Archive for April, 2010

How Do You Get Dad More Involved?

I promised to share with you some great “mom questions” I’ve been asked over the past few weeks.  So here goes with the first one!

A number of moms have asked how they can get their husbands more involved in the parenting of their kids.  Common complaints include:  “He just wants to be a playmate, leaving all the discipline to me.”  Or: “He really just wants to do his own thing and not get involved at all in day-to-day caregiving.”

Good question!  And not an easy one to answer.  As I thought about it, I happened to be visiting one of our sons, so I thought I’d get his male perspective on the issue.  He happens to be a very involved Dad himself.  But I asked him what advice he’d give other moms as to how to get their husbands more involved.

His first response put things into stark perspective.  “That’s really a hard one, because we all are basically selfish and want to do our own thing.”  [BTW, by “we,” I don’t think he meant just men.  All of us are basically selfish, though I do think moms get a lot of day-to-day practice in becoming selfless!]  He went on to say that a lot of the men he knows seem to be a lot more focused on their own leisure pursuits than on their time with family.

An uphill battle, for sure—at least in some cases.  And the hard part about it is that, as we say so often at Mom to Mom, the only person you have power to change is YOU.  You really can’t make another person do anything.

Having said that, here are a few tips I’ve gleaned along the way—some from my own observation and experience and some from a great group of moms who dove into this question along with me:

  1. PRAY about it—first, last, and always.  Pray especially before speaking about it with your husband.  How you approach it can make all the difference!
  2. Watch your attitude!  Some of us women are particularly gifted with “attitude,” and if, like me, you are also gifted in sarcasm, watch it.  Another point of prayer….
  3. Use “I….” statements rather than “YOU…” accusations.  “I feel,” “I need,” “I miss,” “I want your input” are far more effective than “YOU always…” or “You never…”  But do tell him what you need, rather than “stuffing it” and letting it smoulder.
  4. Use fewer words rather than many (and this from Linda!)  When it comes to men and words, less is more, believe me!
  5. Help your husband see the difference he makes for your children—and you!  For example, “Honey, he so looks up to you. “ or “She’s just watching for you to notice” or “We just love having you home—and a part of these projects.”
  6. Create opportunities for successful interaction.  Sometimes we get so used to “doing everything” that we don’t even leave space for him.
  7. Avoid a constant critique of everything he does—e.g., he went to the store but bought the wrong brand, he put the baby to bed but put on the wrong PJ’s, he never sets the table right. (Ouch!  But honestly, Woody does still get the fork and knife sides reversed—is it male dyslexia?)
  8. “Change your thinking.”  This from one mom who said she finds she needs to refocus periodically to see what her husband actually does do to help, rather than only what he doesn’t do.
  9. Affirm whenever you can.  Let your husband know, at every opportunity, the things you appreciate about him.  One mom shared how an older wiser woman with whom she would sometimes share her “husband complaints” would always begin by asking: ”Have you made the list?”  The list, that is, of all you love about him—even before the “complaint list” that may come more naturally to us.
  10. Pray some more.  Let “Lord, change him” become “Lord, change me.”  And sometimes—not always, but sometimes—he will change, too.

Not an easy question.  But maybe some of you have something to add.  We’d love to hear from you!

Cute shoes, a Clutzy Speaker, and Great Questions

In the past 10 days, I’ve had the privilege of speaking to two groups of terrific moms—one in North Carolina and one in Wisconsin.  My only regret is that I didn’t get pictures of each of these groups.  (If I get to speak to your Mom to Mom group sometime, will you PLEASE be sure we get pictures?  I always forget that!)  But you can be sure they look a lot like you—and other moms you know.
My morning in North Carolina brought a new “first” in my speaking experience.  I actually spoke sitting down with my foot iced and elevated!  It was quite a scene—I really do wish we had gotten a picture!

I didn’t start the morning with a foot injury.  No, I waited until just moments before I was to speak and then I performed a feat (no pun intended) that would be absolutely non-reproducible, by me or anyone else!   In walking across the room to get some water, I managed to catch the toe of my cute red shoe on the leg of a chair.  Nothing really unusual for me about that.  But read on: my big toe actually came out of the shoe and got caught on the front edge of the shoe—and bent backward!  OUCH!!

“How in the world does such a thing happen?”, you may be wondering.  I could never do it a second time — at least I hope not!  It was all about the cute shoe . . . and I have my friend Kay to blame for that.
Kay is a real Southerner (she grew up in Alabama and now lives in Atlanta), and thus is my chief clothing consult when I speak in the South, where even moms always seem to manage to look really cute all the time.  Or at least that’s my impression.  Those of you who live in the South may take it for granted — but for us northerners, it can be a little bit intimidating.

So I ask my friend Kay about what to wear when speaking in the South.  In the Fall, for example, where it is actually HOT in October.  As I stand in my Wisconsin closet eyeing the woolens that hang there in ready protection against the winters which seem to start here in October, I think of Kay’s advice (only half tongue-in-cheek): “Just wear cute shoes and carry a cute purse.  The rest doesn’t matter.  It’s all about the cute shoes and purse.”
So of course last week when I was speaking in North Carolina I was wearing cute red shoes.  Now these cute shoes are actually very uncomfortable. Very, very uncomfortable.   I bought them really cheap at Marshall’s and only wear them for short periods of time — never, for example, in airports or when walking long distances carrying grandchildren.

Last Wednesday I obviously wore them too long—even though it was early in the morning!  But the women there were wonderful, producing ice packs, towel wraps, a chair to elevate my very red big toe, plus lots of great mom-TLC.  And, despite my clumsiest intro yet, we had a great morning together.

The best part, I thought, was their questions.  They had asked if I would do a Q&A after my talk (which I love doing) and had submitted some terrific questions.  A wonderful discussion grew out of both what I could share with them and the great, creative ideas they shared on various topics.

Then this week I had a similarly great discussion time with moms at a Mom to Mom here in Wisconsin.  (Just for the record, some of those moms had cute shoes, too, I think.  The only reason I’m not sure is that being a northerner, I don’t always tend to notice shoes.)  These moms also had great questions.

And it got me thinking: one of the most important things in life is asking the right questions.  It’s the starting point for so much learning—and growing.  Over the years I have often agonized over what was the “right thing to do” in various situations.  Often when I bring up these questions with Woody he will say, “Well, for starters, at least you’re asking the right questions.”

So I’m thinking that in the next few blog posts I would like to share a few of the questions these and other moms have asked me recently.  And share some of our discussions in response to them.  I say “discussions” because good, hard questions don’t tend to have easy answers.  And I definitely do not see myself as an “”answer lady.”  I am most definitely still learning as I go through my mom-life.  And I learn so much from all of you.

But there are some great guidelines—from God, above all, and also from experience.  And from other moms.  So I hope you’ll stay tuned for some great mom-questions in the future.

And watch out for those cute shoes!

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