I get a little nervous when readers ask questions like “How much time should a mom expect her husband to spend with her family?” It suggests that some marital discord on this topic is already present.
There are no hard and fast rules but there are certainly attitudes that can encourage or discourage involvement.
I noticed the wording of the question – “her family” – aren’t these his kids too? Certainly if he’s treated like it’s her family, he’ll be less inclined to participate. I hear too many women lament the incompetence of their husbands, express reluctance to leave him in charge of the kids or outright criticize their spouse’s parenting abilities. These are surefire strategies for ensuring that you will parent alone.
I watch, horrified, as women completely leave their husbands out of the equation, operating under the belief that they are just better at it – and then go to express resentment over their levels of exhaustion and stress.
Most fathers that I know want desperately to be involved. They want to play with their children, take them to school, participate in activities, feed them, read them bedtime stories and are even willing to change their diapers (I can’t honestly say they want to do this but who does?).
Husbands just need to be given the chance. And then not attacked for the way they did it.
They just need to be given the chance. And then not attacked for the way they did it. It doesn’t really matter if the shirt is on backwards or the socks don’t match or there’s an extra treat in the lunches.
If we infantilize our husbands (please save me from women who refer to their spouses as one of their children!), they will respond accordingly. All of us live up – or down – to expectations.
On the other hand, constant praise will work wonders. Telling your husband what a terrific father he is, how much the kids enjoy going to the park with him or how much you appreciate either the break or the family time will likely lead to more of the same.
Another determinative factor will be the family’s financial needs. A desire for material abundance places pressure on men (and women too but that’s not our focus here) to work harder in order to earn enough to satisfy the family’s needs and desires. The obvious consequence is that he will be around less. My children have a friend whose family is quite well-off. The unfortunate price is that her father travels quiet frequently and is often only home one weekend a month. We asked our kids which they would prefer…we don’t want to share their answer!
In a marriage where child-raising is considered a clear priority by both parents (and I think that’s most of our marriages today), fathers usually want to be very involved, and if anything, may too often feel excluded by the mother’s attitude.
However, a wife and mother who recognizes both her husband’s needs and children’s needs will work to make her husband an integral part of everyone’s lives – right from the start; sharing not just the frustrations but the joys as well.
In this situation the mother won’t have to worry about her expectations of her husband’s time with the family. They will be well-met.