If there is any question I hear frequently from fathers it is, “How can I help? I know she wants my help but I don’t know what to do.”
Guys, I’m not falling for it.
You can’t hear your kid asking for a drink right as your wife (girlfriend, boyfriend or whoever the second parent is in your home) finally sits down to enjoy her book? You don’t hear your child saying she needs to go potty for the hundredth time right as your wife sits down to eat? You don’t see the mountain of dishes or the pile of books or the floor that needs vacuumed or your underwear in the bathroom or the jelly on the counter or your wife busting her ass to take care of all of that? You can’t smell that diaper!?
OR. You do see and hear all of that but you think you help enough by bringing home the bacon? Maybe your wife makes a few less pounds of bacon? She’s still working, she’s still contributing and parenting is still a full time job for both parents. From changing diapers to potty training, from reading just one more story to listening as they struggle through those first sentences on their own, from the first day of school all the way to graduation, and beyond, parenting is 24/7 for both parents.
Maybe your wife doesn’t “work” at all, maybe she stays home with your sweet little tax credits all day while you do the manly chore of chair warming in your cubicle. Actually, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you work hard at a demanding job, IF you give her the benefit of the doubt that staying at home with children all day can be mentally draining and emotionally challenging. It can be physically intense. It can be every bit as exhausting as working outside the home. It has it’s perks, many, and I have addressed that before, and those perks are beneficial to you, as well. If having the person that you chose to have children with home with them, raising them, isn’t perk enough, remember she is also saving you money. Cha-ching.
I’m not done. This may come as a surprise to a lot of men and even some women, cleaning isn’t parenting. Cleaning is cleaning. Everyone in the house makes messes so everyone should be involved in cleaning them up. (In an age appropriate way, obviously.) Cleaning is not a mother’s duty, it’s just a part of life and happens even in houses that don’t have mothers or children.
So you say you want to help, then do it. It’s that simple. It’s not a mystery to decode, chances are she has told you, and loudly, exactly what she needs. If not, you have seen it, heard it and smelled it yourself, so get up and do it.
But don’t stop there.
Acknowledge her hard work. Show her appreciation for what she does manage to get done and realize her “to do” list is most likely longer than your Netflix queue. Show her respect, because your children learn from you, and because she deserves it. Remind her that she is more capable than she is aware and still beautiful in every way. Be her ally. Be her advocate. Be her friend. But above all else, be a parent, because you are not helping, you are parenting your child.