One thing that I need advice on is working better as a team with James. Because I spend the most time with Liam, I have ways that I do things, and I find when he is around that I tell him what to do a lot, and that makes him feel bad/inadequate/judged/not appreciated. I certainly don’t mean for him to feel that way, but I feel that unless he has a specific reason or particularly strong feeling for doing something a different way, he should respect that I have developed strong routines based on research and much time and effort on my part and put them into practice. I find myself thinking that when I boss him around he should thank me for sharing my awesome ways But also, I get it from his point of view – hes trying, he’s doing things with good intention, positivity and of course not doing anything totally wrong. And he works so hard and everything he does is for us, so I know I should totally give him a break and give him space to develop his relationship with Liam. I do try to hold back, but I can’t. Serious control freak.
Aahhh… what a question! I have mulled this over in the couple of days since you sent it and I think I will put my Aunty Ask hat on and answer here but I also think there’s a whole post on this I will write at a later date, with lots for me to explore myself too!
Working in partnership, particularly when it comes to connected parenting, can be very hard. I have heard it said that you should “Peacefully Parent your partner” which (whilst I love the alliteration) sounds a bit condescending but I think empathy is at the cornerstone of all we do, so I definitely think that’s the first key to this puzzle. I can really hear how much empathy you have for your partner and appreciation for what he does and how he does it. I can also hear (and identify with) how frustrating it feels when someone steps in and does things differently when you’ve worked so hard to do things a certain way.
The first thing is Listening Time (which I am always happy to provide) and I would possibly use your Listener as a stand in for your partner and say why it frustrates you, what you think when he does this, etc. Listening Time is always good as you know you have somewhere else to offload these frustrations and grievances which is better for your interaction with your partner and through Listening you can also work out what you can and can’t tolerate in terms of things done differently. Listening is based on the concept that each of us inherently has the answers to our own problems and that we just need a connected, warm, loving and non-judgemental Listener to hear us. So through Listening Time you may provide yourself with some great solutions.
The next thing is that Dr Gottman (the relationship guru) says that for every negative interaction we have with our partner, there should be 5 positive ones (7 for kids) so I think this is a handy thing to keep in mind as we pick our battles. I recommend Stop, Drop and Breathe when it comes to responding to our children but this can also apply to adult relationships too, it helps if we can centre ourselves somewhat before responding, particularly if we are having to dig a little deeper for our empathy. I often use a mantra to help me “Drop” my agenda with the kids and this works well when it comes to responding to our partners/co-carers too; such as “They are doing their best” or “Their intentions are good” and if you can put off the knee-jerk response to allow yourself time to go away and process your issue, you can hopefully find a good time to address it empathically later.
One of my friends (an amazing Mother with 4 boys) told me her and her husband have a debrief each night when the kids are in bed where they discuss their days’ parenting and what they thought went well and what they would like to improve. This is another great way of connecting with each other on how to co-parent and you could also discuss with your partner whether they would be open to shared ideas at this point. Maybe this is also an opportunity to celebrate each other and tell each other 3 things they do well or that you admire.
Also share any good articles and links you come across. Consider doing some courses together. I recommend the Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids course or Hand In Hand Parenting’s Starter Course or short courses – most will offer a scholarship or there are free courses on offer every now and again online. If you haven’t both read Playful Parenting I highly recommend that one for Dads in particular.
Parenting is the most important work any of us will do and we feel very strongly about the outcomes, we also all have our own personal journeys and healing to do so it makes sense this can become a very charged area and I think most primary care-givers will identify with this scenario and how complex it is to find that balance and unity when there is often an imbalance in the research and execution. I think it sounds like you are doing an amazing job, you clearly have a lot of generosity and empathy towards your partner and you have reached out which is often a really hard step but such a great step in moving forward. I reckon you’ve got this!
Stay in touch and hit me up for Listening if you need some!
Aunty Ask xx