Recently I reached out to my beautiful tribe for a topic suggestion or a Q&A and got a little more than I bargained for.
My reaction to the Q&A question was an immediate cringe, a guffaw and then a “How the heck am I gonna answer this one?”. The issue being that I struggle with the same thing!
This blogging is a vulnerable business and even worse is me trying to label myself an *hushed whisper* “expert” I periodically find myself avoiding that word but also struggling for another accurate one and questioning myself big-time.
I mean what right do I have to give myself that title?
The reality is so far I have the tools to do a decent job at what I do (and there is no other great name). But my point of difference here is that I am also in the trenches day after day whilst a lot of the other experts are experts in hindsight or from afar and I know for a fact it’s much easier to apply this stuff to other people than it is to ourselves and our little people. I feel like my own honest, highs and lows, triumphs and tribulations journey gives me a little something extra to offer whilst also constantly fueling up on the wisdom of those far more seasoned.
So what was this dreaded question?
Here it is. A question about how to navigate parenting in a partnership with the majority caregiver having issues letting go of the reins.
There is one place that I don’t want to be the “number one”, “better than anyone else”, “top-dog”, “cream-of-the-crop”, “smarty-pants”, “know-it-all” and that is in my own home. In my home parenting is a partnership (as it should be anywhere there is more than one carer) but sometimes there is a certain someone who forgets that and may or may not drive her partner mad!
The case for the Defense is that I am passionate about empathic child-rearing. When I’m not actually parenting, I am usually reading a book or an article about it or doing a course. I actually enjoy this stuff. I find it fascinating, encouraging, eye-opening and inspiring. My partner is not quite as gung-ho on the research. He believes in this stuff and he does his best with it and reads and studies what I ask but he’s also time-poor and perpetually exhausted so sometimes doesn’t fully absorb whatever I’ve sent or asked him to study so then in the moment he can sometimes “get things wrong” or not do it the way the book said and I would like to say I handle these moments with empathy, grace and understanding but I think I promised to be real with y’all (haha)!
So with the original question I decided to put on my Aunty Ask hat and dive into it but that I would also sit with it and come up with this follow up article. In answering, I found answers for myself (and I still need to put those into play) but like all things in this world it’s primarily about empathy. One of the most important phrases to remember when parenting empathically is “Connect then correct!” and that’s also great advice for any type of communication.
No one can hear when they are not thinking and in most of these moments one or both parties is not in their thinking brain. So first and foremost, connect – empathise, show understanding, show appreciation before correcting and hopefully that also sets you up to correct in a respectful way. I also wouldn’t recommend doing it straight away as it can often take time to come out of that space but it’s also not good to appear to be undermining each other in front of the children.
It’s a great idea to sit down and come up with a game plan together.
Acknowledge the issue and your part in it, give some understanding of how that must feel to the other person and then brainstorm some ideas of how to get on the same page.
Some suggestions might be:
* Have a tag-out system for when someone isn’t coping in the moment.
* Have a nightly debrief where you start with talking about your own parenting experiences throughout the day and what you did well and what you would like to do better and then take some time to celebrate each other and your accomplishments as parents.
I am a broken record when it comes to getting some Listening Time and I particularly recommend that over airing ALL your grievances with your partner. Through getting Listened to on the topic you may be able to find little tweaks in the moment and for a long term plan. It can also be super helpful to have your Listening Partner be a stand-in for your partner as you let it all out and let them have it and that will hopefully help you keep a lid on the really harsh stuff in the moment.
To be a great partnership and also model good relationships, it’s also important to nurture the relationship between you and your partner and make sure it’s not always just about you two as parents but also you two as a couple. Take some couple time out after bed time or do a friend swap or rope some family in for a lunch or a dinner (if you can’t manage a whole night off). Try to have a date or two without parenting-talk. I heard a gorgeous story recently where a Mum listened to some Ted Talks before her date to make sure she had plenty of non parenting-related stimulus!
Parenting is such crucial but unsupported work, we have to do our best to build optimal support. Those of us lucky enough to have one or more people in our parenting team need to remember what a gift this is and make the most of it but also cut ourselves slack when it’s hard. Just like with the kids, it’s all about how good a repair we do.
Now, I’d better love you and leave you and put some of my own advice to work!
With love and humility,
Aunty Ask xx