Back to a little easier. We all know how rare it is for both parents to pull equal weight. Far too often, one caregiver gets stuck with the lion’s share, and most of the time, that’s mom. It’s also mom who gets them up in the morning, it’s mom who feeds them, and it's mom who deals with the meltdowns.
Certainly, dad jumps in when he can, but when things go south, mom is the one everyone runs to… including dad. The problem is so widespread that every issue of Parents Magazine and its ilk has an article or two on “How to Get Dad to Do His Share.” A sea of ink offers advice from therapists, life coaches, and even Gwyneth Paltrow (pre-conscious uncoupling). All suggest different solutions; meditation DVDs, family meetings and even a gluten-free diet are the supposed keys to a healthy, equal parenting household. They’re not.
Oddly, it was in another section in those same magazines that I found the real solution: the Ferber Method. That's right, the secret is simple…
let dad cry it out.
Now, bear with me. I know Dr. Ferber had children in mind when he wrote Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, but what I propose is Ferber 2.0: The Dad Edition.
Yes, mom, all it takes is some tough love and my Ferber 2.0 (patent pending) to give you a break and strengthen dad’s bond with the kids. Best of all, there are only four simple steps to follow…
1. Daddy Bye-Bye Routine
Ferber 1.0 has the “Baby Bedtime” routine; Ferber 2.0 has the “Daddy Bye-Bye” routine. The “Daddy Bye-Bye” starts with mom giving dad an easy-to-follow list. And moms don’t assume dads know what they’re doing. We don’t. Run through the list with him. Now, he may interrupt you with "I know this," or my favorite, "Stop worrying, I’ll be fine.” Ignore his lies and keep on with the program.
Remember your list is not just a how-to guide; it’s an anchor dad can cling to when things get crazy. When the kids are crying for mommy, dad can say, “I know you want mommy, she always knows what to do. Hey, let’s check mom’s list and see what we should do.” Then he will paw at the list like a Cro-Magnon installing a Combi car seat, before throwing it out and plopping the kids down to watch “Wonder Pets.” (At least that’s what I did.)
Just like in Ferber 1.0, this is the most important part of the method. Mom has to leave. If mom stays in the house, the kids will look to her for help, and not dad. “I can hide in my office,” you say. It won’t work…the same kid who can’t smell his own poop can sniff out mom like a zombie looking for fresh brains. Before you know it, mom will be on the floor covered in drool while dad is upstairs playing Xbox. (At least that’s what I did.)
While the ultimate goal is for mom to be in the house and still have dad take the lead, in the beginning, mom has to leave. I still recall when my wife left me alone with the kids for the first time. In fact, I recall it every Thursday with Doctor Spielvogel, during our weekly primal scream sessions. The kids screamed “mommy” for 30 minutes until we did a room-by-room, “NCIS”-worthy search of the property. (“Kitchen – clear!” “Living room – clear!” “Bathroom – clear!”) It was only after I produced incontrovertible proof that mommy had left the house (empty driveway) that they calmed down.
Moms, I know it’s hard to leave, especially when you can still hear “Please, mommy, please, don’t go!” Realize that ten minutes after you leave, your husbands will calm down. Just remember: they will be fine.
Ferber 1.0 has the parent checking-in when they hear the child crying. If you’ve been following my steps then by now you have left the house, so let’s assume they are crying, because they will be. Should you start to feel anxious or want an update, feel free to text or call – from the bar – er, the Starbucks.
4. Stop Checking-In
Ferber 1.0 recommends that each night, parents should increase the amount of time between check-ins. The same goes for Ferber 2.0. Each time dad is alone with the kids, mom will able check-in less. Moms, following these steps is the key to walking confidently out the door, knowing that after your diligent training, the heartbroken darlings will learn to self-soothe… and so will the children.
The author of this post is not a certified family psychologist, pediatrician, life coach or cat herder. Any guarantees for the safety and security of your home are purely theoretical. This method works best when paired with a kitchen full of junk food and a Netflix subscription.
David is a father of three. He’s raising his kids with love and sarcasm. Mostly sarcasm. He spends his days working as a digital producer and writer and his nights testing the patience of his lovely wife. Follow him on Twitter @deSouza_palooza