A Mother’s Day Reflection on Teamwork

A fatherhood post just before Mother’s Day? Calendar malfunction? Gender confusion? Hardly.

All around us are the commercial trappings of Mother’s Day: flowers, flowers, and more flowers, the Hallmark aisle exploding at CVS, jewelry promos, restaurant offers, smiling moms, smiling kids. Not mentioned (naturally) are the 24 million kids being raised in the U.S. without their dad, and the 400% higher likelihood that these single moms and their kids are living in poverty compared to their married counterparts. Maybe these single Moms will get an emotional boost and a bit of a respite on Mother’s Day. I hope so, because their uphill struggle to raise kids that stay in school, learn the three R’s, don’t do drugs, don’t get arrested, and don’t get pregnant will resume on Monday.

To be sure, ALL parents struggle to raise good kids who can find their place in the world. And some single moms raise rock stars, while some two parent families raise axe murderers — proof that there’s just no silver bullet that guarantees good outcomes in life. But the data is clear: all things considered, kids that have a loving dad in their corner stand a far better chance than those who don’t. So if the Fathers & Families billboard message – Good fathers make a difference – holds even a modicum of wisdom, then the next question might be: What do good fathers do?

According to one of the nine tenants of my Fatherhood Performance Commitment, good dads commit to partnering more effectively with their wives in giving their kids what they need. Partnering…yes, as in teamwork where complementary roles are defined and understood, where performance is watched and evaluated, and where changes are made where needed. (Go here for more information on the nine tenants: http://fathersfamilies.com/fatherhood-performance-commitment/)

Victory Starts at Home…

Those of us thrilled with the success of the Philadelphia Eagles and Villanova Wildcats marveled at a singular attribute common to both teams: teamwork. The right players were selected for the right roles on a high performing team where each player contributed to a team effort which optimized each contribution and created something well beyond the mere sum of individual performances.

What do roles and teamwork have to do with raising kids? Plenty. Listen to what Garry Cobb, former Eagles star, told me about moms and dads working together and what they can accomplish as a team of two:

Besides GCobb, the fathers I interviewed for my book, Fatherhood: In Pieces, had a lot to say about the roles of moms and dads, including these excerpts:

  • She was more disciplined with the kids and set certain requirements. I would give in.
  • There is no question in my mind that things go a lot better if parents are on the same page.
  • My wife and I have many similar values. I think we want the same things for our kids and have the same objectives. The tactics can be very different.
  • My kids would go to my wife with their problems. She is a better listener. I tend to analyze and provide solutions, but often kids don’t want solutions.

And after the chapter on Wives and Mothers, I offer the reader a few questions for their self-reflection and assessment, repeated below for your own use:

  • Are your roles different from your spouse’s? How so? Are you both comfortable with these differences in roles? Are these differences productive in raising the kids, or are they a hindrance?
  • Have you and your spouse discussed what you want for your kids, what you want them to become, and how you should raise them?
  • In terms of raising the kids with your spouse, are you both on the same page and working in the same direction, or are you at odds with each other?
  • If you are at odds, is there something you can improve upon? How?

So this Mother’s Day, among the flowers and cards and gifts, you may want to reflect on how well you are teaming with the mother of your children, how strongly she can count on your help in giving your kids what they need, and how well you are playing the most important role you will ever have.

Happy Mother’s Day.