Who's the boss?
If we're not careful, jealousy and insecurity can turn moms into control freaks. So says Park, a recovering control freak herself. "With our first child, I was constantly asking my husband, 'Are you making sure he's getting his vegetables?' It feels good to make the decisions."
Trouble is, "the more we control how dads do things, the less involved they want to be," Park says. A recent Ohio State University study of almost 100 couples with newborns backs her up: Researchers found that even dads who believed they should be highly involved in childcare shied away from doing things for their infant if Mom was very judgmental.
So Park recommends trying what she did with her husband and her son, Joe, now 11. "I had to let go and let them have their own relationship -- he's a competent man! If Joe doesn't have a vegetable, who cares?" When you find yourself hovering, Park suggests, leave the room. And if you feel compelled to share some crucial knowledge -- the latest food pyramid for toddlers, say -- try offering him some childcare lit. "That way it's neutral. It's not like you're dictating to him how to do it," she says.
Rethinking the rivalry
As for curbing the green-eyed monster, it comes down to discovering things you do well with your kids. When they're babies, simply breastfeeding them is something Dad can't do, and may be enough. Later on, try sharing your passions, from gardening to karate. It's also smart to take turns doing the fun stuff, like playing with the kids, as well as the non-fun stuff (say, disciplining them). Dad's giving the baths? Great. Make storytime yours, instead of moping.
Most important, moms say, remember how lucky your kids are to have two hands-on parents. Gleicher hopes that having a caring, involved father will one day spur her daughter to choose a guy with those qualities. "She won't end up with somebody she doesn't respect," she says.
Speaking of respect, adds Gerken, it's the best cure she's found yet for parental jealousy. "Just to glory in your husband's abilities as a dad, I think, is key," she says.
Next time Bill pulls off a childcare coup, I plan to be a model of admiration. I'll watch and learn. And I won't begrudge him his troll voice one bit -- as long as talking like SpongeBob can be mine, all mine.
Parenting contributing editor Melissa Balmain is working on books of comic verse for adults and kids.