By Tommy T Page
How to Get Your Partner to Share Parenting Responsibilities
Many fathers who are no longer young parents say: “My biggest regret is that I did not spend enough time with my children when they were little. I see now that both my children and I missed out.”
It’s doubly difficult if you and your partner work long work hours for both of you to be involved in parenting. Many mothers tell me how angry they feel because they expected their husband to share in the raising of their children but they find themselves doing at least 75 percent of the work. Says one mother who works as a teacher: “My husband passes three grocery stores on the way home. But does he ever buy milk? No. In fact it never seems to enter his mind. He just expects home life to run smoothly even though I work as much as he does.”
What’s so difficult about anger between parents is that not only does it make marriages miserable, but it also floats down to the children. Being the center of the universe, as all toddlers think they are, they may think that their bad thoughts and actions caused their parents to be angry. When resentments get very intense in families, a toddler can feel that she has to spend her day by her mother’s side trying to get her to be a happy mommy again.
However, if you can manage to put aside your anger, which isn’t always easy, some basic communication may nip your fury in the bud and rescue your toddler. Even though it might seem obvious to you that your partner should know he is not doing his fair share, he needs to hear it from you. Gather your thoughts and verbalize.
Be reasonable and talk specifically about what you want him to do, for example, fix breakfast for the children because you aren’t a morning person, or take your toddler to a Saturday playgroup, you may save yourself a lot of emotional wear and tear over the years.
Setting up specific sessions to renegotiate who does what with your toddler can also help cut down on angry feelings. Some mothers consider who gets paid more and who works harder in order to decide whether they have the right to demand. But I’ve never known any parent who can successfully cut off anger long term by this type of reasoning.
One of the most crucial rules to follow if you really want your partner to share parenting is to let him have his own relationship with your toddler. While it can be hard for the parent who does most of the child care not to interfere, your partner should be able to do things his way.
One mother explains: “I was really angry that my husband did not seem to be spending much time with our two-year-old. But on the other hand, when he finally was with our son I couldn’t restrain myself from saying: ‘Don’t say that. It is not good for him. Do this.’ I basically felt that I was the good and more knowledgeable parent because I spent more time with our child. My husband eventually exploded and said he didn’t like spending time with me or our child when I was so critical.”
What you expect from your partner as a partner and as a father is going to make a big difference in how he responds. Over the years I’ve noticed three styles in working mothers. There is the mother who essentially gives up on having her needs met and is constantly rationalizing: “What can I do? There is no way I can change him.” Then there is the mother who is very confrontational but doesn’t know how to get her needs met: “I’m so angry that you never do anything with our daughter. I am totally exhausted.” The third kind of mother for the most part feels she is supported by her husband and accepts him for what he is. This couple have come to agree on certain rules. Consider this mother: “My husband and I have decided that the whole family is going to eat dinner together every night at eight o’clock. This is not always easy, since we work long hours at pressured jobs, but we rarely break the arrangement.”
It is very important for partners to recognize the feelings they have toward each other, because bad feelings can pollute the atmosphere of an entire family. For example, if you find that when the whole family is finally together on weekends you and your partner aren’t enjoying each other, figure out why. (Many parents say it helps to get as many chores done as possible on the weekdays. Any human being gets irritable when most of the day is spent running back and forth between the laundry and the grocery store with a toddler in tow.)
Remember, everything between you and your partner may not be resolved by trying to talk on your own. Consider going to a couples counsellor if it feels as though tensions aren’t easing up.
I know you care about your children. I’m a parent too. I’ve more tips about parenting smart kids to share with you. Start guiding your children to success!
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See Also Parenting Articles by Dr. Randy Cale at www.TerrificParenting.com