The Role of Dad in Elimination Communication and Potty Training

In most cases, it falls upon the mother to potty train her child, at least for the most part.  Mostly women attend my classes and workshops.  It’s predominately women who participate on Go Diaper Free’s Facebook support groups for Elimination Communication and potty training.  Of course, it’s impossible to classify all types of families and how parents contribute toward the potty training process. 

*** From here on, whenever I use “potty training” assume it includes Elimination Communication.

However, I want to offer two scenarios describing how men can best help during potty training.  

The-Role-of-Dad-in-Potty-Training

1.  For families interested in starting Elimination Communication from birth or shortly after, dads can play a BIG role.  Many of the most well-intentioned, informed, strong mothers who want to practice EC with their newborn will be floored, exhausted, physically and/or emotionally challenged postpartum.  If you’ve had a baby already, you’re likely nodding your head.  If you haven’t, trust me.  

I intended to start EC at birth with my first son, but although I really had no difficulties during birth or postpartum, I just couldn’t incorporate it into our lives.  I remember holding Anders over the toilet in the EC cradle hold and wondering why he wasn’t going like my friend’s 6 month old son did when she introduced me to EC.  It was one more thing to add to the list of responsibilities, and at that point, I considered the day a success if I brushed my teeth before noon.  

So dads!! You can take the EC helm and lead the way.  Mom is nursing or feeding baby around the clock and therefore awake around the clock, and you may be wondering where you fit in the picture.  I have often heard that dads feel somewhat helpless in the newborn/infant months because baby is so reliant on mama.  EC is one way you can communicate and build trust with your baby and honor his hygienic needs.  A lot of mamas find that pottying babies is uncomfortable, painful or downright impossible postpartum.  Dads, give your partner a break and commit to EC’ing your babe.  Your contribution will be so appreciated.  

Daddy-reading-go-diaper-free

Dads can even take it one step farther and be the one to learn about EC during pregnancy.  Maybe mom reads up on it too.  Maybe Dad says again, “I’ve got this one,” reads Go Diaper Free and relays the content to Mom.  

I’ve known several families where Dad was the first proponent of EC, and I have to say that the attitude toward EC, and in general, child-rearing, was so positive and relaxed.  Everyone enjoyed the process.  

So mamas (because I’m guessing that predominantly women follow this blog), if your man every says, “I wish I could do more,” assign him Elimination Communication!

2.  Another scenario is a father who is 100% committed and participatory, even if he isn’t in the lead position.  He too understands the value of EC and recognizes its benefits.  Maybe it was initially your idea or maybe he introduced you to the concept, but you’re both in.  One thing to recognize is that two individuals can be totally committed to the process, but each person’s engagement and the amount of time s/he has to offer might look different.  That is fine!  That is actually great.  It’s important to be on the same page with your partner while co-parenting, but the reality is that each person will have unique ways to contribute.  

I had to remind myself of this with my late husband Gary.  He was totally on board.  He believed in all of EC’s principles.  But he didn’t ninja hover like I did, and so there were more misses when he was on duty.  However, his super chill yet matter of fact approach was a perfect balance to mine.  

Dad-committed-to-EC

Since we did EC, we never conventionally potty trained our children.  But I know that when potty training, it is so powerful when both parents are on board and approach potty training as a team.  Older children are aware when there’s a divide between parents.  Your child is more likely to potty train with (relative) ease, if he sees the parents as a unified front.  You can avoid sending your child a mixed message about the importance of ditching diapers by working together as parents.  Additionally, it is beneficial to anticipate together the stresses of potty training.  Unfortunately, some stage of potty training typically has a moment or two or twenty of stress.  When you’re potty training together, you and your partner can help each other out during the rough parts.  Maybe you allow your partner to “punch out” when s/he is frustrated.  Maybe you are able to add a moment of lightness to a seeming regression.  As with all aspects of parenting, it can be totally supportive to know someone’s wholeheartedly on your team.  

Now I want to offer two other scenarios that are common and some insights how you can make potty training work with these circumstances.  

1.  Let’s just face it: some Dads do not invest the same time or energy into potty training as Moms do.  Moms still rule as primary caregiver in most households.  That’s how it worked in my house: I stayed at home with the kids.  Gary worked his butt off, and that division of labor satisfied us both.  We both respected the other’s contributions and knew that we were working toward a common goal: raising happy, strong and healthy kids and enjoying life.  

Dad-caring-for-EC-baby

So if you feel like you do not have your partner’s support with potty training, try explaining the importance of potty training to him and request his support.  Convey that a joint effort with potty training will make the process go that much faster and smoother.  Men often are pretty matter-of-fact: remind him that you will save $500-1000/year by quitting diapers.  

If this approach does not incite changes in his attitude toward potty training, you go for it on your own.  Yes, you’re going to put in all/most of the hard work, but you and your child will reap the benefits.  Your daughter’s or son’s self-image and independence will sky rocket when s/he is potty trained.  Potty independence is a gigantic gift to the child.  

2.  Potty training as a single parent is not the easiest feat, but it’s doable.  And I want to share with you an insight from my single parenthood.  My boys’ father and my husband Gary died when our second son Donovan was 9 months old.  I continued to do EC with Donovan, and he was out of daytime diapers by 17 months and nighttime diapers before the age of 2.  Losing a partner and your children’s father is horrible.  Horrible.  But two-and-a-half years later, I have learned that single parenthood has at least one perk.  You can raise your kids however YOU want to.  You don’t have to discuss or compromise on parenting styles.  As an extremely independent woman who dedicates a lot of time to considering with what intention I want to raise my kids, I have noticed that it’s easier – in the sense that it frees up time and emotional energy – to be fully responsible for kid-related decisions. Of course, I wish I had Gary’s support at times.  He was an amazing and fully-committed dad (with potty training and everything else).  

Gary was a professional mountain guide so he lived and worked in an environment wrought with risk.  He frequently would say, “I’m doing this with you because I know you can do it on your own.”  “This” referred to lifelong partnership and parenthood.  I know that statement might sound strange to many of you, but I’m not sure Gary had a premonition of his premature death.  He worked away from home a lot of the time, out of the range of communication, and I solo parented during those absences.  In hindsight, I interpret Gary’s message to mean that he had full confidence in and respect for me as a parent, and that acknowledgement certainly comforts me today.  

Single parenting is a super hard gig.  But the fact remains that potty training your child is of upmost importance and you CAN rock it on your own.  By all means, get all the support you can during potty training, but at the end of the day, sit with maybe a tiny amount of contentment that you can potty train (and parent) on your own terms.  You’ve got this.  

Who plays what role in potty training in your home? DADS, I would LOVE to hear from you! Please share below in the comments.

Single-Mama-Doing-EC

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