I’m starting to feel like my husband and I aren’t on the same page when it comes to parenting. We have a 6 month old and a 3 year old and lately there have just been so many moments where I’m trying to stay on schedule and he just, I don’t know, doesn’t care? For example, I want our older son to just eat his dinner and not be bribed with dessert and my husband will be at the table and use a cookie as a bribe. (I have my reasons for not wanting to use bribes around food and it feels like my husband just ignores them). This may seem small, but it’s all the little moments of us being contrary that are really starting to add up. It’s maddening and then some nights we end up not really ‘liking’ each other by the end of the day. Any tips on how we can get more on the same page?
– Disrespected in Denver
Dear Disrespected, I think it’s normal for couples to have different ideas about parenting. I don’t know anyone who is on the same page every moment of every day. Parenting is a lot of work–constant work. Partners come from different families, upbringings, traditions, etc. We bring our own baggage. It doesn’t have to be a good cop/bad cop parenting scenario. My husband and I talk about our differences and what we bring to the table. We read positive parenting articles together (we are at least on the same page about the style of parenting we aim for). We don’t expect the other to comply with our demands or ideas. We talk. We listen. We acknowledge that we’re each tired all the time. It’s not always graceful, but we love each other and go from there. Try talking about the issues outside of the moment sometimes (my husband prefers this). Maybe take a look at your expectations…for yourself, partner, and children. That could be a starting place for you. I know a good honest assessment of what I’m bringing to the table helps me before I bring up anything I think we need to work on, that and having fun. Sometimes just making time for fun works wonders. I know it may seem unrelated, but make time for it and watch what happens…it can be a nice reminder of what we do love about our partner. Aloha, Lori Beth
It’s hard to be a parent and it’s hard to do it with someone else. Without getting into too many specifics, my best advice is to choose your battles and keep the lines of communication open. You definitely won’t always agree with your partner on parenting choices – that’s a given. Though if you’re able to talk about those differences, respect those differences, joke about those differences, and then use those differences to grow your family’s relationships, I think you’ll feel more at peace at the end of the day. It’s great that you’re asking this question and opening up the dialogue! – Diana
Dear disrespected in Denver, I can appreciate your question. As a mom, we often times want to make all the calls for our kids. We are, after all, usually the one who is with them the most and have that mommy instinct that we all grow up hearing about. That said, I think you should talk to your husband about presenting a united front to your children. Even if you are in disagreement about how to handle something, that is OK. But you have to draw some boundary lines and defer to whatever parent is going to take the lead on those types of decisions. It isn’t easy to draw those lines. I’ve been there. But, it’s really important (especially for your three-year-old) to present that image of spousal support so that your children don’t try to play you guys against each other as they get older. I don’t think kids are manipulative, but I do think they’re smart and they will realize which parent to go to for what question. Maybe, you could start out by writing a list of your top six items and telling your husband that you really want to focus on being united on these issues. You may have to compromise. Parenting isn’t easy…and neither is maintaining a relationship with your husband if you’re arguing all the time about the kids. You can do this! Your relationship will grow from the hard conversations and your kids will have the benefit of seeing their parents work through challenges together. Good luck! – Cortney
Dear Disrespected. From my own experiences, I think it is difficult when one parent is responsible for much of the routine setting for the family/household (I am assuming this is you), and your spouse (or any other person–such as a babysitter or grandparent), interrupts that routine. The best thing you can do is communicate your concerns as well as the “why” behind them. I can understand where you are coming from. For example, I’m a parent who often points out grams of sugar on food labels to my children (they’ve now learned to read them for themselves). For me, I’ve dealt with my weight all of my life, but my husband is tall and thin. I have two tall thin children and one that takes after my side of the family…not overweight by any means, but just naturally more muscular and bigger overall (his head, hands, and feet included!). I had to explain my “why” behind that choice. Whether it is sleep schedules, using electronics, eating, etc., I’m sure many of us deal with disagreements over these things—or maybe we just don’t realize how strongly the other person feels regarding these issues and their motives behind it. My point is, as the parent who is generally responsible for the day in day out maintenance of our family, there are usually methods behind my madness. It is important to communicate not only to my spouse, but anyone who cares for my children. I think it helps to know we all go through struggles to this degree in parenting with another person and I think it’s great that you want to work through this with your spouse. Going to bed upset with each other is never any fun…in more ways than one! – Lorelei