Guest post by Dr. Margaret Rutherford
We all start out thinking that our spouses are just great.
Sure, there are a few things that are a little annoying. But he’s great. And he’s going to be a fantastic Dad.
One of these days.
As long as you were not thinking about parenthood, those annoyances roll off your back pretty well. So he’s a little loud when he watches sports. Gets angry at the opposing team. You hate loud voices. So he spends a lot of time with his guy friends. Or the opposite. He doesn’t seem to have many friends- counts on you for social stuff. So he is more frugal than you – or more of a spender.
All of that is livable. He lets you know he loves you. You have a good solid marriage.
Then you get pregnant. All of a sudden, those things rear their heads as monsters. The characteristics that were tolerable – become intolerable. Not only do they affect YOUR life, now they will affect your CHILD’S life.
You become afraid.
Please realize that the same process is going on for your spouse! Maybe not as consciously as for you. But very similar.
Thus it can begin. The battle for control. The battle over whose teaching tactics are right and whose are wrong. “What if he teaches him to yell at the TV!!!!”
It doesn’t have to happen.
There are some things to remember about the very complicated, marvelous, frustrating, boring, intriguing job of parenting.
Maybe if you keep these simple things in mind, you and your hubby won’t bicker or pout about what the other one believes or doesn’t believe, or should or shouldn’t be doing:
1) Most approaches to parenting have their strong points, when used at the right times. Say someone can be overprotective or obsess about safety. That is the very parent who is going to notice that the hammock is being hung right over a sharp rock. Or the parent who is more lax, not as good with “watching the kids”. That parent is the one who is going to argue that it is time for Johnny to be allowed to go with friends alone to a game.
Both brands of parenting can be “right”. It takes each parent acknowledging what their particular vulnerability IS – what they might underdo or overdo – AND realize that sometimes their- or their partner’s- instincts are right on target. It takes mutual respect.
2) Appreciate and thank each other for your differences! The partner that drops everything on a Saturday morning and announces, “It’s a gorgeous day! Let’s take the kids for a hike!”.
Instead of grousing, “And when was the last time you cleaned out the garage?”, remember you MARRIED him because he could be spontaneous and fun. And you want to be appreciated as well!
So what do you say? “Thanks for getting me out there. It was beautiful. How about tomorrow we clean out the garage?”, as you smile sweetly.
Scratch his back. He’ll scratch yours.
3) Realize that your children are better off because you two are different. He or she can get the best of both styles IF YOU ARE NOT CONSTANTLY FIGHTING FOR CONTROL!!! I have heard of dramatic differences being worked out – everything from diverse religious views to academic preferences.
This kind of cooperation takes flexibility. If you are rigid or are married to someone who is, the control battle will be hard to avoid.
The rigid person will either not allow the other person to parent – to make choices or suggestions, or be highly critical of them if they do. “I don’t put the diapers on like that”. “Why are you letting him stay in the tub for so long?”. “She doesn’t like her sandwiches like that”.
Just don’t do this. Not only is it not respectful, it’s a terrible example to set for your kids!
4) Manage your insecurity. Your kids will be fine! Talk to friends, go to a therapist. Whatever you need to do. As long as they feel safe and loved, the majority of children will survive.
What will they say to you as an adult?
“Oh Mom, you and Dad were just different”.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in private practice since 1992. She has served locally in many non-profit organizations, and has been President of the Board of three: Ozark StageWorks, ArtsLive, and TheatreSquared, now voted one of the ten best semi-professional theatres in the United States. She is also an Adjunct Professor on the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Faculty on the Northwest Arkansas campus. Dr. Rutherford has also within the last year ventured into the world of blogging, and has created the term “NestAche” for “empty nest”. She writes regularly on her blog and is continuing to look into new and exciting avenues by being both creative and helping others through tough times, whether that’s empty nest, mid-life, or just needing laugh and a little support. She is married, with one son.