Hillary Duff and her husband, Mike Comrie recently became new parents. Hillary has been a mother for less than a month but she has more insight and self-awareness than I had after six (OK, twelve) months of motherhood! She has admitted that leaving her newborn son in the hands of her mom and husband has benefited her relationships — namely her marriage — in ways she could never have imagined.
“Despite my best intentions, I have to learn to let go of the way I do things. My mom has been taking Luca while I do Pilates for an hour and I had to stop giving her directions about how I changed Luca’s diaper,” Duff says.
The new mom has also come to the same realization about her husband, who, despite not “doing everything the way I would do it,” is still tackling daddy duty full force.
“It’s helped me appreciate Mike’s role in [Luca's] life and that we’re doing things with the most love that we can. He’s really hands on and I appreciate any little help I can get,” she notes.
Hillary, unlike many a new mom, is not falling into the trap of being a Maternal Gatekeeper, i.e. micromanaging her husband’s fatherhood (how he changes diapers/holds the baby/feeds the baby and so on) and relegating Dad to the sidelines where he is expected to act as an Assistant Mom.
“I got so annoyed with my wife hovering over me when I would change a diaper. Leave me alone, Honey. I can handle it,” said our friend Mark.
We can forget that parenthood is a sink-or-swim learning experience for us as well. Few women would deliberately sabotage their husbands’ parenting efforts, but perhaps we do it subconsciously. “You’re not holding the bottle right.” “That shirt you put on him is too small.” Dad has to learn as he goes, too. If we always tell our husband how to do something, he will forever be in the helper role, a “B Teamer.” He will never be an equal take-charge parent—that partner we’ve been telling him we want. (And that is what we want, isn’t it?)
Let Him Be the Father He Wants to Be
Our maternal instincts also give us tendencies toward maternal chauvinism—“No one can care for that child like me.” If we want our husbands to be more active fathers, we need to recognize and fight that tendency. Even Gloria Steinem, that most vocal of feminists, said, “We need to know not only that women can do what men can do, but also that men can do what women can do.”
They won’t do it the way we do it, but they can do it. As Hillary Duff has said, her husband is “not doing everything the way I would do it” but letting go has “helped me appreciate (his) role in baby Luca’s life” Couldn’t all our marriages do with a little bit of that?