"What too many men (and women) don't realize is that to the extent that women are 'better' parents, it's simply because they've had more practice. In fact, the single most important factor in determining the depth of long-term father-child relationships is opportunity."
-- Armin Brott
A friend recently recalled the time she left her two children with their father for the day. When she returned in the late afternoon, she was surprised that they were already in their pajamas. When she asked her husband why, he said, "What pajamas?" He hadn't realized that they were wearing their pajamas from the night before, so the kids had worn them to all their outings that day! Thankfully, my friend was wise enough to laugh it off, suppress the haunting images of other mothers shaking their heads, and appreciate the day she had to herself.
If we want to diminish the micro-mommy madness of our generation, we need to be willing to share parenting and let Dad find his own way. Yet at the same time, we know that some parental consistency is important. Consider these tips to help you determine when it's important to let go and let Dad do it differently. ("Dad" can be substituted with any partner in parenting.)
1. House rules
Agree on the general rules of the household and consequences for breaking them. If you discipline your children for whacking each other and your partner laughs it off, the whacking will continue and you'll be the "mean" parent while your partner is the "fun" one. Consistency with rules and discipline is important. Sit down with your partner at least twice a year to update the rules and discipline. Make sure everyone in the family understands the laws that govern your house.
2. Keep your domain
If there are certain areas where you just can't stand the thought of letting him do it his own way, pick your top two or three and do those yourself. For instance, if your partner is in charge of supervising cleanup with the kids -- and, upon completion, you wonder when they are going to start -- you may solve a lot of arguments by keeping this job in your domain.
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3. Learn to let go
Try to let your partner do almost everything else his way. Many of my clients are challenged with this one -- as I know I am at times. I was recently frightened by how my husband "fixed" my seven-year-old's hair before they left for an event (think Pippi Longstocking hit by a truck). The problem is, if we insist on feeding the baby every meal because "they can't do it right" or we don't let them dress our young ones because they can't match to save their life, we will drown in the family workload and everyone will suffer the repercussions -- especially us! (Our brains and bodies can only handle so much. We are human.)
4. Be positive
Focus on the strengths of his unique approach, and when you feel like criticizing, zip it! I know, easier said than done. There are many times that your way really does seem like the better way -- to you, at least. But, restrain yourself. Remember the bigger picture: both parents need to bond with their children through effective parenting and time together, and you need nonparenting time to lead a whole life.
Keeping yourself aware of the big stuff you want to manage yourself or want to coparent consistently, and letting go of all the small stuff, will do wonders for your self, your marriage, and your partner's relationship with your children. What can you let go of this week and let your partner do differently?
Excerpted from The Balanced Mom by Bria Simpson, MA. Copyright 2006 by Bria Simpson. Excerpted with permission by New Harbinger Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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