Do you co-parent?

August 24th, 2009 6:41pm
A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.

A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.

Does your husband play an active role in your kids lives? If he doesn’t, your kids are sorely missing out. Dad’s add something special to parenting because dad’s don’t think like mom’s! (I know, big surprise there!). But it’s true and while this sentiment might sometimes be cause for frustration, it is something we should be thankful for. Kids receive entirely different interaction from their dad than their mom and also get entirely unique perspectives on problems or questions they might have. Dad’s these days are looking for a more active role in parenting than the one their fathers were saddled with. So mothers of the world, stand up and cheer for these forward thinking dad’s!

But there’s a catch, ladies…we mom’s have to learn to let go of a few things. It is commonly accepted dogma that “mother’s know best” in all situations pertaining to the kids and therefore, we should have the final say on whatever might be needed in the home, whether that be discipline, decorating, food, love, advice, or the like. A study of 1,023 couples from 20 large cities in the US recently found that mothers were protective of their caregiving and educational roles when it came to the caregiving of the children but were less so for playtime activities that “were not considered threats to the mother’s caregiving identity.”

Dad’s everywhere are breaking out of the old stereotype of “father works, mother takes care of the home” and wanting a more active role in the home. And while this is something every mother seems to covet, we are much more reluctant to yield some of our “home court advantage” to our husbands. We’re not talking about the everyday “let your kids go to school in mismatched clothes because you’re husband dressed them” idea, but more along the lines of letting our husbands be the one our kids run to when they skin their knee (and not feeling guilty about it!).

Dad’s need more than just a “green light” to participate, they need active encouragement from us mothers that they are capable of carrying out their responsibilities in their own way and that we trust them to do it (sorry ladies…that means no nagging or micromanaging!).

Probably the most important first step is to define exactly what kind of parenting co-op you want. Not everyone is ready or desires the complete “co-parenting” package. But our children benefit when we relinquish some of our control to make way for their dad’s own parenting style. I remember when my husband and I came home with our first daughter. I was happy to take on all the responsibilities of home life as a stay-at-home mom and was in fact eager to do so while my husband supported us at work. But a few months into things, I realized that while I might sometimes feel like the martyr for all the late-night, crying, feeding, daily caregiving role, I was in fact cheating my husband out of the evening giggles, smiles, bathtime play and general bonding that I got every day with my baby. When we talked about it, he was very eager to enter into this evening role when he got home from work and take over the evening routine as often as he could. As excited as I was for this added help and his excitement and willingness to participate, I found myself hovering over him, micromanaging every interaction with the baby and generally making myself a total nuisance! I kept trying to tell him “that’s not the way I do it” and “you really shouldn’t do that” or “let me show you how you’re supposed to do that”. What I realized is that I didn’t know anything more about parenting than he did. The difference was I had been given 3 months of total trust and complete autonomy to figure it all out for myself while I was asking him to figure it all out in one day while under my supervised stare! This all became apparent to me when, in an outburst of frustration, my husband turned to me and said “well, that’s NOT the way I do it!!”.

We need to let these willing husbands learn their own way of doing things and realize that even if it’s not done the exact way we want it to be, at least it is getting done. The more important results from these efforts on both parts is that the kids are going to benefit from a real relationship with their dad and there is no earnings sheet that can compare to that!

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