When You and Your Partner Don't See Eye-to-Eye About Parenting
Being married can be challenging enough. Add kids to the mix and sometimes couples reach the breaking point. (For other couples, the parent piece is the only non-broken part of a couple relationship that was in trouble long before the kids come along.)
I have life after baby on my mind for a couple of reasons.
First, I spent my weekend speaking at the Winnipeg Baby and Kids Show, which gave me the opportunity to chat informally with a large number of parents about the biggest challenges they are facing in their lives as parents. Many mentioned feeling out of synch with their partners about the decisions they were making as parents.
Secondly, I just finished watching the documentary Married in America 2 (available for purchase via iTunes and elsewhere). The film catches up with nine couples who were the subjects of the original Married in America documentary to find out how they are faring individually and as couples as their relationships hit the five-year mark.
Some of the couples have had a baby; others are thinking about having kids. Some are grappling with deaths in the family or the complexities of blended family issues. Some couples are together; others are not. They all have different perspectives on life and relationships than they did five years earlier, some for better and some for worse.
The documentary is definitely worth watching. The film is fun and fast-moving and each of the couples is uniquely fascinating. My only quibble is that we never get a chance to see the couples arguing (something that does tend to happen in real life). No one swears on camera either. Ever. Perhaps the film was edited to make the film more palatable to faith groups (for marriage preparation courses) and educational organizations (for parenting classes). Or perhaps the folks at the Hallmark Channel (where the film initially aired) has rules about real life getting a little too real.
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But back to the broader issue: coping with problems in your couple relationship after you have kids; or, more specifically, what to do if you and your partner don't see eye-to-eye about how to raise your kids.
Here are some points to consider.
Don't assume that the problem will take care of itself once the baby is no longer a baby, the toddler is no longer a toddler, etc. You've still got a lot of years of parenting ahead of you -- and you definitely want to be on the same page of the parenting playbook by the time your kids hit the preteen or teen stage.
Try to engage your partner in a heart-to-heart discussion about the hopes and dreams that led you to want to become parents in the first place: the types of parents you want to be and the types of kids you want to raise. If you've never had this type of conversation, there's no time like the present to have it. Try to have this conversation when you're both relaxed and in a positive and upbeat mood. If you can't have this type of conversation without the conversation dissolving into an argument, consider couples therapy (so that you can work on your communication skills and resolve the outstanding issues you have as parents and as a couple).
Consider taking a parenting course together. That way, the information you're trying to discuss with your partner will be reaching your partner via a neutral third-party rather than always being filtered through you.
Share parenting materials that you've found particularly helpful. And encourage your partner to share parenting materials that express his or her ideas about parenting, too. (You don't have to agree with all the viewpoints expressed. What you're trying to do is get an understanding of what your partner is thinking and feeling about a particular issue. That's the first step to talking the issue through and finding some common ground.)
Take stock of all the things you do agree about rather than just focusing on all the things you don't. Then find ways to build on that common foundation in your lives as parents.