Dear Inside His Head,
Unfortunately, it seems I have become the “enforcer” in our family and my husband is the “fun dad”. I get tired of being the bad cop, while my husbands gets to play good cop all the time. I try to be fun, but it just doesn’t work and the kids see through my act. I really want to break out of this, but I need my husband to step up and tell the kids NO once in a while or to clean their rooms. Our kids are in school and we both work, so we’re with them about the same amount of time.
GRAY: I don’t think it’s uncommon for moms to be viewed as the enforcer. I mean, I’m a grown man and if my wife didn’t insist I get my hair cut or badger me to get the garbage together every week it’s entirely likely neither would get done.
So I think you have to start out with the understanding that your husband doesn’t have the same expectations of your children that you do.
Dressing properly and keeping rooms straightened are things I’d wager most men don’t see as a high priority and will unintentionally undermine your efforts. You and your husband are going to have different ideas of what’s important.
I’d suggest three things: talk about what each of you want your children to learn and then divide those lessons between the two of you, playing to your individual strengths. The third thing? Have each other’s back and don’t contradict each other.
Your husband can make sure the kids get the garbage together and you make sure they keep their dirty clothes off the floor. Maybe he makes sure the kids feed the pets and you make sure they do the dishes after the family gets fed.
For example, in my home I have to take my daughter to the dentist (which my daughter hates). You get the picture. If that’s no good then maybe you take different roles. You’re the enforcer and he’s responsible for discipline when they don’t get things done.
And remember, fun is what you bring to the table. Homework can be just as fun as a pillow fight (well, maybe not AS much fun) if you approach it with the right attitude. Sometimes we all feel put out and resort to yelling and badgering people instead of treating them with respect. That’s no fun for anyone. When you and your children have fun together, they’re less likely to be resentful when you ask them to be responsible. Respect isn’t earned by who can yell the loudest.
Finally, kids go through phases where they’re simply going to enjoy the company of one of you more than the other.
You and your husband can say the exact same thing, but get radically different results. Don’t turn yourself into a bad cop forever because it’s how you feel right now.
Instead of trying to be fun, ask your kids what’s fun for them and then be present and loving in their company. They’ll love you for the experience and keep you from pigeonholing yourself.
Likely your husband is the fun one because he’s sorta fun, while you have become the heavy because, well, you like the trains to run on time.
You can’t go from the role of The Terminator to family funny person in one day. But with some cooperation from your husband maybe you can both move toward a more happy medium.
There are two parts to this:
1) The first part of the plan requires your husband to do some stuff.
Tell him he needs to say “No” more often. When he weasels out or acts like a wimp, point it out to him after the fact. Practice your new “fun” nature here. Be nice. Be supportive. Reward him with a passionate kiss later that night for each for every “No” he dishes out, or when he oversees homework or brings the heat for wet towels being tossed on the floor.
Be sure he benefits from the new “fun” you too.
If he refuses to act, well, congratulations, you married a load. I can’t help you there.
But being Mrs. Load doesn’t not mean you can’t be fun. Just don’t TRY to be fun. Nothing is less fun than someone trying too hard to be fun. Don’t be Fozzy Bear. “Want to hear a funny joke: Wakka-Wakka-Wakka.”
2) Ease into the new you.
Try finding a TV show or some other activity you and the kids can share, laugh over, and joke about. Try forcing yourself to be less stiff and more spontaneous. Sure, this might impact some things like — fewer vegetables may be eaten, or bedtimes might be extended here and there — but usually these little acts of rebellion result in fun.
And remember, it’s not a contest, just because you’re trying to be fun doesn’t mean your husband has to be less fun. Try both being fun.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. It will take time. But do it. And have fun.
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