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 Post subject: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 2:27 pm 
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Making Threats to Punks Again
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I have been staying home with our son (who is 17 months) since last January, and my husband's job is intense- since May he has been working 50-70 hours a week. Now that the season is starting to wind down, he is working less and being able to spend more time with us. To be fair, his father passed away just weeks ago, and i know he is under lots of stress because of that on top of the stress level of his job. He gets easily upset with our son, and he will occasionally shout- just 'no' or 'stop' or just be what seems to me to be overly autocratic in his parenting style. i thought i was being helpful, and was regularly suggesting how he could do it differently or taking over so he could have a break when i felt like it wasn't going well. However, he helped me understand that instead of helping, i was making him feel that he wasn't as good at parenting as i am. I am realizing that i need to focus more on all the great things he does. And he does- despite all the work he does, he loves our son and interacts with him wonderfully most of the time. I know this is going to be a battle for me- i tend to want to fix things.

What have you found helps you and your partner work best together and how do you support your partner and their parenting?


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 4:46 pm 
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I'm not sure what I can say that's constructive now, but I will say I completely understand where (I'm assuming) your husband is coming from. Parenting is still thought of by many (and maybe even by us, stashed away deep in our minds, under lock and key) as mothering. "Of course she knows how to do this stuff," we fathers tell ourselves. "She's the mother." I think many fathers feel inadequate. Maybe we've bought into the idea that parenting "doesn't come naturally" for men. Maybe we feel guilty (if we're the sole or primary breadwinner) because we're away so often. Maybe we worry that we can't catch up in our relationships with our children because (like maybe in your husband's case) we're arriving a little late to the party, our work schedules or obligations having changed. Maybe we feel unappreciated. "I'm making sacrifices too!" we might be thinking.

I think of this as "Second Parent Syndrome." And it can be hard to feel like the back-up parent, even if that's not how our kids or partners see us. "I'm as much his father as she is his mother!"

So I can see how, if he is feeling some of these things, he's defensive about his parenting, even if you're approaching things with kindness. It's hard for him to think you're the expert and he's the bumbling Johnny-come-lately.

Like I said, I don't have anything contructive right now. Like, how can you help this? Just make sure he gets what we all want: to be heard and acknowledged.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:03 pm 
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Like FootFace said, being the working parent can create a lot of feelings of inadequacy, or especially with younger kids, feeling like your own child doesn't love you because her or she is so dependent on the stay-at-home parent. I don't have much in the way of how to deal with parenting differnences except maybe to offer an alternative to yelling when your son is in bed instead of stepping in in the moment. And make it from your perspective, like "when he is driving me nuts during the day, this is what I like to try" etc.
One thing that has helped my husband build a stronger bond with our son is for me to walk away and let them be together. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to always be present with my son even when my husband was home and it turned me into a micromanager which is not good! They run short errands together sometimes on the weekends and they play when my husband gets home from work during the week.
Also, some of the bonding/feeling better appreciated as a parent may just come with age. As my son approached two, he became more independent, sillier and more playful, which was really easy for his dad to tap into and have fun together.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:18 pm 
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Kiddo wrote:
Like FootFace said, being the working parent can create a lot of feelings of inadequacy, or especially with younger kids, feeling like your own child doesn't love you because her or she is so dependent on the stay-at-home parent. I don't have much in the way of how to deal with parenting differnences except maybe to offer an alternative to yelling when your son is in bed instead of stepping in in the moment. And make it from your perspective, like "when he is driving me nuts during the day, this is what I like to try" etc.
One thing that has helped my husband build a stronger bond with our son is for me to walk away and let them be together. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to always be present with my son even when my husband was home and it turned me into a micromanager which is not good! They run short errands together sometimes on the weekends and they play when my husband gets home from work during the week.
Also, some of the bonding/feeling better appreciated as a parent may just come with age. As my son approached two, he became more independent, sillier and more playful, which was really easy for his dad to tap into and have fun together.


I like your suggestions a lot. He needs to feel like a full parent, so he needs time and space to parent.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 5:23 pm 
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Footface, I loved what you said.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:25 pm 
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I agree with the rest that this does need to be addressed separately from your son and not at the moment of the crisis. However, I don't have a problem with you putting your foot down when it comes to discipline methods. You do have a right to criticize (in the constructive sense!) when you see him doing something you don't want happening. You will obviously both have different parenting styles, but those styles need to be harmonious. You have had more time to come to a naturally gentle discipline methodology over the last 17 months... if he hasn't been on the ground as much as you, he may be reverting to discipline methods he was raised with, or just reacting to a situation without thinking about it much at all. So there definitely needs to be a conversation between you two about how you're both going to interact with and discipline your son from now on. Just as his feeling that you're undermining his parenting is valid, your feeling that you don't want your son to have a dad that yells or harshly punishes is valid too.

I think he really needs more chances to parent solo too. My husband and I are really struggling with this right now... he does this sort of "affected incompetence" thing that really drives me up a wall. If I ever give any suggestions for anything he seems to be struggling with, I risk having him act like he "can't" do it. Tzippy is still a little too young for me to leave her for any extended length of time (still nursing every couple of hours), but when I do leave, I make an effort not to arrange stuff for him beforehand or tell him what or when to do things. Does he know anything about child development? Would reading something about how kids that age do things help him understand why he's losing patience or feeling stuck? I know that showing my husband why Tzippy does the things she does has really helped him decode her when they're having a tough time.

I really do understand what footy is saying, and obviously parenting is more complex than other life tasks, but I'm not allowed to just stand back or give up or get snippy when someone else is showing me how to do something... I'm expected to put on my big-girl underpants and figure out how to parallel park, or take responsibility for my finances, even though driving and money are two things I don't feel very competent at (and would rather not ever think about again). I don't hand over the keys to my husband every time I have to park somewhere "because I can't do it", and I don't get mad when he tries to give me suggestions, and I don't resort to parking illegally just to avoid something I don't feel very good at.


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:15 pm 
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Thanks guys, especially you, footface. i love my husband, he is an incredible parent, and i think with the loss of his father, and just the general craziness in our lives right now, you said a lot of what is going on in his head. you guys helped me get my head in the right place and feel like there is a way to navigate through this.

I struggle with giving him more time with my son, because he just isnt here that much (often only two hours of time when my son is awake). when we were both in grad school, we didn't put the babe in daycare at all, and we shared most duties equally (except bfing) and he did wonderfully. i feel part of his issue may be wishing he had more time with the little man. now things are starting to slow and for thanksgiving weekend, he only had to work half days (including thursday, he works pretty much 7 days a week). he took our son out for guy time everyday but sunday, and also spent lots of time interacting with him.

My husband's parents were/are the same age as my grandparents, and he grew up with a very traditional, hands off father and a do what i say or else authoritarian mother, spanking was normal, although it does seem they did it in the best possible way- not emotionally (i don't agree, but i don't feel they did it abusively). My parents were laissez faire, hippie parents. We agree conversationally about using an attachment parenting style, in fact, he is much more upfront about our parenting with others then i am.

parenting style wise, he said recently, that reading about how to discipline would be something he would be willing to do. we have the baby book, by the sears, but they aren't really good at spelling out what modeling and positive reinforcement look like. I was thinking in january, maybe we could both start reading some kind of book around the topic. any suggestions?


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 1:41 pm 
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there's so much good stuff in this thread, especially from footface and rachandra. FF, i really like hearing your perspective.

i know we found (through hundreds of hours of therapy) that we (as a couple) had the most disputes because each of us thought we were doing more than the other one was, and it was unfair. The truth was that we each had so many responsibilities that nobody was actually slacking, no matter how unfair it seemed- there was just a heavy load for each of us.
One thing our couples therapist suggested that helped was for us to actively find things to praise about each other when we wanted to crucify (common sense, really) - especially related to the kid tasks. As often as possible, really. And we found each other identifying and learning what we wanted to learn from the other partner. It was cool.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 2:45 pm 
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The Sears' have a book called The Discipline Book that might help.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Mon Nov 29, 2010 2:48 pm 
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i've been following this thread but haven't posted because there was already such good stuff here, but just wanted to add another "yup" to the column of praising when you want to criticize, or at the very least leading with a praise when having a discussion about parenting. like: "something that you started to do that i really like is ________. i wouldn't have thought of that and i think it's working really well. what i wish we didn't do so much of is ______. i think that we can both stand to work on that."

good luck, jildez. if any couple tells you that they don't struggle with these issues now and again, they're full of baloney. frankly, i don't want to get to a place where i feel like we both deserve a big ol' pat on the back and awesome parent award, because that probably means we're getting lazy. there's always more to learn, room to grow.


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:09 am 
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Thanks again guys. I'll keep looking for a book, and keep working on telling him all the good things i see him doing. We've been married for 11 years, and i knew you had to work to have a good marriage, but doing with a kid is definitely teaching me how much more i had to learn and how much more humble i have to be.

i will keep looking for a book- we will be visited family for the holidays, and therefore will be near a bookstore, and i will checkout the discipline book. i am a little leery of it, bc i feel like that is the weakest part of the baby book, but if i get to look at it in person, maybe i will feel better.


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 8:31 am 
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joanna wrote:
good luck, jildez. if any couple tells you that they don't struggle with these issues now and again, they're full of baloney.

ain't it true, and i'd like to think it is not a judgment on me to say that even at age 11 we occasionally have back-and-forths (Mr Torque and I) about what we're doing wrong. I guess it's true, the unexamined life/parenting journey ain't worth living.

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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Thu Dec 02, 2010 1:14 pm 
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jildez wrote:
i am a little leery of it, bc i feel like that is the weakest part of the baby book, but if i get to look at it in person, maybe i will feel better.


it's better than that section of the baby book.

the book i've found the most helpful: how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk. i find this to be an invaluable resource on every aspect of parenting from birth to teenage years, since all parenting arguably extends from being able to communicate effectively with your kids without resorting to yelling or punishing. i refer to it again and again and it's never failed me.

we got some helpful ideas from the happiest toddler on the block, and definitely found it to be worthwhile read, but it sells itself as The Solution To Raising Toddlers, and... you know, again, a useful tool with some helpful techniques, but not the be all end all.

the library is handy terms of parenting books since most parenting books don't need to be used as an ongoing resource. you can read them once and pick and choose what you like best and feels the most similar to your philosophies/approach.


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Fri Dec 03, 2010 8:23 am 
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hi jildez, I don't know you or your husband and I'm definitely not a psychiatrist (and here I mainly just stick to the kitchen/food section). But you might consider looking into situational depression as a cause for your husband's recent behavior. I don't know, I'm not a professional, but it's worth looking into some possible underlying causes.


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 Post subject: Re: being a better co-parent
PostPosted: Sat Dec 04, 2010 12:35 am 
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Pixiedust- its been less then a month, so there is definitely depression, but it is a natural part of the process. its a big part of why i am going to wait a while.

Joanna- i will look at your suggestions. our local library is kinda lackluster- they have about 5 parenting books total (my town has about 800 residents, and 1300 in the 'greater rural area'. Hence, the bookstores when we had back east for the holidays.


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