to you long before you’re picking out an engagement ring. If you want the father of your future children to be nurturing and — hold on to your hats — emotionally connected, then the guy who is courting you better reveal those aspects of his inner self to you as you journey through your own relationship.
Don’t settle for anything less.
3. Be mindful as to where you find your own value as a mom.
This is may sound nuts. And complicated. But it’s really the most important thing.
You see, while being a parent is spectacular, it can also suck the self-esteem right out of you. You’ll find yourself questioning your self-worth all the time. Believe me, I speak from experience.
That’s why the first two things are more important than you think. Take your time finding the right guy. And have a healthy, real-life attitude about dads. Expect great things from them because they can deliver! I want you to see the full spectrum of their value in parenting in the same way I expect the father of your future child to see the full spectrum of your value.
And resist morphing into stereotype roles of mothers and fathers that our society loves to portray. I want you — and whoever that lucky future guy is — to believe in the strength and capabilities the two of you have together in raising your family.
See value in yourselves. And see the value in each other.
Don’t ever resort to proclaiming your own value by degrading each other’s shortcomings or contributions.
Give each other room to grow and shine as parents. Hold each other up. And keep each other accountable.
That’s when you’ll find your own true value. And the value of that guy who’s the father of your future child.