Blind Spots For Fathers Who Think They Are Doing A Great Job

One of the fun things about giving up on retirement is preparing for upcoming job interviews. I probably gave over 300 interviews myself when I was working in banking from 1999 – 2012.

One of my favorite interview questions is asking candidates about a blind spot of theirs they eventually realized and how? The question's purpose is to see if the candidate has enough self-awareness and humility to be a good colleague.

Given my life has been dominated by fatherhood since the birth of our son in 2017 and our daughter in 2019, I've come up with my own blind spots that I'd like to share. Perhaps some fathers who think they are doing a great job have these blind spots as well.

The goal of this post is to help fathers align their actions closer to their beliefs. In addition, by recognizing these blind spots, fathers can develop better relationships with their partners.

Quality Time With The Kids

On a very basic level, I believe there is a positive correlation between the quality of fatherhood and time. The more time fathers spend with their children, generally, the better they are as fathers and vice versa.

Of course, there are various levels of quality time. If a father is on his phone for two hours while at the playground, that time spent isn't the same quality as two hours of fully present interactive play.

Since 2017, I've committed to spending 4-to-8 hours a day on average with my children.

For 18 months during COVID we homeschooled our son, which meant we spent closer to 12 hours a day with him. The hours started declining once my boy went to preschool full-time at age 4 and our daughter started going part-time 2-3 days a week at age three.

By putting in the time, I felt like a good father. My kids would never be able to say I wasn't there for them. Meanwhile, I like to joke that if there ever was an ugly custody battle, my wife couldn't accuse me of being an absentee father either. Whoo hoo!

But here's the thing. If I'm spending 4 hours a day with my kids because they have school, that means my wife is spending 6-7 hours a day with them. And if I'm spending 8 hours a day with them because they are at home, then she is spending 12-13 hours a day with them.

A Father's Blind Spot #1: Making The Wrong Comparison

A father's blindspot

Over the past six years, I started thinking I was one of the best fathers in my circle of friends. Since most had day jobs, I had more flexibility to spend time with my kids.

If my wife and I had an argument or I was feeling guilty for not spending enough time with the kids one day, I compared myself to other fathers at work to feel better. A Pew Research study highlighted that 63% of fathers feel like they don't spend enough time with their kids.

However, if my wife and I are truly both equal stay-at-home parents, then I've got the wrong comparison. Instead, I should compare my efforts against my wife's efforts, which is 50% – 100% greater a day on average.

Imagine working in a group project and consistently working 50% – 100% more than your classmates every day. And then your teacher commends your classmates for a job well done. You might feel a little resentful!

Fathers might really believe we are doing more housework than we truly are. While I often get to sneak away when the kids are doing something unpleasant, like fighting, my wife will almost always be there to oversee the situation.

There’s no such thing as equality of care between two parents. However, the difference in care time probably shouldn’t be so large.

Thinking I Have The Magic Touch

When my daughter turned two, I started regularly taking both kids to the playground. This way, my wife could take a load off, especially after difficult nights when our daughter didn't sleep well.

During our 2-3-hour outings, the kids would always play well together and never fight. When I'd say it was time for us to go home, they would comply without whining. When I told them to finish their snacks they would. They would never cry.

But once they returned home for the handoff back to Mommy, I noticed they'd instantly become whiny. Suddenly, the little angels turned into defiant rascals.

Thinking this was just a fluke, I kept taking them out by myself and closely observing their behavior. Each time they acted great with me. And each time they returned home they turned into little hellions.

I was thinking to myself, man, I must have the magic touch! Give me the father of the year trophy! My wife needs to speak with more authority and confidence in order to get the kids to comply. She needs to learn my special ways!

A Father's Blind Spot #2: Not Doing Enough Of The Hard Stuff

After further outings, I came to realize why our children act out more often when they are with Mommy than they are with me. These two things below made me realize I'm not as good of a dad as I thought I was. See: Dunning-Kruger Effect

So why are my kids more difficult with my wife? Two reasons.

1) They love their Mommy more.

They love their Mommy more because they spend 50% – 100% more time with her. She's the night's watchwoman who comforts them if they have night terrors. She is the main person who bathes and feeds them. Mommy also has more warmth and love when they get hurt or are sick.

As a result, they vie for her attention the most. They are constantly battling to be held and loved by her. And when they each can't have Mommy's full attention, they get frustrated or upset.

Whereas with me, because I spend less time with them than my wife, I'm more of a novelty. Just like how they are better behaved in front of teachers, they are better behaved with me because I'm not always there for them.

In a way, they take my wife more for granted because they are together so often. And we tend to hurt or frustrate those we love the most.

2) I'm doing more fun stuff with the kids.

On our solo outings, I'm usually taking the kids to the zoo, playground, or the mall. Given we're doing fun things, of course they are going to be better behaved.

Mommy, on the other hand, is always the one to accompany them to the doctor's office or the dentist. I'm almost always sitting in the car on standby, a relic of COVID-19 limiting pediatric appointments to only one parent.

My wife is also in charge of feeding them a balanced diet of vegetables, meats, gluten-free grains, and fruit. I, on the other hand, am a cheeseburger lover, which they also love to eat! As a result, of course they will be more compliant if I'm feeding them something more appealing.

Finally, my wife is also mainly in charge of making sure the kids put sunscreen on, trim their nails, and brush and floss their teeth. Neither of our kids likes to do these things, so they whine and object more with my wife.

Fatherhood Is A Work In Progress

I have overestimated my efforts and abilities and underestimated my wife's abilities and efforts.

If I had to do what my wife does every day and night, I'm sure I would lose my cool more frequently. I also know my kids would stop listening to me as much because they'd take me more for granted.

Based on realizing my blind spots, my goal is to do more of the non-fun things with the children. A more balanced distribution of responsibilities is more appropriate. I will also endeavor to be more patient and less critical.

It's important to constantly remind ourselves we are doing the best we can.

Uncommunicated Expectations

Uncommunicated expectations may be the leading cause of divorce.

One partner expects the other partner to do something, but the other partner doesn't because they have no idea. As a result, the partner with the expectations starts to grow resentful of the other partner's lack of action.

Hence, another goal as a father is to communicate more clearly about my expectations for my wife and listen carefully to her expectations of me. I'll also regularly ask her where she thinks I can do more. Then we'll find common ground that's best for both of us and the children.

The Stress Of Being The Primary Or Sole Breadwinner

Whoever is the primary or sole breadwinner in the household may feel more financial stress. Therefore, it's worth being more appreciative of them from time to time.

Managing family money, for example, can sometimes feel like a full-time job. Since neither of us has a steady paycheck, retirement benefits, or healthcare benefits, I feel the stress of ensuring our finances are strong enough to take care of our family. I’m sure I’d feel a different kind of pressure if I was still working in finance.

During the 2022 bear market, for example, I was feeling more stressed given we were losing lots of money. Even though we had a diversified net worth to better protect us from downturns, it still felt bad to lose so much progress.

As someone who writes about money every week, I may feel worse than the average person during bear markets who don’t pay as close attention. After all, the first rule of financial independence is to not lose money! Once you have enough, your goal should be capital preservation in order to protect your freedom.

Today, I feel less stress due to a recovery in the stock market. However, there will always be a constant pressure to provide until the kids are independent adults.

For Future Fathers Out There

For men looking to start a family, have some financial goals before having children. The cost of raising children can put a strain on your relationship. Getting your finances in order is one less thing to worry about.

Try to always be supportive and less critical of your partner's efforts. When you’re frustrated, remind yourself that you didn’t have to go through pregnancy, labor, childbirth, and recovery! Bickering is an inevitability when you're tired, frustrated, and feeling guilty. Give each other reset passes.

Finally, constantly communicate your silent expectations. When in doubt, spell it out. It's unreasonable to expect your partner to be a mindreader when they are juggling so many things.

Fatherhood is hard! But it's also an incredible journey. Happy Father’s Day!

Reader Questions And Suggestions

Any fathers out there think they were doing more or a better job than they really were? How did you realize you weren't doing as much as you thought you were? Once you realized the situation, how did you change, if at all? What have some of your struggles been as a father?

Expecting? Pick up a copy of How To Engineer Your Layoff. It will teach you how to negotiate a severance package so you can spend more time with your children. Use the code “saveten” at checkout to save $10.

Listen to the Financial Samurai podcast on Apple or Spotify. A new episode comes out every week with new subjects and fascinating guests. Subscribe and share with your friends.

Join 60,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter and posts via e-mail. This way you'll never miss a thing.

About The Author

22 thoughts on “Blind Spots For Fathers Who Think They Are Doing A Great Job”

  1. Hard working father

    Great article Sam. I was determined to be a present father for my kids although a majority of physicians may be excused for not being there due to their “ responsibilities to their patients” . I have seen my kids being much better behaved than my wife but I also look at the different things that 2 people( mother and father) bring to the table. Dad is funny, playful , can be disciplinary. Mom is loving, caring and nurturing. Dad may teach the hard things while mom may teach the softer skills. At the end of the day, kids learn both good and bad things from mom and dad. Our goal ,as parents, is to give them the best we can and hope they become the best human beings they can be. I will also admit parenting is the hardest skill I have worked on and keep working on it.


  2. Mothers are naturally better at being home makers and nurturing children. Thats not to say that fathers dont have a very important role to play, albeit that role is slightly different. So lets not pretend that both are the same due to wokeness. Pretty much universal throughout history.

  3. Paul Wawrzynski II

    Interesting article with great advice on parenting. I graduated from medical school in 1990 with aprrox. 113,000.00 in school loan debt placing me close to the top 1% at that time. While in school and training , a few of my classmates had fathers that were physicians. They often talked about how hard their dads worked thus had little time for family. Their hard did have other benefits including no student loans. While in cardiology training, one fellow ( trainee) took a year off without pay to pursue a year of research. I asked him how he could do this financially, his response was ” I have no student loan debt”. His father was a cardiologist, he said he was never home but respected what his dad did and was grateful for paying for both undergraduate school and medical school. I said that is the greatest gift a father can give his child. Now close to 60 with 4 adult children, I did not have much of a work life balance. Although I do have some regrets, I overfunded my childrens 529 plans and will be abel to help with grandchildrens education.

  4. My girlfriend and I have a standing meeting every week called “The Feels” where we think through and bring up anything that is bothering us about the other person. Very often it has to do with expectations! We started doing this because we were letting things slide and build up until we finally had a fight about it and that really sucked. Things are so much better now – we rarely fight, and The Feels is usually less than 10 minutes. Apparently, a stitch in time really does save nine!

  5. It’s all about communication. My wife and I regularly have disagreements about managing our free time since she is a stay at home mom and I’m the sole breadwinner, there’s a constant tug of war about who does more or who deserves a break, which I think is pretty normal. We find that when we communicate openly and honestly it relieves the tension.

    1. Totally agree. See the Unexpected Communications:

      One partner expects the other partner to do something, but the other partner doesn’t because they have no idea. As a result, the partner with the expectations starts to grow resentful of the other partner’s lack of action.

      Never stop communicating folks!

  6. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. As a father to two young boys, I have more than my fair share of blind spots. One of the most helpful things I’ve done has been a dedicated meditation routine and extensive amounts of self reflection and self awareness. I’ve found the best way to be a great father to my boys is to first understand and love myself.

    As fathers it’s easy to carry on “generational curses” from your own father, who likely carried it from his own father. But to increase your awareness allows you to notice those tendencies, and increasing self compassion allows you the opportunity to perhaps end those generational curses.

    My own blind spots now often result from overcompensating in areas I felt lacked in my own childhood. For example, my own dad rarely if ever sat down and played with me. As a father now myself, I constantly play with my boys. But by doing so, am I inadvertently not giving them the opportunity to be bored, creative, and independent? Every coin has its flip side. The only thing I always come back to is to simply love them in the best way I can, and hope that it’s enough.

    1. ““generational curses” from your own father” ah yes! We endeavor to break those curses and be better for our own children.

      Good reminder not to overcompensate as well. I can totally see this happening on my end.

      Thanks for sharing.

  7. CHRIS Swanson

    My most incredible humility was believing I could never allow myself to fail at anything in front of my children. Years later, I realized what better way to prepare your kids for life’s failure moments than to demonstrate resilience, humility, and determination by example. I likely missed many teaching moments with them; all of us dads do our best. I am fortunate that they have become honest, humble, respectful, and kind people. Thank goodness for my wife’s influence!

  8. As a single dad who had to do it all fifteen years ago when my sons were still in middle school after their mom succumbed to illness, my sons honor me on both Fathers Day and Mothers Day, because they say that I pulled double duty. They are both graduated from university and working now. But back when we were still in the thick of things, I would compare myself to the single working moms. They were my role models.

      1. Tips for new parents:

        – “Quality time” is a misnomer. Its the grungy things like changing diapers and the messy feedings where you bond most with your kid.

        – Learn to laugh at all of it. Remember “this too shall pass”.

        – Enjoy simple play, like dropping a sock on their forehead from above while making a silly sound. Doing silly/goofy things that make your kid laugh is not that silly at all from a learning perspective, and as an added bonus you get a socially acceptable excuse to be a kid again for a while!

        – Know that all the time/sacrifice you put in will be worth it. Either it will pay off as you hope, in which case you’ll be glad that you put in the extra effort; or it won’t pan out exactly as you hoped, in which case you’ll know you did the best you could and you’ll have no/fewer regrets.

        When they’re adults and you can relate to them as such and they still enjoy and seek out your company and counsel it is very gratifying.

        1. Great advice! Thank you. I wonder about the challenges of parenthood once they become middle schoolers and high schoolers. Such an important time for development with so many social pressures!

          1. So true. That is when academics and activities ramp up and things become higher stakes.

            Middle school and high school was the most stressful time of my life because I was regularly devoting 30 to 60 hours per week as a coach/adult-mentor/chaperone on their activities, in addition to my full-time “day job” :-)

  9. I could not stop laughing while reading this. It hit so close to home. My kids act great around me. If they even start to misbehave I just give them “the look” and they stop right away. Whereas they can be absolute turds when around my wife, a night and day difference. However, unlike your situation, I am around the kids and rearing them much more than my wife is due to my better work flexibility. Happy Father’s Day!

  10. Happy Father’s Day! Parenthood is the hardest journey in your lifetime and tests every ounce of willpower in your body and reserves.

    It can be incredibly rewarding but it takes a lot of resilience to get through the repeated “body blows” as Shankar Vedantam calls them.

    You sound like an amazing father and are not giving yourself enough credit. What an incredible role model you are to your kids!

    I believe parents who are inquisitive, self deprecating, have some feelings of doubt/anxiety while also being encouraging, resourceful, and actively instill confidence and core values in their children are on the right track.

    It’s a fast journey with long days and nights but your kids are very lucky to have you!

  11. Quality time was a big one for me. I used to think that scrolling on my phone while she watched a movie counted as quality time because we sat on the same couch. But I found that she’ll enjoy 1 hour of my undivided attention more than 8 hours of mere presence.

    1. Agree! Not sure I agree with the 1:8 hour ratio, but point taken.

      Maybe the ratio is closer to 1:3 or 1:4. Just being in a parent’s or child’s presence feels nice and safe a lot of times. And as they age, they want to be more independent.

      1. I agree on the quality time. When my son was born my mother in law came to live with us. I took that as an opportunity to play more softball and pursue other hobbies. It was a blind spot for sure. One that irritated both my wife and mother in law and one I regret for missing out on those early bonding opportunities. Another blind spot I found was feeling the need to correct and critique my kids. It did some real damage and prevented me from being loving. I can say the family was not happier for my presence. What a change when I finally realized this and started just being genuinely interested and inquisitive instead of critical. Thanks to my kind wife for pointing it out so many times without ever really making me feel like a bad dad, until I finally got it. Never criticize, condemn or complain.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *