88: The Super Dad Blues

88: The Super Dad Blues

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Multitasking Mom's Survival Guide

The Super Dad Blues

Certain is it that there is no kind of affection so purely angelic as of a father to a daughter.

~Joseph Addison

It started when I was in the hospital with our first child. I was laid up post-C-section, and so my hubby initially was on solo diaper duty. It didn’t matter that Jon had never changed a diaper before in his life — and that I had years of babysitting experience on my side — baby Evelyn helpfully provided plenty of practice, and suddenly Jon was a diaper-changing ninja.

It was the beginning of what would become a trend: the birth, not just of our darling little girl, but of Super Dad, the one who could beat me in just about any parenting task that didn’t involve lactating breasts.

I would’ve been content to let Jon reign as the diaper-changing king (it gives me an excuse to recruit his help for a few of the really nasty blowouts). But soon it became apparent that he was also a better baby burper. And then a better baby shampooer. (I credit his superior arm strength, which gives him a better grip while holding a wet, wiggly baby under a running kitchen faucet.) For the first year, while I was nursing Evelyn, I held the baby-soothing card at least part of the time. But then we weaned, and suddenly Evelyn decided that her dad was her number one choice for comfort. An unfortunate run-in with a wall? Her dad is the only remedy for the pain. When she’s a river of snot? She turns to her dad’s arms. When she wakes up howling in the middle of the night? Ninety-five percent of the time, only her dad’s gentle rocking can lull her back to sleep.

I realize that parenting isn’t a competitive sport, but c’mon — throw Momma a bone!

I know I should be grateful that they have such a terrific bond; that he’s so willing to be an active parent; that he also spoils me by handling much of the cooking and laundry. And I am grateful. He’s a dream husband and Super Dad, and sometimes I feel guilty about just how much he does. Part of this is due to circumstance. As a teacher, Jon almost always finishes his workday before I do, and he’s a stay-at-home dad during the summers. He likes to cook, and an unkempt house gives him the heebie-jeebies.

But despite my gratitude for his skillful mastery of so many household tasks, it still stings a little when my daughter turns to him over me. Once, when she was crying after a tumble, Jon swooped her up in a big bear hug, and I tried to join in, wrapping my arms around them both. Her chubby little toddler hand flew out and pushed me away. Message received.

It doesn’t help that most of the other little kids I know seem to prefer their moms. It’s a cultural expectation: Crying babies and toddlers are supposed to prefer their mothers above all else, right? There are just some things moms are supposed to be better at. And I’m a warm, nurturing person — so what does my hubby have that I don’t?

Jon tries to rationalize away Evelyn’s clear preference. He notes that I’m naturally more spazzy and stressed under pressure, and Evelyn probably senses that and so reaches for her less-rattled dad.

My maternal insecurity was also eased a little when I heard a stay-at-home mom complain about the fact that her son rushes straight into his father’s arms every morning. She was always a little hurt until her son explained, “Daddy’s soft and warm. You’re cold and boney.” I doubt her husband appreciated that description of his physique, but as a fellow thin-framed woman with hands that can chill a drink faster than the freezer, I can understand the appeal.

I used to joke that I wanted a second baby “because this one doesn’t like me as much as I had hoped.” My mom had warned me that Evelyn would end up a daddy’s girl — “they all do” — so I was more than a little curious about whether I’d regain the baby-comforting upper hand if we had a boy. So far, our son is an equal-opportunity cuddler, so at least that’s a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, I try to cope with my parenting inferiority complex by concentrating on what business executives might call my “core competencies.” I make killer homemade mac and cheese, and my cookies and brownies are always a hit. When Evelyn transitioned from kitchen-sink shampoos to hair washing in the “big bath,” my gentler touch yielded fewer tears than her father’s attempts. I’m always the one to sing to Evelyn when we tuck her in for the night. And sometimes, just sometimes, I go in to comfort her in the middle of the night and successfully soothe her into sleepy silence. And when she lays her head on my shoulder or reaches up to lightly touch my hair, I look down into her little face and know with a certainty: I may not be a perfect mom, but I do okay.

~Nicole Sweeney Etter

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