My husband is a phenomenal dad. He cooks breakfast before work every morning, does our daughter’s hair and coaches her basketball team. However, I think he’s pushing our 10-year-old daughter a little too hard athletically. Every day after school, he has her practicing basketball for hours before she does her homework. She’s a really good player, but I can tell that she’s exhausted and not having as much fun as she used to. Last week, he mentioned hiring a professional coach to work with her. I’m hesitant to intervene because he’s way more involved than other dads I know and I don’t want to nitpick him. What are your thoughts?
— Stephanie in Santa Monica, California
I’m sorry, but I’m not down with the whole “I’ll let his behavior slide because he’s more involved than most dads” thing. As a mom, do you ever get a pass for doing your daughter’s hair or helping with her homework? Of course not, because that’s what’s expected of you as a mother. Can we please start expecting the same of fathers as well? Because making ponytails and scrambled eggs ain’t remotely noteworthy in my book. The bar is so damn low for dads, you could trip over it.
Now, on to your other concerns. As a youth sports coach and parent, I’ve seen it all from moms and dads who take their kids’ games too seriously. Cursing at referees, interfering with the coaches, pushing their kids too hard and just being straight-up jerks. From what you’re telling me, it seems your hubby is heading down that dark path, and we need to set him straight before it’s too late for him ― and your daughter.
Studies have shown burnout is real in many youth athletes who specialize in one sport, in part because of how hard they’re pressured by their parents to succeed. But I get it. I’m a former college basketball player, so I would love nothing more than to see my two girls receive college basketball scholarships. But I also know that if I’m too overbearing, they’ll eventually quit and that would 100 percent be my fault.
But the biggest red flag here is that your daughter seems to be enjoying basketball less than she used to. It’s your job now to be the adult in the room in order to help your daughter and husband find common ground.
The first order of business? Remind your husband that his daughter is only 10 years old. College scouts aren’t watching her games, the coaches are volunteers, and the referees are being paid $20 a game (if they’re lucky). When coaching, I focus my energy on ensuring my players are having fun — because if something is fun, they’ll continue playing and improving (duh, I know). Intrinsic motivation is one hell of a drug.
There’s nothing wrong with telling your husband to back off a bit. Sometimes parents forget that these are cartoon-loving, floss-dancing, elementary school children, not professional athletes. Sure, I love sports, because they teach kids discipline, teamwork, how to deal with adversity and how to win and lose gracefully. But if all that gets in the way of kids being kids, then I have a problem with it.
All parents of youth athletes the world over need to remember that this about the kids, not about us.
I work as an executive for a large company, and my husband used to be an elementary school teacher. This summer, we decided he should quit his job to be a stay-at-home dad to our 14-month-old twin sons instead of sending them to day care. (I make more than enough money to support the family.) We both agreed to this arrangement, and I don’t at all believe in the “mom stays home and dad goes to work” paradigm, but I’m starting to resent the fact that he gets to spend so much time with the kids. What should I do?
— Megan in Atlanta
Now, I’m no doctor, but the diagnosis here is obvious: You’re suffering from a case of mom guilt.
I’ve seen this case play out many times before. You’ve crashed through glass ceilings, paid your dues, and now you’re running things as a highly paid corporate executive. But you feel you’re not doing enough as a mom, since your husband is at home full time with the kids while you bust your tail for the Man.
Don’t beat yourself up over it; it’s totally understandable. I know enough working moms (my wife included) who often feel the same way. I just want to make sure you’re not taking your resentment out on the man who gave up his career for your family ― a decision you say yourself that you both agreed to.
I’m not suggesting you build a statue for your husband for leaving his job, but when you start feeling that resentment creeping in, remember the previous situation. Chances are, you’d feel similarly if a day care provider spent all that time with your twins while you and your husband worked, right? Be thankful that the man you love and trust is able to be with your kids full time. That’s a luxury many families don’t have.
Speaking of being thankful, I’m glad you don’t subscribe to the antiquated “mom stays home and dad goes to work” dynamic, because society has changed drastically in that regard. At last check, approximately 2 million U.S. dads stay at home with their kids. Also, it’s becoming less common for dads to be the main financial provider for their families.
Talk to your husband about doing things to make you feel more involved while you’re at work. It could be a quick video chat with the boys during lunchtime or a few random photos during the day. The goal is to make you feel you’re a part of it all, because you are.
Now, there’s a good chance that seeing the photos and videos may make you feel even more conflicted about the situation, but the alternative ― going all day without any idea what’s happening back at home ― doesn’t sound as if it’s working for you.
During my time as a stay-at-home dad, I made sure my wife had as much bonding time as possible with my daughters without me around. When you get home from work, insist on the same. It could be feedings, bath time, story time, whatever. That time will be invaluable as the boys grow older.
Regardless of what you do, don’t doubt your worth and value as a mom. It doesn’t matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom or the CEO of a company; motherhood is the most scrutinized job in the world. Many of my mom friends tell me how much pressure they feel to be amazing because society keeps telling them they aren’t good enough. You clearly care about your kids, and you’re doing a damn good job ― both as a provider and a caretaker.
But don’t take my word for it. I bet your family would say the same thing.
Doyin Richards is a father, a husband and an author dedicated to creating and celebrating a world of great fathers. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook at @daddydoinwork, or ask him a question for a future column at firstname.lastname@example.org.