Making Dad Feel Special Even When You’re Wiped Out
The year my first child was born was a blur. I spent a lot of it struggling to adjust to the shock of new parenthood, and doing backflips to soothe my colicky baby. I barely noticed my own birthday, and we didn’t do much for Mother’s Day. I just didn’t have the energy to plan anything.
Then, Father’s Day popped up. I wanted to make it special for my husband, but was surprised that I felt some resistance. It was not just the exhaustion; it bugged me that I was supposed to come up with a thoughtful appreciation for his fatherhood, while he got to sleep through all the nighttime feedings and keep up with his friends and hobbies. How do you find an I Love You for Father’s Day when your sense of appreciation is cranky and pouting? It turns out, the answer was effortless.
I gave my husband the gift of a play at the park with our daughter while I took a nap. How is that a gift to him? It worked on two fronts. First, it gave him a chance to bask in our baby’s undivided attention, something he rarely got while I was around. I think he felt like his daughter’s hero for the first time.
Second, it changed the balance of our parenting partnership. We both realized he was capable of doing more with the baby, and it dissolved a leaden ball of resignation I didn’t realize I had been dragging. I saw new possibilities for taking breaks from my demanding role. It made me calmer, happier, and more hopeful.
Planning a simple play for Father’s Day changed the outlook for our marriage. I saw that I could lean on my partner, and realized how much he already held me up. Relief and gratitude reawakened the fun chick inside me. Tell me that was not a gift to him.
If you are running on empty, use Father’s Day as a chance to reconnect with the pleasure of your husband’s presence. Here are some easy, fun ways to celebrate his power to light up your life.
Effortless Family Fun
Plan a low-overhead outing where you enjoy the extra set of hands while Dad enjoys his amazing family.
- Grab the stroller for an after-dinner walk with a stop for dessert.
- Get outside for twenty minutes with a Frisbee, a bottle of bubbles, or a bug-catcher.
- Go somewhere you have a membership: the zoo, the science center, or the gym with babysitting.
- Go to the mall. Grab a snack and daydream about how you would splurge if you won the lottery.
- Establish a weekly Family Outing Day and let Dad choose the first destination.
Restorative Couple Time
If you miss cuddling and connecting, you can bet your husband does too. Give in to that worn-out feeling and grab a quiet, stress-free moment together.
- Lazy Massage Hour: one person controls the TV remote while they massage the other’s feet, shoulders, or head for 30 minutes. Then, switch roles.
- Wine and Cheese on the Couch: After the kids go to bed, raid the pantry and lay out a grown up buffet with wine, cheese, olives and fruit, or beer, nachos, and guacamole. Use whatever feels like an indulgence.
- 90 Minute Jail Break: If your kids are very little and you can’t be away too long, book a babysitter for a micro date. Have apps at your old dating hang-out, or spend a handful of coins at the arcade.
- Bicker-Buster: Skip the stressed-out squabbles with a quiet walk. Bring a tasty drink to keep your mouth busy, and relax together in the outdoors with no pressure for conversation.
- Write it On the Wall: Think of one thing about your husband that you appreciate, and scribble it on a note board or the bathroom mirror. Once a week, replace the message. With only a few minutes’ worth of thought and preparation, you can begin a routine that helps both of you appreciate your partnership.
Give your husband a chance to shine by planning an easy Daddy date.
- Send the gang to the park or pool with pre-packed necessities.
- Set out a project, like a recipe, puzzle, or build-your-own-birdhouse kit.
- Plan a backyard campout and let them set up the tent, cook hotdogs and marshmallows, and tell stories with spooky flashlight face. Or, let them build forts and play with flashlights all evening in the living room.
- Send them shopping for snacks and have a Netflix movie night.
- Commission them to produce a video that captures the essence of Dad.
If you are facing Father’s Day with a frown, consider an effortless celebration. Even in the most gruelling moments of parenthood, happiness is only a moment away if you give yourself permission to work with what you’ve got. Free your mind, surrender to a well-deserved break, and give your husband a chance to bask in your warm appreciation of his Superdad powers.
Laurie is the mom of two energizer bunnies, and the wife of a willing and wonderful Superdad.