The following article was written by Ben Stahl, the husband of POPSUGAR Moms contributor Kate Stahl, with a few loving edits from his grammatically superior wife.
This past Fall, my wife wrote a story about how our kids like me more. I hope you read it because she's an awesome mom and just as good of a writer, even when she's giving me backhanded compliments and claiming that I really don't deserve our kids' status as favorite. Here's the thing: I don't, and we both know it.
Here's what I'm great at in terms of parenting our kids: providing all the money they need to live, ordering them the best pizza within a three-mile delivery radius, and letting them use their iPads whenever they want. I'm also their go-to guy in the middle of the night (thanks for the dark circles and lack of acute focus, kids!), and I'm awesome at letting them destroy a room without really noticing until it's too late, or at least that's what my wife tells me.
What I'm not so great at? Everything else, mostly because I don't have to be. My wife takes care of it. But let's not undercut the role I play in our family. I absolutely love our children as much as my wife does, but we made a deal when they were born: because I worked in a field where I could make a substantially higher salary than she could in hers, and because we both felt strongly about wanting one parent at home, she became the go-to parent for diaper changes, school drop-off, kid activity organization, and most of those admittedly tedious tasks that help run our home.
What I don't think she realized she was getting as a side effect of that deal was that being the more available parent — the parent who had to do, as she called it, the "dirty work" — meant that she was also going to be the less popular one.
What I don't think she realized was that being the more available parent meant that she was also going to be the less popular one.
I mean, it's counterintuitive. You make them their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and wash their clothes (with a side of nagging them to brush their teeth, wash their hands, and step away from the screens), and what do you get? Labeled as the bad guy. Like, seriously, that's what our superhero-obsessed son calls her when he's not saluting her and saying, "Yes, sir" (a new trick of his that I think she secretly kind of loves).
You see, every night, around 6 p.m., I get to make a grand entrance, I round the corner into our kitchen, and bam, it's like I'm Obama, Jagger, and the Pope all at once. My wife rarely gets to make that big "Mommy's home" reveal. For her, there are no wardrobe changes, no refractory period in which she becomes mysterious and new. She's just always there cooking, cleaning, serving, driving, consoling, and coaching everyone, including me, all the time.
I read a long time ago that infants don't distinguish between themselves and their mothers; they literally believe they are one and the same. In that sense, I'm the only option to be the favorite. They love dad because I make funny voices, give them tiger rides, and pop in and out of the day like a favorite late-show host. But Mom? She is a part of their very beings.
In reality, I don't think my wife really needs to be the favorite parent. She gets validated by our kids in a million small ways all the time. She knows they love her, even when they team up, start chanting "We hate Mommy," and begin brainstorming the ways they'd like to murder her. By the way, that's something that actually happened yesterday, apparently because she refused to buy a Target headband for my daughter, who enlisted her brother on a hate campaign. Even then, my wife knew how much our kids love her and that they didn't really want to "hold her underwater forever until she dies." Not that that craziness is nice to hear.
She also doesn't need validation about how good of a mom she is. She owns her stuff, like her persistent potty mouth and occasional meltdowns, but overall, she puts our kids first in everything she does. There's a reason they come to her first when they need something; they know she's the one that gets things done for them. She is aware of their needs in a way that just isn't possible for me.
I spend most of their waking hours away from them. I only roughly know their school schedules. I couldn't tell you what weeks my daughter is going to Summer camp or what birthday parties she has coming up in the next few weeks. I've never even met my son's preschool teachers. I often tell my wife stories about something funny one of the kids said and watch her nod, humoring me because she's heard it 100 times before, directly from the source. So maybe it's not fair that I'm their favorite, but maybe I'm also the one who needs it more. Even if it is, as she put it, "bullsh*t."