Hey Busy Dads! It is important to set aside a day to emphasize romance with your wife and role model positive expressions of love to your kids.
Happy Valentine’s Day to all the wives, moms and women out there. After all, we wouldn’t be dads without you. (I especially want to recognize my amazing wife, Amy, who brings me so much joy and with whom I am deliriously happy to share my life).
I’ve heard men, especially those who’ve been with their wives for a long time, criticize Valentine’s Day for a range of reasons:
- It’s a “Hallmark” holiday
- It is asymmetrical in that women get jewelry, flowers and chocolates and all we get is half of a dinner out
- And, especially, that it’s dumb because we should and do recognize loving relationships every day, not just on some arbitrary date
To these, I say:
- I concede the first point but who cares, and besides, it’s good for the economy
- We should make Valentine’s Day more egalitarian– relatively equal small gifts, but using the day to celebrate together by doing something you both enjoy and that takes you out of everyday relationship
- And BULL!!! Your kids love you every day, but Father’s Day is important as recognition for all you do. Celebrating birthdays is somewhat arbitrary, but it is important to gather to celebrate how much we appreciate that someone important to us was, well, born. So, yes, love your wife* every day. Use the ritual of Valentine’s Day to reinforce the romantic side of your love.
Valentine’s Day is important, and may be especially important for dads. Here’s why:
It’s a reminder of romantic love
We’re all busy with work and family responsibilities. Time spent on these often means other priorities fall to the wayside. It is deceptively easy for the relationship with the love of your life to become one of teammates and co-parents. These aspects of the relationship are important, but we sometimes need to be reminded about what brought you together in the first place and is at the core of a marriage- romantic love. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to reinforce this aspect of our relationships. As such, it is an important ritual- one well worth observing.
If you have girls
Your relationship with your daughter is the first role model for her future relationships with men. After rebelling with pony-tail guy or neck-tattoo guy for a while, daughters will eventually seek out the qualities in men* that she sees in you, and will seek out the aspects of adult relationships that she first shared with you. If you can give love and receive love from her in positive ways that let her know she is valued as a whole person, she is far more likely to seek and find relationships with those qualities later in her life. Your relationship is the first role model for her. Valentine’s Day is a good way to reinforce how much she means to you.
If you have boys
You son’s relationship with his mom is analogous to what I described between dads and daughters. Valentine’s Day represents a great time to demonstrate to him how important it is to show affection and give and receive love in a positive way. You can do this by working with your son on a “covert mission” to make or get something for his mom. This is a project you can work on together, and it shows how much you value positive relationships. Remember you are his first role model as to what healthy relationships look like, and how a man should act towards women*. Take this seriously- Valentine’s Day offers a great opportunity for these lessons.
Bill Maher once quipped that Valentine’s Day represents one of three days men in sexless marriages get to have sex (birthdays and anniversaries are the others). I’m not prepared to put so blunt a point on it (although these advertisers will), but Valentine’s Day does remind us not to neglect the romantic and physical parts of our marriage.
In short, rituals are important to remind ourselves and others how important certain things are. Some parts of our culture have built Valentine’s Day up into some over-the-top Hollywood fantasy. But this doesn’t detract from the importance of setting aside one day a year to emphasize romance with your wife and role model positive expressions of love to your kids.
* FWF has been gently criticized for being heteronormative. I hope I do not come off as devaluing same-sex relationships or non-traditional arrangements because I generally write using traditional gender-based language. This is not my intent.
Any reflections on Valentine’s Day you’d like to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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