It’s been a slow go, but I am trying to chip away at the questions that were given to a few of us to answer during a men’s panel that I was on. I thought I would handle the topic of parenting together next.
Here is the question: How can a wife help her husband feel that they are parenting together?
This question can mean something different depending on your household dynamic. I will do my best to be as general as I can and get specific when need be. In my home, my wife runs the day-to-day of the household. I work during the week and she is at home running the house. My wife spends a lot more time in the home than I do and a lot more time with our kids than I do as well. It is the current state of our household. I work outside of the home, she takes care of the family and our home. I help as much as possible around the house, but sometimes I feel like it is her house that I am living in. I know this is not true, but sometimes it can feel like it. I am trying to work to change the amount of time I spend at work. Right now, I work a typical 8-5 day. Now that we live closer to my office, I often come home for lunch. I used to photograph a lot of weddings on weekends but have cut back a lot so I can be home on as many weekends as possible.
My goal is to be able to reduce the amount of time I spend working during the hours my children are awake. I love my business, but I am missing valuable time I could be spending with my children. My kids are young and want to spend time with me. When they get older, they will have friends and other activities which will leave me plenty of time to work more if I want to. So let’s get back on topic.
Most men work and are not around the home as much as their wives are. This is the case in my household. Some households have a working husband and wife, but often the wife still runs more of the home than the husband does. My wife spends all day with our children. I see my kids for about an hour in the morning and for a few hours in the evening before bed. I get the weekends with them as well, but weekends are a different dynamic than the work/school week. I feel like more parenting happens during the week and the weekends are more fun and activities. During the week, my wife does most of the parenting on her own. When I get home, I help with dinner, play with the kids for a while and help put them to bed. Part of my evening routine with my wife these days involves relaxing. By the end of the day, we are both tired and just want to chill.
In business, there have been situations where I become part of a project that was already in motion. Though I feel I have a handle on the project and understand where it needs to go, taking action without knowing every nuance could lead to a blow up down the road. This often happens at home with the kids. I find myself in situations with my kids and parent the way I feel is right in the moment, but sometimes my method ends up clashing with something my wife has already tried or set in motion. I get frustrated because I was not informed. It’s hard to stay on the same page when the majority of my time is spent at work and my wife’s time with the kids.
There have been other instances where I have attempted to parent a certain way and then my wife contradicts my method by directing the children in another way without taking me aside and asking me about it first. This happens to all of us. I do it to her as well. Many times we are reacting to a situation. Something happens and we swiftly deal with it. I feel that sometimes we respond maybe a bit too swiftly.
It really comes down to communication. My wife and I do a pretty good job of recapping our days to each other. By the end of the day when I come home, my kids are usually tired. They only have a few hours left before bed so they have had a full day. I often get to deal with the meltdowns that happen during those hours. When I get home from work, my kids are hangry (hungry + angry). Not really. I just wanted an excuse to say that work in this blog. My kids are pretty great and only occasionally have meltdowns the moment I walk through the door.
Parenting on the same page takes communication. Without communication, you are walking into a war zone. The home can be a war zone sometimes. If I was not communicated to, there is unknown intel that I need to navigate the landscape that is our home. My daughter may have had a rough day that involved missing some of her nap and getting disciplined recently for hitting her brother. She could still be upset when I come in the door and try to love on her.
On occasion, my wife will text message me to let me know what is going on. Sometimes it’s during a phone call on my way home. It helps me understand what is going on and what to expect. Knowing what to expect helps me prepare myself and I am able to be what I need to be for each of my children when I walk through the door. Most of our parenting related frustrations with each other has to do with discipline. My wife and I both have our good days and bad days when dealing with disciplining our children. It’s not a simple job and we both kind of hate having to do it.
Big Picture Parenting
Most married couples are on the same page when it comes to the bigger picture. They know how they want to raise their kids and what they want their kids to experience. Some couples may have a few differences in the big picture area, but it’s easier to work on those differences because they are part of the bigger picture. There is a lot of time between thinking about those things and having to act on them. Bigger Picture items could include what kind of school we will send our children to and whether or not we will allow our kids to drink soda. These are not typically “in the moment” decisions we have to make.
In The Moment Parenting
Most parenting decisions are made in the moment. They are responses to situations that transpired. This is where differences start to become clear between a husband and wife. Decisions made in the moment lack communication. We feel that we need to act right away, so we make a decision. This decision may be a new one, which was not discussed prior to acting on it.
Because we feel that we need to shut down the situation in the moment, it often ends up being a sole parent decision. Usually, that has to do with discipline. My wife and I have most of our issues there. We often see pretty eye to eye, but we have our moments.
There are other decisions that we make in parenting that end up being in the moment when they could have waited until later. Not everything has to be handled in the moment. I recognize that sometimes it is just easier for my wife to make a decision on something at that moment. At work, I make decisions all day. If I had to stop and check with someone else before making my decisions, it would drive me crazy. I do understand that it is often easier just to say yes, or no, or sign up for something at that moment because it seems right. It might also seem like a small thing that doesn’t matter to you, so you deal with it in the moment.
All of these “moments” throughout the day are often something the other spouse misses out on. Those moments add up and can make a person feel like they are not really doing any parenting. I have moments of my own like that, but I realize that my wife and I have our jobs and we are the CEO’s of our individual jobs.
CEO, CFO, and CPO’s
As mentioned before, my wife pretty much runs the home. She is the CEO of the house. That doesn’t mean she can do whatever she wants. I am the CFO of our home, because I handle the majority of the finances. My wife and I are both CPO (Chief Parenting Officers). It’s a joint position run as a team. She brings her years of Early Childhood Development training and being a Nanny for many years to the table. At the time of writing this, she also has almost six years in the trenches with our children. I am a very observant person who also reads a lot, so I have some of my own tactics and methods that I have developed. I also try to stay very in tune with my children emotionally. I am better at this with my boys than I am with my little girl.
As a team, we are continuously learning what we do well and what we do not. To the best of our ability, we try to do this together. This means that one person is not doing everything while the other watches sports. My wife spends most of the time with our children, but I make sure that I get opportunities to be with all three of my children alone as well. When I am home, I am with my family. I don’t watch sports or other tv shows while my kids are awake. My wife and I do watch shows we like after our kids are in bed. I will watch shows with my kids sometimes. Shows of their choosing (Power Rangers). I make an effort to be involved.
It really does come down to communication. Actions speak louder than words. If you come home from work and don’t contribute, you are not going to feel like you are an equal parent. We are a parent to a child or children. We are a spouse to another adult. It takes intent and you have to prioritize your family over other things to be as involved as your spouse is.
With better communication, you can parent proactively. Talk about your kids together. Tell your spouse about the cool things your kid is doing and the things he or she may be struggling with. Don’t let these things come up and blindside your spouse.
As you can see, it takes effort from both sides. Don’t attack your spouse because you feel that she isn’t including you in parenting decisions. Turn off the football game and talk to her about it. Don’t attack your spouse because he isn’t as involved of a parent as you. If you don’t share much with him, how can he feel as invested as you are?
It’s all about the children. I deeply care about my work, but it will not get in the way of me being an involved parent. Right now it is very popular to work your tail off to achieve in your career. Everybody wants success, and they want it yesterday. The concept of work-life balance is all the buzz right now because people find themselves working most of their waking hours and realize their family is left off in the distance. It’s sad. You can start a hundred companies in a lifetime, but you can only start one family. Sure it is common for people to start second, and even a third family after failing the first few times, but is that healthy? I think not. Give all you have to your family. You can find a way to work and find success. We live in an extremely pliable world these days.
Do you have some tips on how to better include your spouse in the parenting role? If so, share them in the comments below.