A significant portion of my time (and mental energy) as a father involves dealing with skeptics. Whether it’s friends or family, teachers or strangers, many people I encounter assume I am exaggerating whenever I talk about my children. For some reason, being the person who spends more time with them every day than anyone else fails to make me any sort of authority on the subject.
When my daughter was small, she went through 40 to 60 diapers a day. I know, I counted. At peak, that comes out to a diaper every 24 minutes. If you figure she was sleeping a bare minimum of six hours a day, that’s a diaper every 18 minutes. Yet, for some reason, we never could convince anyone that she might have a wet diaper at any given moment. She’s crying? Maybe she’s hungry. Or tired. Or teething. Or too cold. Or too warm. It couldn’t possibly be another diaper.
This sort of thing happened over and over, and it continues to happen today. The assumption is that I’m exaggerating. Or lying. Or wrong. And it’s not because I’m a man; my wife faces the same issues regularly. I think she gets a little more credit for being the mom, but not much.
Once people witness some of this stuff first hand, they fall into two categories: group A is shocked, but generally starts to take me at my word. Group B comes to the conclusion that they are witnessing some sort of freak occurrence, and that I’m still exaggerating. Or lying. Or wrong.
All of this raises a couple questions in my mind.
First of all, is it just us? Do other parents deal with this sort of thing, or is there something about my wife and I that makes us lack credibility? Yes, my wife is the breadwinner and I stay home with the kids, and I frequently wonder how that affects things. However, the latest numbers show that the stay-at-home dad is becoming fairly common, so I don’t think that’s a major factor.
Secondly, what can we do about it? You might say I should let it go. Sure, it might be a little annoying, even a bit insulting, but, hey, sticks and stones, right? Wrong. It really cuts into our ability to let someone else watch the kids. If I tell you that, left unrestrained, my daughter will run straight into the street, and you don’t believe me, then YOU MAY NOT WATCH MY KIDS.
If you then proceed to tell me that I look stressed, and I should leave the kids with you so I can take my wife out to dinner, things start to get uncomfortable. Do I lie to you? Do I confront you? Do I attempt to explain things again and hope that you believe me?
Fortunately, this hasn’t been an issue with paid babysitters so far. Sitters seem to welcome my input, and seem to assume that I know my kids pretty well. Unfortunately, money’s a little tight. The fact is that if we’re springing for a night out, an extra $50 for a sitter can hurt, and an extra $100 pretty much cancels our plans.
I need help. I don’t know any parent who doesn’t. I know a lot of people who are not only willing to help, but who honestly want to help. Some don’t know how, so they ask us what we need, and they proceed to do it as well as they are able. We call those people heroes, and they live in our hearts forever. They will always get a Christmas card from us, and they are always welcome in our home, even when they’re not here to help.
Others don’t know how, so they ask us what we need, and they proceed to do something else entirely. We call those people guests, and while they may be welcome in our home, they are not helping. Usually, they create more work for us, and we will try to make sure their visits aren’t too close together.
So if you have a friend or a cousin or a sister with young children, and you want to help, it’s really simple: assume that they know their kids and make sure you’re actually helping. They will love you for it.