Parenting requires teamwork, but as new parents, it’s not always easy to find the balance between your roles. Parenting together means being on the same page, and knowing what to do when you’re not. After a long family filled vacation with our toddler, where our parenting team skills were tested every step of the way, my husband and I have walked away with a greater understanding of what parenting together truly means. And with that, I give you 5 steps to becoming the perfect parenting team!
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Parenting Together: 5 Steps to Becoming the Perfect Parenting Team
Step 1. It’s not a competition
When my son was first-born, my husband and I had a bit of a power struggle. Fortunately, being an active father is very important to him. Unfortunately, that was really tough in the beginning! My son was glued to me, as he was breastfed. I was also struggling with postpartum anxiety and holding my sweet little boy was literally the only thing that put me at ease. My husband longed for more bonding time with my son and we had to find a way to make that happen. Over time, this became easier, but it had to be made a priority right from the start.
As my son approaches his second birthday, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs. While being a stay at home mom makes me the “primary caregiver” there are days when it’s all about daddy. Other times, my son cries for me if I walk two feet away from him.
The important thing to remember is that it isn’t a competition. Your child loves you both equally and, of course, you both love them with equal ferocity. It’s important for your little one to have both of you. Once you take competition out of the picture, becoming a parenting team starts to get much easier!
Step 2. Let Your little one(s) decide for you
Even as a newborn, babies are always trying to tell us what they need. If you have tried for an hour to get your little one to calm down to no avail, perhaps it’s time to let the other parent take a whack at it. I can’t tell you how many times I insisted that I could “handle it” only to find that when my husband took the lead, my little guy finally calmed down.
It may not always be obvious why one parent seems to be more effective at any given moment. Perhaps my husband’s firm hold was helpful in calming down our son. Maybe my gentle touch is more effective when my son is teething and in pain. Or maybe it’s just the change-up that resolves the issue. Regardless, we’ve become more and more skilled at determining when he is trying to tell us that he needs the other parent.
Step 3. It’s not just about the kids
Part of parenting together means acknowledging your partner’s needs. There are days when I am so burnt out by the time my husband gets home that I need him to take over. I’m all mommed out! Usually, my husband picks up on this and naturally, he steps in to help.
This step was particularly important on our recent vacation. For whatever reason, my son was being incredibly defiant with me the entire week. Not only was this frustrating, but I was somewhat embarrassed at times. My husband recognized this and took the lead as the primary caregiver for most of the trip. That being said, I was still very aware of how much work he was doing and would periodically step in to relieve him from time to time.
Another fun little vacation challenge was the discovery that our son hates boat rides! We took a ferry to see the statue of liberty and boy was he upset. As my husband and I struggled to find a way to calm him, we found that the only solution was for us to both be holding him in a very specific way. Talk about parenting together! We were literally sharing the burden in an effort to find the best possible solution for our baby boy.
Step 4. Balance is key
Becoming the perfect parenting team is all about balance. It’s about parenting together to create a more harmonious home. It’s not about catering only to the kids, or thinking of your partner before yourself at all times, but about balancing everyone’s needs.
As I discuss in my post on finding balance in life as a mom and a wife, you need to make yourself the first priority. I know this sounds selfish, but you can’t be a great mom and a great partner if you’re completely run down and burnt out.
Once your minimum needs are met (and more than the minimum whenever possible!) you can shift your focus to your partner and your little one(s). When you’re basic needs aren’t being met, you need to speak up and ask for help. If your partner can’t provide it, ask a friend or family member to babysit for a bit, or hire some help around the house if you can afford to.
On that same note, your partner needs to put themselves first as well. You are each responsible for making sure you have what you need to function and asking for help when you need it. It’s not your job to predict what they need at all times, just as it’s not theirs to predict what you need. It is, however, both of your jobs, to predict what your little one(s) need to the best of your abilities. Take care of yourselves so you can take care of the kiddos!
Step 5: Adapt
Being a parent is a rollercoaster. I hate rollercoasters. But I do love my son and if I have to, I’ll go on a rollercoaster for him! If you’re a creature of habit like I am, adapting to the everyday changes you encounter as a parent can be extremely challenging.
Learning to accept that just when you’ve mastered this whole parenting thing, a curveball will come your way, will make life a lot easier. Just when you’ve solidified nap times, your little one will stop sleeping. Right when you think you’ve found a healthy meal your toddler will eat, they will start refusing it. Teething, illness, and injury can also throw your perfectly planned day into an utter catastrophe.
My husband and I have worked hard to adopt more of a “go with the flow” mentality when it comes to our son. We haven’t mastered it yet, but we’ve come a long way and it has had a big impact on our moods when life gets crazy.
What are your greatest challenges as a parenting team? Let me know in the comments below!
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