As dads, we need each other. One of the best ways to grow as a father is to meet regularly with other like-minded guys. We see that other dads share some of the same experiences, and we’re more likely to open up about our own issues.
As dads, we’re not alone, and we shouldn’t approach parenting as though we are.
There are other people in the picture who are key partners in the process of raising our kids. Doing our job well requires some teamwork—and the most common, most important partner is our children’s mother.
As we continue to move through our research-based 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers, Loving Your Child’s Mother is next on the list, and you can assess your fathering in this and 6 other areas using our free profile and master class.
Clearly this will be a difficult one for some dads. Maybe it’s impossible to even speak calmly to your ex; it’s all you can do to be civil and polite around her for the kids’ sake. And there are some dads who have children by more than one mom, which only adds to the complexity. For other dads, maybe you’re married and things are going well for the most part, but there are ways you need to work together better as you raise your children. Or maybe you’re remarried and trying to give your stepkids some stability at home like they haven’t experienced much in the past.
Here are 3 brief reminders about that dad/mom relationship and how to make it an even bigger asset for your children.
Appreciate her perspective.
Your kids’ mom is different from you in many ways, as you know. Sometimes those differences might be a source of frustration for you, and raising kids together often brings them to the surface, whether it’s how you approach discipline, household tasks for the kids, your time commitment to work and family, or goals and expectations for the kids.
It’s a big step if you can begin to view those differences as positives, because they broaden the input and the influence that your kids are receiving. Her approach with the kids probably isn’t bad; it’s just different. She has strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears, just like you do. She sees them at different times, in different activities, and from a different point of view than you do, so her perspective is valuable.
Be a team.
It’s a huge benefit for your kids if you can find ways to work together instead of contradicting or working against each other. Maybe this starts with communicating about how your parenting styles or expectations are different. Really listen to her perspective and assume she has good reasons for that approach. Maybe more than anything, try to embrace the idea of synergy as partners in your parenting. If you’re working together and playing your roles effectively, then the whole really can be greater than the sum of the parts.
So get together often to discuss what you see in the kids. How are they changing? What challenges are they facing? What new experiences are likely coming in the next year, and how can you work together to help prepare them? Compare notes and do some planning or figure out how you need to adjust the previous plan. Also, find ways to lean on each other and encourage each other through the inevitable uncertainties and difficulties that are part of parenting.
Build a strong relationship.
As some have said, “One of the best things a dad can do for his kids is to love and respect their mother.” That might seem impossible in your situation, and none of this is about denying the heroic work many single parents are doing mostly on their own. Maybe the best you can do is respect her as your kids’ mom and cooperate with her in some of the ways described above. But for married dads especially, a strong marriage creates security for the whole family, and it helps your kids thrive in significant ways.
Your steadfast commitment to your wife sets a powerful, lasting example for your children. They’re always watching, and they see more than you realize. They can probably sense times of tension in your marriage. So when you model what a strong marriage looks like, you can help determine whether your children will eventually succeed in their marriages someday. As fathers, there’s no better foundation for all our fathering actions than a strong marriage, and our children feed off that. Not to mention many other emotional and even physical benefits that married men experience.
Dad, you have a built-in partner in this parenting thing. How you treat each other and how well you work together can make all the difference for your children.
Don’t forget: our free online Profile and Master Class can help you see where you stand in key areas of your fathering and will give you a solid action plan to improve. Get started here.
How have you experienced this connection between your fathering and your relationship with your kids’ mom? Share some thoughts and encourage other dads on our Facebook page.
Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion:
- Over the next week or so, tell your kids two or three reasons why you appreciate their mom and what she does for them. Encourage them to tell her “Thank you” for something she does as a mom.
- Do you have friends who like to bash their wives or their exes? Don’t participate. Imagine your kids are listening and take the high road.
- Make a point to thank your kids’ mom in front of your children for ways she has helped you be a better dad.
- Buy your wife flowers, a romantic card or gift—even though Valentine’s Day has passed.
- How is your motivation as a dad impacted by the state of your marriage or relationship with your kids’ mom?
- Is your marriage struggling? Do whatever is necessary to make it better. If you need more motivation, think about the benefits it will bring to your kids.