Moms Contribute to Dads’ Parenting Success

Get out of the way
The most important thing mothers can do to help fathers be the best parents they can be, as either part-time or full-time caregivers, is to get out of the way.

Just as women want to be treated as fully competent in the paid work force, men want to be treated as fully competent at home. They bring their own strengths and talents to the task, but will often do things quite differently than their partners will.

Mothers must recognize that we are still deeply socialized to think that “we know best” because the home is our “natural” turf. We don’t.


— Anne-Marie Slaughter
 “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” The Atlantic
professor of politics and international affairs, Princeton University
former director of policy planning, U.S. State Department

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Do unto your partner …
Men’s and women’s roles as parents are no longer distinct, and we should embrace that.

Moms: Give dads the support we’ve always craved. Ask yourself, is this something I would appreciate as a mother, as an individual? If so, chances are dad will too.

Judge less. Who cares if dad made the mac and cheese with whole milk? Throw condescending words and looks out the window.

Praise duly. Tell dad how much it thrills you to see him reading to your child. Or roughhousing with your daughter in the park. Or wheeling your son around the grocery store. Let your pride (and appreciation) show — often, and genuinely. (Remember how you hate to be taken for granted, right?)

Don’t be shy about asking one another for help or willingly offering it when asked. Treat one another with compassion and respect. Dad is your partner.

Allow yourselves to learn as you go. No matter your gender, sexual orientation or work status, being a parent is tough work. Immerse your family in love, and you’ll both be empowered to be the best parents you can be.

— Dawn M. Roode
editorial director of NYMetroParents

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Share in word and deed
I think the best thing a mom can do to help a dad parent is to back off.

His way may not be your way, but unless it is life threatening, his way is fine. Do compliment! Don't criticize! Sometimes we think we want shared parenting, but our actions and our words say otherwise.

Don't be a control freak!

— Dottie Lamm
Denver Post columnist
author of 
Daddy on Board: Parenting Roles for the 21st Century

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Nurture creates nurturers
Okay, let’s just get one thing out of the way. Dads aren’t born nurturers. And neither are moms.

Nature’s standard-issue hormones (including the estrogen surge and the testosterone slump nature wisely prescribes every father during his partner’s pregnancy and after his newborn’s arrival) will take us parents only so far once a baby has transitioned from the snug cocoon of a mother’s womb (well done, nature!) to our loving but typically uncertain and untrained arms. Then nature tends to drop the ball (though hopefully not the baby). Nurture, ball’s in your court.

Which is why, the way I see it, being a successful father isn’t about showing nature who’s boss if you happened to have arrived on the job with an XY box checked instead of a double X. It isn’t about the parenting books you read, or the apps you accumulate, or the websites you scour, or the media that influences you. It isn’t even about how supportive you and your partner are of each other as parents, or how you divvy up childcare, or how you value each other’s contributions to your family – all helpful in building a better father, but not the foundation of successful fatherhood. It’s about the arms that once cradled you, the hand that guided you through life’s obstacles big and small, the hugs that welcomed you every morning and tucked you in every night, the shoulders that supported you – the unconditional love that helped you daily reach new heights.

In other words: nurturers aren’t born, they’re nurtured. A nurtured boy (or girl) becomes a nurturing dad (or mom) – a successful parent. So here’s to the nurturers – dads and moms – who nurtured us, so we could nurture our own little ones, who will in turn, nurture the next nurturers … the next dads and moms, the next successful parents. Happy Father’s Day!

— Heidi Murkoff
author, What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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Buy duct tape, use wisely
I agree that moms are very influential in a dad's success as a parent. The No. 1 thing we can do is stop questioning their parenting decisions. This takes a lot of self-discipline and probably some duct tape to keep our mouths shut.

Stop asking dad questions like: Why would you give the kids chocolate chip cookies 20 minutes before dinner? Why would you tell the kids they can watch TV before homework is done? And so on. You see why the duct tape might be necessary.

I have never been successful at letting go and allowing my husband to parent as he sees fit. But I am hopeful that someday I will succeed at this.

— Kelcey Kintner
The Mama Bird Diaries

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Remove barriers
The No. 1 factor contributing to a dad's success as a parent is hisdesire to be a deeply engaged part of his kids' daily lives. Whether that means going to bat for family-friendly work policies or training the school to making sure his email address is on every list as well as mom's, it scopes across the big picture and the small details. 

But mothers have a massive role to play, as encouragers, as the givers of space and the remover of barriers to those critical father-child relationships. Assuming being with dad is a safe place to be, the greatest gifts mom can give are:

  • her trust, and
  • her acceptance that his way may not be the same as hers, but there are many paths to happy and well-loved children.

Sometimes we just have to get out of the way and allow our men be dads.

— Chrysula Winegar
founder of When You Wake Up A Mother
community manager, United Nations Foundation's Million Moms Challenge

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He’s not a hairier mom
I think a dad needs to be his own man when it comes to fatherhood, finding his own path to being the best dad he can be.

The most important thing moms can do to support dads is to get out of the way and let him figure things out for himself. It's good for kids to have two parents, each with their own style. Dad shouldn't just be a hairier version of mom.

– Anna Fader
Mommy Poppins

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I'm not certain I necessarily agree that moms are the primary factor in contributing to a dad's success as a parent. I'm also not sure what "success" as a parent really means.

As parents, whether we are a mom and a dad, or two dads, or two moms, or single parents, we often place an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves to be "good parents." Meanwhile, parenting is a joyful yet humbling journey; one throughout which my husband and I are reminded each day of our shortcomings, and of how we must trust one another with the care of what we hold dearest: our family, our children, and ultimately our relationship.

Parenting is a story crowned by beautiful moments of pure joy, but also peppered with frustrations, feelings of inadequacy, and a lot of worry. It's a tough job, but one that can be made easier, and certainly more joyful, when both partners support each other in their strengths and weaknesses. Or likewise, when single parents have the support of close family and friends.

My husband's support helps me to become a better parent, and in turn, I hope my support and trust in him helps him know and feel how much the love he parents with helps keep our family in balance. 

 Anna Grossman
founder and director, 
The Hudson River Park Mothers Group


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