Why I’m Taking a Step Back So My Husband Can Be a Dad

What Does it Mean To Be a Family?

According to the Oxford Dictionary of English, the definition of family is “a group consisting of two parents and their children living together as a unit”. The paper definition is simple enough (maybe a little too simple?), but what comes with being a family is far more complex and profound.

To me, being a family is about balancing everybody’s needs, compromising on things you like or don’t like, adapting to being one part of a whole and looking after other’s interests at the same time as yours.

Life With Kids

Before we had children, my husband and I were a family, but we only had each other to worry about. We could talk things through between us and decide what was best, or fight for a few hours and not get to any conclusions. However that only affected him and me.

Since having our son two and a half years ago, I think I can say that pretty much everything has changed. My son has been very attached to me from the minute he was born just as I was attached to him. We had 11 blissful months of maternity leave to get to know each other, and I could learn about what made him smile, cry, get angry, excited or frustrated.

My husband didn’t have that opportunity, as paternity leave in the UK is only two weeks long (you can have shared maternity leave now, but that wasn’t available then). He would come home after 6 PM just as our son was starting to get tired and ready to sleep, and would leave around 8 in the morning. While they had a couple of hours in the morning, this time was filled with showers, exercise, breakfast, getting everybody ready to leave the house and everything else that needed doing, making quality time scarce.

When Did I Start Getting on His Way So Much?

I could see that he longed to spend time with our son and that he felt saddened that he couldn’t. Because of this, our son was much more inclined to come to me when he was upset, hungry or tired. The fact that he would refuse to let his dad put him to sleep or comfort him when he was upset would put an enormous strain on me physically and an even bigger on my husband mentally, who wanted so much to help and be more involved.

Since I had more practice and experience with our kid, I started to interfere a lot when the two of them were together. I began to say things like “Don’t talk to him like that! It will hurt his feelings!” or “He doesn’t like that TV show / shirt / cup, let him have another one!”, and oh so many other silly things that I would say that would not only make my husband lose his confidence in his parenting skills but also make our son very confused and frustrated.

It took me a while to realise this, and my husband was kind enough never to tell me to my face, but I was not being very nice. At some point though I did realise, and since then I’ve been trying my best to change, taking a step back when they are together.

What I have noticed since I started making this change is amazing. Our toddler is a lot more comfortable around his dad – they go on adventures together, they go food shopping and have their own little rituals. The more time they spend together and the better quality this time is, the stronger their bond gets.

Why Is This Important?

According to a report titled The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children, “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings and, as they grow older, have better connections with peers.”

I didn’t know about this study or any other scientific reason for fathers to have a good relationship with their children before I decided to move out of the way so that they could have this bond. What I did know was that my husband is a wonderful man and our son can only benefit from spending quality time with him without his mother hovering and dictating how that was going to happen. As I took a step back, I could clearly see the amazing value that he adds to our son’s life and education, and how much they both benefit from that interaction. By giving them the room they needed to make their relationship stronger, I also found room to be a little bit more myself again, where I can just sit back, relax and watch two great men grow.

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