Shhh… don’t tell him I said this, but in many ways, my husband is a better parent than me. (Did I really just admit that? Oh, yes I did.) When it comes to consistency and common sense, Todd is unflappable. In our home, we not-so-affectionately refer to him as “The Safety Czar” for his uncanny ability to detect all hazardous activities (indoor frisbee and stair sledding, to name a few) and sternly put a halt to them. When the man says, ‘NO’, he means it. And whenever we need to make a big transition involving the kids, such as switching bedrooms or sleep training, Todd is sent in to present a strong, unwavering front.
In spite of these parenting strengths, I discovered soon after the birth of our first child that there is one task my husband is NOT good at: coping with interrupted sleep. The times he took the night shift with our fussy, gassy infant were the times he woke up grumpy as a toddler on a long road trip. I quickly figured out that if I stayed up and soothed our little baby, my hubby would greet me with a smile, a good mood and a fresh pot of coffee in the morning… and my whole day would go a heck of a lot better.
While we’re on the subject of my parenting strengths (Ahem), I will argue that I’m a kinder, gentler kind of parent. I get down on my kids’ level and try to figure out the interesting logic working itself out in their little brains. I have a checklist, calendar, and figurative social-media feed running in my head at all times. And I somehow have the magic ability to predict the future because I always know how many changes of clothes and snacks to throw in the diaper bag, and how many meltdowns to prepare for. (I know many of you have this magic ability as well.)
You would think that with all of these opposing strengths, my husband and I would make a dynamite parenting team. But there have been MANY times in our marriage and our parenting journey that we have found ourselves at odds with each other. While one of us is focused on safety or doing things correctly, the other is focused on having a good time or being sweet. At times, we have accused each other of not pulling enough weight. I’ll be honest; these differing perspectives have made for some big ol’ disagreements.
Cheryl to the rescue. She calmly helped me put our parenting woes into perspective one day. “Kirsten,” she said, “You’re kind of like a Cruise Director. You’re focused on everyone having a good time and being well-fed and well-rested. Todd’s the Captain of the Ship. He is more interested in keeping everyone afloat and getting them to the port safely. Both of you want the cruise to be successful, but you are just focused on different aspects of the journey.”
By golly, she was right. Cheryl has said a lot of wise things, but this particular analogy won the “ah-ha moment” prize.
When Todd and I began to see ourselves as being assigned to different roles on the same boat, it helped us to divvy up tasks accordingly and resent each other less.
Yes, it is crucial for you and your parenting partner to back each other up, to parent in a consistent manner, and to both chip in with child-rearing and household duties. But it is also OK and beneficial for each of you to utilize your individual strengths and balance each other out. Your kids don’t need you to be clones of each other – they can learn from your varied approaches and benefit from your unique styles. Maybe you feel most comfortable as the ship chef, the entertainment director or the housekeeping expert. Figure out what you and your partner do best and then give each other room to be the finest parents you can be. Smoother sailing and calm childhood seas will be the end result. And you might just deliver your kids to the port of adulthood in one, well-rounded piece.
BPP Sanity Savers:
- Keep in mind that you and your parenting partner are working toward the same end goal of raising healthy, happy kids. Identify what each of you do best, split up jobs accordingly and be open to feedback or concerns when your partner wants to re-evaluate how things are being handled.
- Regularly praise your partner for their strengths (especially if they are different from yours), learn from what they do well and present a united front to your kids.
- If you are a single parent, introduce other trusted adults into your family that have unique strengths and perspectives that your kids can benefit from.
Here’s to strength, sanity and smooth sailing,