Acts like a kid
"We'll set up imaginary football fields, and just play ball forever," says Rob Jarosh of Cheyenne, Wyoming, who devotes plenty of silly time to his 3-year-old son, Xander. "Or he'll walk around with a wooden spoon and pretend he's singing into a microphone - he'll give me a cardboard paper-towel roll and have me pretend it's a trumpet."
Why moms are different: Goofing off does seem to come easier to many dads. Seeing their parents feel free enough to be wacky, without concentrating on schedules or how long it takes food to cook, can be a valuable lesson for kids, says Renner, who thinks moms still bear most of the burden for making sure the house is clean, dinner is on the table, and the kids are on schedule.
Dealing with the difference: Since feeling responsible for everything doesn't leave much room for fun, try reversing the roles a little. If your husband can't cook dinner a couple of times a week, make a simple meal of sandwiches and use the extra time to have fun with your kids.
I know I can get too absorbed with getting to the next task, but I'm learning that being silly can do wonders in getting Sylvia to do what I want - like the times I race her to the end of the block when she doesn't want to walk. And with any luck I'm showing her that humor can be a great way to deal with difficult situations.
Waits before he jumps in
"I'm willing to let Ava cry or fuss a little longer than my wife is," says James Bolton of Oakland, California, of their 7-month-old. "If I'm taking a shower and I hear her cry while she's sitting there in her bouncy seat, I'll peek out to see if she's in distress. If she's not, I tell her I'm almost done. But when my wife is showering and hears her cry, she'll get out and grab her."
Why moms are different: "Dads often let their children get more frustrated than moms will," says Pruett. "They seem to feel it's important for kids to learn to sort out problems on their own. It's the way dads prepare their kids for the real world."
Dealing with the difference: Although it may look like your husband doesn't care as much as you do about your child, he does. He just doesn't talk about it.
In the real world that means that the next time the baby cries, let him deal with it his way (just put in earplugs). As long as you trust that your kids are okay, it's better for them (and for you!) to occasionally keep your protective instincts under wraps.