Blind spots for dads who think they’re doing a great job
One of the fun things about giving up on retirement is preparing for upcoming job interviews. I probably gave more than 300 interviews myself when I worked in the banking industry from 1999 – 2012.
One of my favorite interview questions is to ask candidates how they eventually realized their blind spot. The purpose of the question is to see if the candidate has enough self-awareness and humility to be a good colleague.
Since the birth of our son in 2017 and our daughter in 2019, fatherhood has become more dominant in my life, so I’ve come up with my own blind spots that I’d like to share. I feel that even some dads who think they are doing a great job have these blind spots.
The goal of this post is to help fathers align their actions more closely with their beliefs. Additionally, by recognizing these blind spots, fathers can develop better relationships with their partners.
Quality time with kids
At the most basic level, I believe there is a positive correlation between fatherhood quality and timing. The more time fathers spend with their children, generally, the better they are as fathers, and vice versa.
Of course, there are different levels of quality time. If a father spends two hours on his phone while at the playground, that time is not the quality of a full two hours of interactive play.
Since 2017, I have committed to spend an average of 3 to 8 hours a day with my children.
For 18 months we homeschooled our son, which meant spending 12 hours a day with him. The hours started to decrease once my son went to full-time preschool at age 4, and our daughter started going part-time 2-3 days a week at age three.
By putting in the time, I felt like a better father. My kids can’t say I’m not there for them. Meanwhile, my wife can’t accuse me of being an absentee father if an ugly custody battle ever happens. Hoo Hoo!
But here’s the thing. If I spend 3 hours a day with my kids, it means my wife spends 5-6 hours a day with them because they have school. If I spend 8 hours a day with them because they are at home, she spends 12-13 hours a day with them.
A father’s blind spot #1: The wrong comparison
Over the past six years, I’ve started to think I’m a better father in my circle of friends. Most people had day jobs, so I had more flexibility to spend time with my children.
If my wife and I had an argument or I felt guilty about not spending enough time with the kids one day, I compared myself to other dads to make myself feel better. Other fathers are a more appropriate barometer than comparing me to my wife. A Pew Research study illustrates that 63% were fathers They feel that they do not spend enough time with their children.
However, if my wife and I are equal stay-at-home parents, I’ve got it A false comparison. Instead, I have to compare my wife’s efforts, which average 50% – 100% more per day.
Imagine working on a team project and doing 50% – 100% more work than your classmates every day. Then your teacher praises your classmates for doing well. You might be a little frustrated!
Dads can really believe that we are We do more housework than we actually do. My wife is always there to supervise the situation when I often sneak away when the kids are doing something unpleasant like fighting.
Thinking I have the magic touch
When my daughter turned two, I started taking both kids to the playground regularly. This way, my wife can take a load off, especially after difficult nights when our daughter doesn’t sleep well.
During our 2-3 hour outings, the kids always play well together and don’t fight. When I say it’s time for us to go home, they comply without crying. When I asked them to finish their snacks they would eat. Easy peasy.
But when I got them back home to hand over to mom, I noticed they were whining immediately. Suddenly, small angles became paradoxical.
Thinking it was just a ruckus, I took them out myself and observed their behavior closely. They performed well with me every time. Each time they returned home they became little hell dwellers.
I was thinking to myself, Man, I must have a mystical connection! Give me the Father of the Year trophy! My wife needs to speak with more authority and conviction for the children to comply. She needs to learn my ways!
A father’s blind spot #2: Not doing the hard stuff
After more trips, I realized why our kids acted out more often when they were with mom than when they were with me. These two things below made me realize that I wasn’t as good of a dad as I thought. See: Dunning-Kruger effect
1) They love mom more.
They love their mom more because they spend 50% – 100% more time with her. She is the night watchman who comforts them if they have night terrors. It is the main woman who bathes and feeds them. Mom has more warmth and love when they are hurt or sick.
As a result, they are very competitive for her attention. They constantly struggle to be caught and loved by her. When each of them can’t get mom’s full attention, they get frustrated or upset.
Whereas with me, I’m more innovative because I spend less time with them than my wife. As they behave better in front of teachers, they behave better with me because I am not always there for them.
In a way, they take my wife for granted because they are often together. And we tend to hurt the ones we love the most.
2) I do fun things with kids.
When we go out alone, I usually take the kids to the zoo, the playground, or the mall. We do fun things and of course they’re going to behave better.
Mom, on the other hand, always accompanies them to the doctor’s office or dentist. I always sit in the car waiting in the car, a relic of COVID-19 that restricts appointments for children to one parent only.
My wife is also responsible for feeding them a balanced diet of vegetables, meats, gluten-free grains and fruits. I, on the other hand, am a cheeseburger lover and love to eat them too! As a result, if I feed them something more attractive, of course they will be more compliant.
Finally, my wife also mainly makes sure the kids put on sunscreen, cut their nails, and brush their teeth. Both of our kids don’t want to do this, so they whine and protest a lot with my wife.
Fatherhood is a job
I have overestimated my efforts and abilities and underestimated my wife’s abilities and efforts.
If I had to do what my wife does day and night, I’m sure I’d lose my cool more often. I also know that my children will stop listening to me because they will take me for granted.
Based on realizing my blind spots, my goal is to do things with kids that aren’t fun. A more balanced distribution of responsibilities is more appropriate. I will try to be more patient and less critical.
It is important to constantly remind ourselves that we are doing our best.
Unstated expectations can be a major reason for divorce.
One partner expects the other partner to do something, but they have no idea because the other partner is not doing it. As a result, the expectant partner begins to resent the other partner’s inaction.
So another goal as a father is to communicate more clearly about my expectations for my wife and listen carefully to her expectations of me. I often ask her where she thinks I can do more. Then, we will find the best thing that we and the children have in common.
The pressure of being the primary breadwinner
Being the primary or sole breadwinner in the family may feel more financial pressure. So, it’s worth having more empathy and appreciation for them from time to time.
Managing family money can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Since neither of us have a fixed salary, retirement benefits, or health care benefits, I feel the pressure of making sure our finances are strong enough to take care of our family.
For example, during the 2022 bear market, I felt a lot of stress because we lost a lot of money. Although we had a diversified net worth to better protect us from downturns, it was sad to lose so much progress.
As someone who writes about money every week, you probably feel worse than the average person during bear markets. After all, the first rule of financial freedom is to never lose money! If you have enough, your goal should be to protect capital to protect your freedom.
Today, I am feeling less stressed due to the recovery in the stock market. However, there is always a constant pressure to provide until children are independent adults.
For all future fathers out there
For men looking to start a family, have some financial goals before having children. The cost of raising children can put a strain on your relationship. Getting your finances in order is something to worry about.
Always try to be supportive and less critical of your partner’s efforts. Fighting is inevitable when you’re tired, frustrated, and feeling guilty. Give each other reset passes.
Keep communicating your calm expectations. When in doubt, spell it out. When your partner cheats on so many things, it’s unreasonable to expect them to be a mind reader.
Fatherhood is hard! But it’s been an incredible journey.
Reader questions and suggestions
Any fathers out there who think they are doing more or a better job than they really are? How did you realize you weren’t doing as much as you thought you were? Once you realized the situation, how did you change? What are some of your struggles as a father?
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