As parents (and if we have chosen a good partner) we try to divide up the labor of running a household. There is so much work to be done. If you have a child with special needs, the fun just gets amplified to the next degree!

But what happens when fathers try to do things their way? As their partners, do we scoff? Criticize? Correct? Do we try to manage the efforts of our child’s father as if he were on our staff team, reporting to us as the manager? Do we try to get him to do things our way? Do we interrupt his efforts to do things, his own way? And if so, do we maybe notice a withdrawal, or a decreased level of engagement from them as we evaluate the details of their care?

I ask, because on all days, but especially on Father’s Day, there may be merit in taking a step back to recognize and honor the myriad of ways that men enrich the lives and households of their children. At times, we may be so busy that we lose patience, and think we have to tell them how to do things. When we do, it becomes as counterproductive, as it would if the father of our child started questioning our own efforts, and trying to “fix” them to be better, faster and more efficient.

And when we take a step back, the behaviors we see may surprise us. We may notice that in our absence, the fathers and the children do just fine. We may begin to appreciate that men have their own (albeit circuitous at times) way of doing things. When we micro manage dads, we may find that they tap out before we even get going. When we try to control what they do, and how they do it, they may decide they can’t win, and do nothing at all. Then we wonder why we are the ones “doing all the work.”

Bringing this conversation to our healing paths, and processing grief, I sincerely hope that you have not had to bury a child. I have. And making end of life decisions for your Daughter as a “couple” is one of the hardest things we have had to do. Details from trying to honor and support the precious life of our baby girl, to trying to plan a funeral can get messy, judged, mis-interpreted and divisive.

And when it comes to grief it gets even more complicated. Just as we care for our families differently, we grieve differently too. If we judge the healing path of another, and especially our partner, we again alienate ourselves from the other, assuming that we have a better way. This makes us feel even more alone. Increased isolation leads to further narratives that we fill our heads with and before we know it, we may be living in two different worlds, even if under the same roof.

On behalf of capable, brilliant, loving, dedicated and resourceful fathers everywhere, I say you have been caring for your families for thousands of years. And we thank you.

If as parents we want more from our partners when it comes to the household, or when it comes to something more complex like grieving, I believe we need to start with focusing on what’s going well. What special “father” techniques, activities, and unique bonds already exist that we can celebrate? Where can we recognize their idiosyncratic “magic” and ways of doing things? And when is the last time we said “thank you” for something they did?

Mutual support in the day-to-day functioning of the household is critical. If we fail to allow our partners to show up in whatever way is most natural for them, we fast track the notion that we know best, and they don’t. Which is of course, not true. And also, it is the easiest way to find ourselves alone with the workload, or grief load since as we criticize, we tell our partners that we don’t approve. We communicate that their way is wrong. Which is silly, when we think about how long fathers have been caring for their children and their partners.

Mothers and fathers are different. The way we interact with our children is different. Our perspectives are different. Our goals may even be different. But one thing we can do to increase the strength of that partnership is to recognize and encourage. Try this if your doubtful. See if you notice an increased engagement by your partner when you thank, appreciate and notice rather than correct, adjust and “fix” their flaws. After all, we have them too.

If we want to do hard things together, like raise families, and grieve, we build synergy when we allow different approaches in the mix. If we stay big picture, we may just notice that having a diaper put on “wrong” or the dishes not quite as sparkly clean as we might like them, is better than doing it all ourselves.

And since men are more than capable, maybe we can learn to just say “thank you.” And watch the energy evolve from one of opposition, to one of collaboration.

Happy Father’s Day to men everywhere, doing their best in whatever roles they find themselves.  This weekend we celebrate all the contributions fathers make to love and support our families.  And if you had to learn how to bolus feed your child through a g-tube, or change a broviac catheter dressing we celebrate you even more.  Thank you for all you do!

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