When we are young and we meet our spouse we don’t sit back and ponder too much about how they will be as a parent. Sure, you see your boyfriend play with your baby nephew or something and think it’s adorable and your ovaries start celebrating…but for the most part parenting is some far off concept that is hard to even fathom.
Marriage is hard work. It’s tough to bring together two different personalities and come to a place of love and commitment for life. You spend that “honeymoon” phase figuring each other out. The lust period dies down and then you have a real person living with you. A person with flaws. A person with differences from your own.
Then you throw kids in the mix! Suddenly you aren’t only cohabiting with a person who is different from you, but now you’re raising a child with that person. Parenting is a team effort and it can be tricky to be a united team when you’re co-captain has so many different ideas, perspectives, and beliefs than you do.
Today I thought I’d share some ways to work together as a parenting team with your spouse: even when you have very different personalities!
1. Know Your Backgrounds: It’s been said that you “go to what you know.” When times get tough we tend to default to what we experienced growing up. In a moment of stress you will act out the way your parents did with you. Did your parent stay calm in high stress situations? Then you, most likely, will as well. Did they yell? Get frazzled? Curl up into a ball and just want to escape?
Discussing your past with your spouse helps them to understand your “default” mode. And knowing their background will also help you understand where your spouse is coming from. It’s important to share those experiences with each other and discuss what you liked and didn’t like about your upbringing.
My husband was raised in a conservative home with both parents very active in all aspects of his life. My home life was very different from his and I admired the type of upbringing he experienced. We agreed early on that we would try to shadow his upbringing more than mine in many areas. That doesn’t mean we don’t draw from things my parents did or that we don’t try to improve on areas from his upbringing, but it’s nice to have a model of what we’d like for our family to follow.
2. Agree on the Big Picture: Parenting isn’t about surviving the day. It’s about the long term goal of raising independent adults. It’s SO important to have an understanding with your parenting partner about the big picture. What do you want for your family, long-term? What do you want for your children? What are your goals as their parents?
Keeping these long term goals in mind makes parenting much, much smoother. Our #1 goal as parents is for our children to spend eternity in Heaven. We filter all our parenting decisions through that goal. By having our priorities in mind, it makes decision making experiences much easier and simpler.
While my husband and I have many differences, we agree on the big picture items. It makes the little day to day disagreements we have much easier to handle when we know our big picture goals are the same.
3. Have a Game Plan: Just as there is no “I” in “team” there isn’t an “I” in “parents” either. You are a team and need to have a plan of action. Consistency is so crucial when raising children. By discussing ground rules for your parenting methods, you will always know how to handle situations as they arise and how to be consistent with how your spouse is handling it as well.
How will you discipline? What are your house rules? Children are smart and clever and will find cracks in your game plan if you aren’t solid. Being a united front is so important and the kids need to know that they will get the same answer from both parents.
My husband and I decided when our oldest started preschool that anytime he got into trouble at school, he’d also be disciplined at home. We agreed on this and have remainder consistent about it. Our children very rarely have any issues at school but when they do they get in the car very upset because they know there will also be consequences at home.
4. Back Each Other Up: This is easier said than done. Parenting with someone who has a different personality type than you can cause a difference in parenting decisions quite often. I’m a very type-A personality who likes to get everything done before I can relax. I can’t unwind if I have a “to do” list glaring at me. My husband is the opposite. He’d rather relax first and then work on the list of things to do.
This personality difference carries over into our parenting styles as well. In the mornings our son will wait to put on his shoes until it’s time to leave. I’ve tried to get him to put them on right after breakfast, prior to playing. My husband is more supportive of our sons “relax now, put on shoes later” approach and doesn’t push him to get them on earlier. We aren’t being consistent in how we are managing our sons morning routine. If I’m taking him to school he gets stressed because his shoes aren’t already on when I’m walking out the door, and if Dad is taking him then he just runs late in order to have time to put on the shoes.
We need to agree on how to handle this and then have each others back in how it’s handled. If we agree that shoes go on prior to play, then we need to both enforce that. If we agree that they can wait to go on before leaving, then we need to also back each other up on that decision. I would need to give us more time to get out the door to allow for the shoes being put on. Our son doesn’t ever need to know “who won” the shoe decision, he just needs to know that BOTH Mommy and Daddy agree that this is the way it’s going to be handled from now on.
5. Don’t Let ‘Em See You Sweat: Being that you’re two different people, you will disagree on things from time to time. Even when you have the same big picture goals and the same game plan, issues will arise that will be handled differently. I am a stay at home mom so parenting is my all-day everyday career. Sometimes I take that too seriously. I want things done my way and have to remember that we are a team. It’s okay if my husband doesn’t feed the kids the exact same healthy lunch I’d feed them. It’s okay if bedtime is a few minutes later or if his discipline is a little stricter than mine on certain issues. We are different people. We won’t always do every single thing the exact same way. And that’s okay!
What’s important is that in those moments of differences that our children continue to see a united front. I’m very guilty of this. My husband will go to discipline and I just want to find an excuse for my child’s behavior because I don’t want them to get the discipline. Or he does something different with their routine and instead of thanking him I point out how it’s not that way I would do it.
In order to remain a strong parenting team we have to appear that way to our children. It’s fine to discuss the issues later on. It’s fine to disagree! It’s just not fine to disagree about parenting methods in front of the kids.
Parenting is not easy and sometimes parenting with a person so different from yourself makes it even trickier. By coming together, communicating and staying united you can focus on the best part of being parents: the unconditional love you both share for your children. And that’s one thing that you’ll always have in common!