He feeds donuts to your toddler.
He is late to daycare pick-up.
He doesn't want to be left alone with the baby.
He treats you like a 50's housewife.
You never get a break.
He won't stick to the schedule.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. In the middle of a stressful parenting situation, when the stakes are highest, the conversation often shifts from the kids to the other parent’s choice of interaction (or lack of involvement) in the problem. The two of you are arguing. Your kids are in the audience. Everyone is frustrated.
Hi Mama Bear. I feel your pain. Likely, your coparent is hurting, too. Look at the big picture. It’s easy to get hyper-focused on the details of daily life and forget that raising children is a marathon, not a sprint. Discuss your ultimate goals for your kids- the 20 year plan. Then, imagine your kids learning, practicing, and gaining mastery of these skills over time, rather than in a single moment or interaction. Now that you have the long-term vision, identify things that are most important to you. Compare lists and be curious about the differences. Are there places you are saying the same things but with different words? Be willing to talk about your own childhood, how it impacts who you are today and what you want (or don’t want) for your children. You don’t have to do a complete overhaul of your entire parenting philosophy in a day. Find something you can agree on and start there. Even if it’s “small” or seems like it’s not going to make a difference. The goal is to move toward the middle, finding what works for both parents and each child. Even though one parent may be more familiar with positive parenting strategies and implementation, be careful not to overpower the conversation. There is no "my-way-or-the-highway" when you have a parenting partner. Engage the other parent in a respectful conversation, ask open-ended questions and be willing to stop talking long enough to hear their perspective and point of view. Read up on different strategies and see how they align with your long-term goals and priorities. If it doesn’t seem to fit or if one parent is unsure, look for something else or continue the conversation. The first solution may not be the one that works best. Revisit, revise, and allow for flexibility as you learn new strategies and find a common ground. Each of you has strengths. One parent may be great at roughhousing, the other may be fantastic at storytelling. One is great at getting the kids up and out the door for school. The other is better at the bedtime routine. You don’t have to do things exactly the same to be an effective co-parenting pair. Work to create space for one parent to do what they do best, while you step into support mode and vice versa. What if your co-parent is resistant to working on parenting as a team? Be patient and don't sweat the small stuff. Forcing someone to do something is not an effective way to create change. Instead of demanding that your co-parent take the initiative and/or agree with your perspective, give them time and space to process, think, and explore other parenting options. What can you live with? Pizza for dinner? Skipping a bath? What is non negotiable? Bed time? Wearing a helmet? If your co-parent is open to learning more, provide blog posts, articles, books and/or videos that they can review on their own time. Again, don’t push it. Let them know you’re ready to discuss it when they’re ready. This is one way to get away from "my way" and "your way" parenting and commit to parenting as a team. In some situations, co-parents are willing to support the other parent, even though they may not agree with the methods, if they are asked instead of told. Use “I statements” and clearly explain how they can help. In other situations, it's best to "get gone" and let the other parent figure it out without you hovering, nagging, or criticizing. If you have a positive experience or notice a positive change, share it with your co-parent in a non-judgmental way (aka celebrate the "wins" together). Let them know that you’ve had success without demanding that they do the same. Save parenting conversations for quiet moments when the kids, nanny, grandparents are out of earshot. Don’t hash it out or correct the other person’s parenting in the heat of the moment in public and when everyone’s upset. Parenting conflicts are often a sign of deeper issues. Use caution that these discussions don’t become about controlling your co-parent, taking something out on them, or teaching them a lesson.
It is likely that you are BOTH great parents. Make sure you are making space for the self-care you both need and the time you deserve as a couple to insure you maintain the best perspective to work together raising your littles into bigs.