“Maternal gatekeeping,” when moms control dads interactions with their children, and decisions about children.
Some moms can gatekeep access to kids and control how things are done with respect to the children.
They can assume a position of ultimate authority and disregard what dad says.
They can disregard valid concerns about how the kids are being raised, their diet, sleep, school…
It’s is saddening and frustrating. It’s hurtful for sure, especially for the dad who wants to be involved.
Dads I have spoken to have some really good intuition about children, their well being and development. The problems usually come when dad tries to communicate or to be part of decision making.
The trick is NOT to do these two things-
- Get upset and withdrawal
- Get upset and react in an intense way
If you do either of these, you will be even more easily disregarded. If you withdrawal, you could be painted as an uninvolved dad who doesn’t support the family enough and therefore does not have the right to be considered.
React intensely as a way to show your frustration and you could be painted as a loose canon or an aggressive male… untrustable and dangerous.
It’s hard to not do these things when you feel invalidated.
So that’s where leadership, vision, composure comes into play.
It’s tough when someone else undercuts, undermines and gaslights. It’s tough when that is your own partner.
…even if they are doing mistakenly or inadvertently, which I believe much of it is.
So, dad, here your role if you choose to accept it. Do this for yourself, for your own self respect and for your kids well being.
Be involved. Make it clear that you are not going away.
Don’t slink away, and don’t get angry. Stay centered and set up a time to talk one on one with her to address a particular issue you find important, or to discuss the bigger issue at hand.
Lead the conversation so that it’s focused on the best interests of the kids, no shame and blame. Stay focused on the kids and getting on the same page as your partner. Stay positive, and composed. Stay focused on Solutions. Understand that you have a voice and your own important opinions and intuition.
Do not take the bait of her pain, or blame of you. Don’t go there.
In fact, you could own some of the mistakes you might have made that led you two to getting to this point. You could listen and validate her. That’s what men of strength and integrity do.
In the end though, you make it clear that you are going to be involved and that you’d like things to change.
Last, and not least. If there is a concern you have about the kids, it is not enough to tell her what it is and that she needs to fix it. For example, if you have a concern about diet and the amount of sugar your kids are consuming.
This could be a valid concern. But if she is the one who feeds them 24/7 your view might carry less weight. She might need some help to change up the pattern that has been established.
It is important for you to be part of the solution. It’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, and to tell someone what they’re not doing right, and what needs to be done differently. ￼
You’ll get a lot more buying into your vision for a healthy family, if you step up and become part of the solution. ￼
That might mean for example that you lead by example and prepare healthier snacks for them. Get more involved and constructive about the whole thing…in a non judgmental positive way.
I hope this was useful. Let me know if you have any questions.