I had been desperately attempting to soothe our newborn son for what seemed like hours. Nothing had worked: diaper change, feeding, nap, bouncy seat, car ride, Teletubbies, lullaby music.
As his cries grew louder, anxiety rippled through me:
Why can’t I do this? I’m his mother.
I had believed that I had all the answers and all the skills needed to be the Best.Mother.Ever. And whatever I lacked, I could get from reading one of the dozen parenting books stacked on my nightstand. I just hadn’t hit on the right approach to quiet the baby…yet.
I handed our son to my husband with hesitation. He was an attentive, helpful and involved dad. But…
He didn’t read that book about sleep routines.
He’s not swaddling him like they told us to in the parenting class.
He’s holding the baby differently than I do. Is that safe?
He’s just winging it!
My husband was the picture of serenity. I wondered if he was deaf – how could he be that calm amidst the screaming? He gently cradled our son against his shoulder and placed his other hand on his back. He sauntered around the house, softly bouncing the swaddled package as he walked.
Within minutes, our son was sleeping peacefully. And my husband became the go-to guy at naptime and bedtime.
“He’s picking up on your frustration and stress. You can’t let him feel that,” he’d say.
While I consulted books and read product reviews of every baby item we purchased, my husband relied on intuition and careful observation. He the first to figure out that our son’s formula was causing him tummy problems and that he liked the swing going left to right better than forward and back. He analyzed the shapes of different baby bottles and knew why some worked well and others didn’t.
Two children and eleven years later, our approaches haven’t changed much. We parent differently. I still try to manage my kids like a corporate project. I read parenting books and wonder whether I’m too much of a helicopter mom or an over-the-top free range parent. I fret that neither is interested in playing team sports and ask them about every detail of their days.
My husband has yet to read a parenting book – he finds most answers by listening, trusting his intuition and observing our kids, just like he did back then. He doesn’t worry about helicoptering or free-ranging – it depends on the situation. He doesn’t pepper them with “how is your day” questions – he knows when to let them do the talking. He points out that neither of us played a lot of team sports and hey, we both turned out okay.
And our kids are turning out okay, too. Not in spite of my husband’s different approach, but because of it.
So every time I find myself trying to get him to parent my way, I think back to those early weeks of parenting – when I discovered that my husband shows his love for our children differently than I do – and that’s exactly the way it should be. It’s how love works.
What makes a dad’s love so powerful? This Father’s Day, Johnson & Johnson is exploring the unique impact fathers have on their children’s health and wellbeing as part of #howloveworks. #howloveworks is a series of content and conversation takes on these questions and more, as we explore the amazing power of love and care.
Discover more about #howloveworks at seehowloveworks.com.
Gigi Ross is the Manager of Corporate Social Channels for Johnson & Johnson. She is also a wife and the mom of two tweens (one boy and one girl). Gigi lives with her family in sunny San Diego, CA.