It seems every day blends into the next — you're taking the kids to this practice or that camp, and by the time you lay down at night, you're too tired to talk (or do anything else). Read on for what experts say you need to do to crack that husband code and start communicating better with your man, which, let's face it, will make you better parents too.Then everybody wins!
As women, we may think we understand the mancave and our man's need for said cave, but do we really? Hogan Hilling, author of Pacifi(her) and Rattled, urges women to think about it in these terms: "A woman’s diary is equivalent to the mancave. Would a woman want her husband to read her diary? No."
But a question on many womens' minds is, "Does my husband need the mancave to escape or flee from fatherhood?" Hilling says the answer is no. "The husband needs the mancave to take a break from fatherhood. And so do moms. Dads have no problem taking me time because they don’t carry the guilt the way a mom does."
Dr. John Duffy adds, "Many husbands I work with feel bombarded with the attention of their wives and children immediately when they arrive home. We just need some space and time in order to be fully available and present when we are with our wives and children."
Have you ever corrected your husband's way of parenting the kids? Or done something you thought was inconsequential, like changed your child's outfit after your husband dressed him? (Guilty as charged.) "A father wants to help, but more often than not each time he attempts to complete a task, he is either ridiculed with humor or criticism. Much of the criticism stems from a wife’s inability to distinguish and accept the different ways a man parents," says Hiling.
"All a husband would like to hear from his wife is 'Thank you for dressing the kids.' Not, 'How could you pick that outfit?' Some moms even go to the extent of changing the child’s clothes."
"One husband noted, 'I can’t win. If I participate and involve myself in the caretaking duties, my wife gets upset because it’s not done the way she wants it. And if I don’t, I get the same response. So why even try?" adds Hilling.
Dr. John Duffy adds, "Today's Dad is actually a pretty progressive guy. The idea of diapers or feeding being women's work is all but dead, and I have worked with many dads fighting for more active roles, believe it or not. I think this can be confusing for moms, to be honest, as this is not the dynamic any of us grew up with. And as kids get older, Dads are more inclined to be even more involved in coaching and other extra-curricular events."
"I actually wrote my dissertation on gender roles in marriage and parenting, and another undeniable truth about today's husband/father: he does not want to help in chores around the house unrelated to parenting. Dads seem to want the fun of child raising, without the household mess," says Duffy.
So what is your husband really thinking when you're facing off about parenting? Hilling says many father's are thinking, "I parent like a man. It's different. Not wrong. I should be able to parent a dad's way as long as it doesn’t hurt or risk the child's safety. Dressing a baby/child in clothes that aren't color coordinated will not harm him/her. My priorities are also different. My first priority is to interact and have fun with a child. Not to clean the house or worry about my image as a parent."
"We guys want plenty positive feedback on our parenting. For all of the bravado, the male ego remains pretty darn sensitive to criticism, so please, break it gently. If you tell us we're making a mistake, or we're doing it wrong, you can expect defensiveness and an argument, be it useful or not. Instead, tell us a lot of the good stuff. Chances are, your guy is trying. Give him credit for that," says Duffy.
If you surveyed thousands of wives, no doubt this question would be at the top of the list. So why are men of so few words?
Dr. John Duffy says, "When I work with a couple, the man typically speaks about twenty-five percent of the number of words a woman says. Men often talk from a cognitive and intellectualized perspective, free of emotional language. Women tend to feel far more comfortable using the language of emotions. The issue is societal, frankly. To encourage a man to be more forthcoming, I think he needs to hear that this is desirable and useful. With a little prodding, and a healthy dose of curiosity, most men will come around and expand their emotional language, at least a bit."
So how do women encourage their husbands to say more than twenty-five percent of the words they say?
According to Duffy, you should ask a man how he feels. "Then, accept his honest answer, whether you agree or disagree. If a husband shares his frustration, don't take it personal. Instead of getting upset by his comment, ask him why he feels that way. After he vents, follow it with a comment like, 'I’m sorry you feel that way.' Then give him a hug."
Men and experts alike all seem to agree that it boils down to validation. According to David Simonsen, M.S. LMFT, "If a wife points out how she appreciates something the husband has done for a child, she will have that husband eating out her hand. A guy wants to know that his woman values him in whatever he does. It comes down to being respected. If he sees that being a good dad benefits him in other ways, then he will continue doing it. The stronger relationship a mother and father have, the more secure a kid will feel as they are growing up."
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