Parenting is an intense sport these days.
The internet offers more information than any reproducing human has ever had access to, and the culture DEMANDS we (mostly women) know all the options and have strong, articulate views on every conceivable topic.
Meanwhile, men generally don’t chat at the work about “breast or bottle?” Nor do they have a fierce need to read everything they can find in order to grow this baby into a fantastic human being.
Thus is the first of many differences most couples have in parenting: how much thinking and energy do you and your spouse spend on the IDEA of parenting.
And, unfortunately, in the heat of the pressure cooker (sometimes, literally, if you’re a homemade, organic food, no GMO, solar powered self gardening momma) when your spouse doesn’t get why you’re putting all this stress on yourself, things can get explosive.
You can both feel like the other is either not in the game or off the deep end–how could they care (or not care) about such important matters?
We want to talk about what’s really going on for most married couples who fight about parenting differences.
The REAL issue is not about parenting style differences—softer or harder, steady versus spontaneous, gushy affection versus tough love, in-their-face versus laid back, play with them versus watch them play, talk more versus listen more, rely on professional advice versus go with your gut, etc.
The real issue isn’t about one of you doing most of the child work.
The real issue isn’t about the “correct” approach, say, to kids’ allowances or to consequences if a teen comes home drunk.
Not that these aren’t important matters. But if you’re fighting over the best way to parent kids, the real issue is usually somewhere else: it’s about how you are relating to each other as co-parents.
Parenting in married couple households is a team sport.
To know you’re on a healthy marriage team, can you answer yes to the following two questions?
We generally show respect to each other when it comes to our parenting styles and decisions?
We can agree to disagree, peacefully, on the specifics while showing our children that people can have different views but agree on fundamental principles and work well together?
Bottom line: Don’t get hung up on your differences.
Kids can (and do!) grow up successfully with parents who have different parenting styles—as long as their parents accept and harmonize their differences rather fighting over them.
Meanwhile, if your in-laws are driving you crazy about how you parent, head over to our dealing with difficult inlaws blog post.
If you’re really stuck, marriage counseling is the perfect next step.