How to Let Your Husband Be a Great Dad

by | Jun 17, 2015 | Blog, Parenting, Parenting Advice | 22 comments

Maybe you don’t need this post. Hopefully, you don’t. It’s pretty obvious. But it didn’t come easily for me. So, I’m going to put it here on the blog. Juuuuuuust in case.

We are all very fortunate around here. We’ve got a fun, loving, involved dad. But, especially with our first baby, I really didn’t do much to help that be the case. I had some things to learn. I had to figure out that the best thing I could do for my husband was to . . . let him do it HIS way.

That’s it. If you can do that, he’ll be all set. Easier said than done, of course.

I don’t mean not being on the same page as far as important family rules and general parenting philosophy. Those are conversations parents should have together and, ideally, agree about.

I mean letting fathering look different than mothering. And I mean not undermining his confidence and authority.

1. Let him try HIS stuff out on the baby.

For newborns, that means letting dad hold the baby not quite just the way I’ve figured out is exactly the best way to hold that particular newborn. It means letting him do it his way.  It means letting him hold the baby like this:

Even though those are CLEARLY not the right way to hold a baby. Clearly.

Pay no attention to the fact that baby Jack is sleeping soundly/having a blast. There’s no accounting for him. ;0)

2. Don’t immediately rush in to rescue baby (or dad).

But even if the baby is fussing, even if the baby is crying, if mom immediately swoops in and takes the baby away, how will dad ever figure it out for himself? It’s a hard row to hoe, but in my experience, letting dad figure out how HE wants to hold the baby, or walk the baby, or feed the baby, or change the baby, means that occasionally *I* won’t have to be the one holding the baby.

Sometimes it’s just not going to work. If a baby is hungry around here, he needs his mama. But that’s not always the problem. If I always rush in and take over, especially if I take over with an exasperated, “Let me have him, I’ll just do it,” dad will never get the chance to become a confident baby-holder. And that’s not good for any of the three of us.

3. Let dad time be about quality, not quantity.

For toddlers and older kids, letting my husband be a good dad means understanding that, usually, mothering is about quantity, and fathering is about quality.

I stay home with the kids. I am a near-constant presence in their lives. Quantity time. We got it. I’m always there, meeting their needs. I make sure they are fed and dressed. I tend boo-boos. I hand out time-outs. I read aloud to them, and admire their drawings and Lego creations, but I do very little in the way of dedicated play with them. We have the occasional tea party or board game. I’m their primary educator. But I’ve got a lot going on at any given moment in this house, so there’s not much playing.

My husband works outside the home. He makes a point of being home for dinner, but most days that means he only sees the little kids for an hour or two. That’s okay, though, because fathering is different than mothering. From him, they get quality time. They get books read aloud, and artwork admired, AND they get dinosaurs played with, and board games suffered through, and train tracks put together. (I have my kids convinced that I don’t know how to put train tracks together OR change batteries.)

Whether we work outside the home or not, whether we homeschool or not, mothering is often about being THERE. It’s about meeting the needs and wants of our children in more of a slow and steady way. Whether I am a drink Tab and lock them outside type mom or a tea party and box fort type mom, what my kids will probably remember most is that I was around if they needed me. But a father’s interactions with his kids are often more about intense moments of awesomeness. It’s nice that my kids can have both.

I don’t need to keep track of the difference in parenting hours logged between mom and dad, because we are really filling different needs for our kids.

4. Let them roughhouse.

Even better, they get types of play with their dad that they wouldn’t ever get from me. They get chased and wrestled with and thrown in the air. They get riled up right before bedtime. And they love it.

Even though sometimes it makes me nervous to watch.

But every bit of research says it’s a VERY good thing for kids to roughhouse with their dads. Which means every bit of research says it’s a very good thing for mom to quit trying to make them stop.

I can always just go take a bath so I can’t hear it.

5. Be willing to be a little flexible.

And while routine and bedtimes are important, sometimes a little more of that quality time they get with dad is more important. It’s my goal to have the kids finished with homework and chores in the afternoon, so that they are available for those times when they’d be able to see their dad. If dad has a later day, I try to let the kids stay up until he gets home. Even if I’m really, really, REALLY ready to not have them around anymore. Occasionally, they get to go on a special outing with dad, even if it means they’ll miss nap time.

Sometimes I have to remind myself how important it is. It’s easy for me to get so caught up in following our routine that I forget about our family’s priorities.

If your kids have a confident, engaged dad, then just keep doing what you’re doing. But if, like me, your natural inclinations are sometimes at odds with encouraging fathering, maybe all he needs is the opportunity to do it his way.

I know around here, we are all better for it.

Here’s wishing your family a very Happy Father’s Day!

p.s. Did you see this year’s free Father’s Day printables?

p.p.s. The newest episode of the Fountains of Carrots Podcast features . . . me. You’re going to want to check it out, to hear a great discussion with my fellow bloggers and friends Haley and Christy about social media, blogging, and parenting in and around the internet. Also you’ll get to hear why people always ask me if my mom is home when I answer the phone. (I usually say, “I think so. But she doesn’t live here.”)


  1. Brigid Hogan

    I don't have a husband or children yet, but these are all reasons why my dad is a great dad — the other big reason that I have always seen and understood how much my parents love each other and the respect and love he shows my mom.

  2. Isabelle

    Fabulous, as usual! I do have to close mt eyes when my husband throws Jude about, but you should hear the little guy's squeals of delight. Also, I am curious, where do you get all those great vintage images from? Have you got a secret stash of old books/magazines?

    • Kendra

      I just poke around in public domain images a lot to find them. 🙂

  3. Mary

    We called the hold the Superman pose. A dad's favorite!
    Great advice!

  4. Amanda

    I have trouble letting him not be me, too. Am I leaving? He needs ALL the instructions. As though he hasn't been a great dad for 7 years. I need the reminder to let go! I really like the idea that fathering and mothering are different. They don't need two moms. They need my husband to bench press them as he is to my toddler now 🙂

  5. Amanda Curtis

    I enjoyed this. I'm all for gender equality, but we also need to remember that men and women and uniquely and differently made. It's when we each bring our strengths to the family that it thrives.

  6. Lauren

    This was wonderful! It sounds like you are mostly directing this to newer moms with very young children, but if this also applied to moms with older kids, I would add: always show love, respect, and consideration to your husband. This directly combats my tendency to criticize and complain. I need to be thinking about the long term, and the fact that my children learn by example. Do I want my daughters to grow up and nag and criticize their husbands, just because that's what I did? So I need to be looking for opportunities to build him up, not just for the sake of our relationship and confidence building for him as a dad, but also to show our children that this is how we treat each other. So if my kids ask, "Did Daddy make this?" I say, "Yes he did, isn't he so thoughtful?" It means during family prayer time, I find regular opportunities to thank God for Daddy and his contribution to our family. Really, I could do better at all of this. 🙂 But one more thing: this also means refraining from complaining/venting to our friends about our husbands, because there is usually a kid nearby with an ear on the conversation. UNLESS you're truly seeking an opinion about a situation, that's different, but how often is that what is really happening? We need to treat our husbands the way we want to be treated, and our kids will absorb that, both in their interactions with him, and in the future in their own marriages.

  7. Nanacamille

    It's so important for both boys and girls to have a dad around while growing up. It doesn't happen in so may homes today as either there is no dad present or the kids go back and forth from each parent's home..Boys grow up not knowing how to be a good man and dad and girls grow up not knowing a dad's love and go looking for it in all the wrong places.

    Isn't that first pic of Jack asleep Grandad after he had sung Jack a round of Navy drinking songs? You and sister loved to rough house with him growing up and he for sure had a different way with you girls than I did.

  8. mel

    This is great. I love number 3 especially. I had a complex for a while because I just wasn't one to really *play* all the time. I include my kids in lots of things,,,we homeschool too, and so we spend a lot of time together. But my dh is definitely the pretend play/board game person.

  9. Eliese

    Point #3, so good. I had not thought of it in those terms before but that captures it.

  10. Catie

    Whoa, Kendra…you mean it is okay that I don't carve out 30 minutes a day for each child as dedicated playtime. You may have just changed my world! I don't have the time/energy/inclination to do that and I feel absolutely like a failure of a mom for it. I shall have to stew on this wisdom for a while. I mean, the rest of the internet says that my quantity isn't enough if it isn't also quality. But it is a damn (pardon my language) lot of quantity.

  11. Ashley Brooks

    "Mothering is different than fathering" is exactly what I needed to hear. Not only is this great advice for dads, but it helped reassure me in my role as a mom. Sometimes I feel like being there all the time isn't enough and I should do more dedicated play . . . but that would leave absolutely zero time for myself. Thanks for putting this in a way that reminds me that the work I do in my daughter's life is definitely enough, even though it looks different than what my husband does as a father.

  12. Mandi

    At my baby shower, we did a little thing where everyone had to do an acrostic to BABY RICHARDS with advice for each letter. I don't remember exactly how she worked it in there, but one of my MIL's big pieces of advice was to let the dad be involved. My husband would be a very involved father no matter what, but my FIL wasn't – he worked a lot and my MIL never LET him do anything with his boys. Only she could do things "right" and so he never did anything hands-on – no changing diapers, no holding the babies, etc. – until the boys were old enough that they could go outside and throw the ball around together. She regrets not letting him get more involved and not having the help. He tries really hard with his granddaughters, but it's obvious that he just don't know how to even be around babies or young children, which is crazy since he had two of his own!

    • Mia Jude

      Same with my FIL. He doesn't seem comfortable holding babies but he is much better when they are older and they can play together. My husband told me his dad never really rough-housed with him or played with him– my FIL is a wonderful man, it's just not his personality to rough house or go outside and throw the ball around. He worked a lot and didn't do much of the day to day child care. It's interesting though because my husband LOVES to rough house with our kids. They get tons of playing and wrestling with their dad. I had a very different experience with my dad than my husband had with his. My dad worked nights and my mom worked part time during the day, so it was my dad who took care of our daily needs most of the time.
      And he was a big rough houser and throw the ball around kind of dad. I played softball for 10 years as a kid and he went outside with me every single day to help me work on my pitching. It was great! My dad is the rough housings grandpa now where my FIL is more of the read books with me kind of grandpa. Best of both worlds! Although nowadays my dad gets worn out a lot quicker when roughhousing! He is 62 but hopefully his grand kids are keeping him young! Happy Father's Day everyone!

  13. Jennifer S.

    Great advice! I especially appreciated the part about fathering being more about quality and mothering being more about quantity. I have noticed that my presence seems to be a source of comfort for my kids, versus my husband is more like a fun toy that they can't wait to play with. I'm ok with being boring old mom though because that means my kids are getting the time they need with me, and being present for them is absolutely the role I want to fill.

  14. Tia

    Sigh. I wish point #3 worked a little to my benefit. My husband is definitely good at quality time — he also puts in a lot of quantity too. But bummer for me, he is SO GOOD at it that he has raised the bar for me. My oldest son seems to not enjoy spending time with me unless I focus really hard on the quality. I need to do the tossing and the tickling and the endless MagnaTiles tower building and reading a thousand books and climbing and chasing and being "fun" or else he basically infinitely prefers dad and doesn't want me to do anything for him. Making sure he's clean, fed and has someone to talk to seems insufficient. But it's a exhausting to have to bring my A-game for so many hours at a time.

  15. Jen @ Happy Little Homemaker

    If I lived closer, I would totally try to find a way to meet you :). Alas, Michigan might as well be on the other side of the world. Hubs was totally into the football baby hold, too. And the part about mom = quantity and dad=quality? YES! I could have gone another 20 years and never quite nailed it down that perfectly. BTW — hubs totally agrees with that one…

  16. fiftarina

    Well written! Me too, sometimes got caught up to follow the usual routine! And it's so true that daddy is better in admiring their work and having quality time with kids

  17. Anonymous

    Great post!!! I think that many women try to understand: «How to make a guy like me?» especially if you want a baby from this man. I tried to find an answer and I think that I found it . Read it too, it can help you to understand many things! Good luck)

Submit a Comment

Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

If you’d like to learn more about what Catholics believe and why, and to be inspired by saints from every era all over the world, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of how to teach your kids about the faith in a way that’s true, engaging, and lasts a lifetime, we can help!

➡️ Get my liturgical living checklist for free when you join my weekly newsletter. Sign up here.

This blog contains affiliate links and sponsored posts, for which I receive a commission. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.