Three Ways Working Moms Would Be Happier if They Were More Like Dads

I’m a big believer that moms can learn a lot from dads.

In my research with working moms, I hear the typical, and often stereotypical, list of complaints about husbands: They can’t remember to take out the trash, rarely recognize your new hairstyle, and when sent to the grocery store with a full grocery list, they come back with ice cream and beer.

You’ve heard it all before.

However, if you’re willing to look beneath the surface of the things that annoy you about the opposite sex, you’ll find a few things dads do that we working moms might want to replicate…

1. Their inner voice is critical but not condescending.

During my workshops for working parents, I spend a lot of time talking about the mean voice we all have in our heads. During one workshop, I asked participants a simple question: What’s the last terrible thing you said to yourself? The women in the room wasted no time sharing. In a matter of minutes, we created a laundry list of horrible self-talk: “You’re an idiot for forgetting to send your son’s snack to school with him today,” “You have bags under your eyes, and you look exhausted,” and “You never use your gym membership, so you’re paying to be lazy.” Horrifying, I know.

After the women were finished unloading their thoughts, I was curious to hear how the men felt. How did the voices in their heads differ from the examples the women just shared? The men in the room summarized two very important and very distinct differences:

• The voice in their head is critical but not condescending.
• The voice in their head analyzes the situation, not necessarily their performance in the situation.

For example, a man would say to himself “There are bags under your eyes because you haven’t had much sleep lately,” or “You haven’t used your gym membership in a while.”

2. They don’t assume the worst.

Every year my husband and I take a kid-free vacation to Mexico. This year, I decided I would make the most of every day by waking up early to save our spots at the pool. One day, after returning to our hard-fought seats, we were displeased to find a nearby couple blasting country music. While I adore country music, my husband (born and raised in Switzerland) does not share my affinity for the genre. Knowing my husband would say something to the couple, my mind immediately started projecting how the situation was going to end.

Scenario 1: This 250 lb. man-of-a-man (who could easily punt-kick us both across the pool) is going to start yelling at my husband, calling him horrible names and causing the entire poolside audience to think we’re lamer than lame.

Scenario 2: The guy’s going to refuse to turn it off, my husband’s going to get pissed and we’re going to have to move to a crappy set of seats that are only open because the rule followers are still sleeping.

Scenario 3: I’m going to feel horrible every time we see this couple around the resort, and I’ll go out of my way to smile and make small talk so that they don’t think we’re jerks.

As I’m sitting up in my chair, scoping out where we’re going to have to move to escape the country music players, I spot my husband walking over to the music man. In between my heart pulsing, I hear Richard speak up, “Hey man, I don’t mean to be a pain, but is there any way you could turn the music down?” The man kindly apologizes.And just like that, the very dramatic, day-ruining, Lord-we’re-horrible-people event was over in 2.6 seconds.

3. They’re not afraid to take chances.

This last principle can best be seen in my friend Trent, an award-winning creative director, husband and father to 13-year-old Jack. Recognizing that life is short, and teenagers grow up quickly (which we all realize but rarely act on), Trent decided to take a chance. He saved up enough money at home and enough credibility with his boss at work, and he’s taking off on an RV road trip across the country with one mission: document dozens of “firsts” for his son.

Trent’s wife and Jack’s mother will be there every step of the way, but it was Trent who said, “Let’s do this! This is a moment in time with our son, and let’s make the most of it.” Trent realized that there’s a first time for everything, especially when you’re a kid, and he’s documenting these firsts on a new YouTube channel, “Jackal’s First Time for Everything”.

This summer Jack will be trying firsts like surfing on an inland surf pool (no sharks!), hiking a slot canyon, sledding giant sand dunes, paragliding and a ton more. Here he is zip-lining for the first time:

The idea is that you only get to do something for the first time once. So, why not make the most of the firsts with your children?

I love this idea.

Does it mean that you have to rent an RV and drive across the country to do it? Absolutely not. You could simply start filming your kids in the backyard, at school or with their friends as they experience their own firsts.

The point is not to necessarily spend money doing it, but just to do it! If you’re like most working mothers I know, you long for more time with your kids, and this father’s example is perhaps the inspiration you need to take a chance. Take a stance, take some time to determine how you can make the most of your kids’ “firsts” regardless if they’re two years old or twenty-two years old.

Dads aren’t perfect, but there are important lessons we can learn from them along the way.

As mothers, our mean inner voices sometimes hold us back, and our fear of screwing up something in the future causes us to play it safe—we’re often afraid to take chances that have the potential to enrich our lives.

Dads historically have better track records for being kind to themselves, living in the present instead of fearing the future and taking chances to seize the moment in front of them. Of course, there are plenty of social and cultural reasons why men have the luxury of taking a more laid-back approach to life (and women don’t), but that doesn’t mean we can’t steal a page from their playbook every now and then.

What can you learn from the men in your life to make yourself a happier mom? Maybe it’s your husband, your own father a boss at work or a friend from college?

What are they doing that you admire and how can you do more of it?

Like my friend Trent taught me, there’s a first time for everything.