As parents, your ability to work as a team will be tested, far more than ever before in your marriage. Daily routines and responsibilities are likely to become completely different.
It is important to be aware of our own expectations of ourselves and our partner when it comes to parenting. Having children changes the dynamic of a marriage without question; if we acknowledge that, then it is certainly possible to make it so that some changes will work in our favor.
How do you help each other out as parents? Co-parenting with a partner requires open communication, clear expectations, and patience. Discuss your values about raising children together, often and without judgement. A clear understanding of your values and roles as parents is important for preparing to become parents, and for preparing for the developmental stages of your child throughout his or her life.
What do you want for your child? All children are not created equal. It is important that you and your partner both participate is researching the typical developmental stages of children (through reading, parenting classes, accessing professionals). All children will have unique needs, so as you become aware of what these are for your child, be sure that you access help and support together as a parenting team. This applies whether it is for a child with a physical or mental handicap, a child who has a particular interest or talent, or a child going through any significant change (such as a new baby or a loss in the family). Invite your partner to work with you in finding what options are best for your child.
Even if you have been parenting together for years, it is not too late to re-evaluate the dynamic that has been established.
Guidelines for parenting with your spouse
- Protect and nurture the relationship with your spouse as your number one priority. Neglecting the well-being of your relationship with your partner is neglecting the well-being of your child. Putting your marriage first is putting your child first. Keep your marriage on track by keeping that in perspective; the emotional safety of your child depends on the respect and appreciation between yourself and your co-parent (this applies for divorced couple’s as well).
- The small things matter. Make a gesture to your spouse by doing the dishes, buying the groceries, making his or her favorite meal, or by scheduling extra time just for the two of you. Don’t do something looking for a “thank you” because making your spouse’s day easier makes the whole family’s day easier, and that is “thank you” enough. Small things add up when it comes to negative words toward your spouse, too, so be careful.
- Ask for what you need. Be clear about requesting time and tasks from your partner. Also, make the effort to ask kindly. It is worth it. A critical tone of voice or dismissive attitude can create a a tense or negative situation where there may have been space instead for appreciation and collaboration. Since we all make mistakes and get impatient at times, give a sincere apology when you know you’ve been short or irritable with your spouse. This is important whether or not you were “right” about whatever subject was being discussed.
- Stay organized. It is important for both parents to be aware of each other’s and their child’s schedule. This will help you keep the childcare and other responsibilities balanced. Be sure to schedule some alone time with your partner, and family time with the kids. Also, remember that relationships require flexibility, so allow for some changes, mistakes, and spontaneity when it comes to the schedule. It should never be used as a tool to blame or shame your partner. It is simply a guideline to show each other that everyone is trying to do their best.
- Stop looking for what your spouse is doing wrong, and stop focusing on where you disagree. Think about the small ways in which you and your spouse are already making use of the above suggestions, and focus on the strengths that you have as a team. Remember the times that you had fun together as a couple, or as a family. Talk about good times together, and talk about how you envision your marriage and family to look with positive words and a hopeful attitude. Most of all, talk about things together other than just work and your kids!
If it seems as though the stress of having children has brought distance between you and your partner, take the time to access professional help individually or as a couple. If you notice yourself distancing from your partner (i.e. complaining to friends, spending more time on work or other activities, spending more time with your kids instead of with your spouse, etc.) it is time to get some support from someone who is trained to help your family build the tools that they need in order to work together in whatever way is most suited for you.