Do you have different parenting styles?
Do you and your partner agree on parenting styles?
Did you and your partner talk about your ideas of how to bring up your child before your pregnancy started? Chances are you didn’t all that much – most people sort of assume you must be on the same wavelength about that and so many things, because you’ve mostly agreed so far. But people who have similar ideas about how relationships work can be amazingly different when it comes to parenting. One of you might become the authoritarian – striving for routines and rules right from the start, the other thinks you let your child dictate their readiness in more permissive, indulgent parenting style. If you haven’t sorted it out before baby arrives, maybe you need to do so now.
Accept you’re both beginners and in this together. It’s a myth that mums instinctively know what to do and dads less so. As more and more modern-day dads step up to the plate and become hands on with their children, you can see this is not so. Any adult who has never had experience with babies and children will be a beginner. So, if you didn’t have younger siblings or don’t work with children, the chances are you’ll have to learn on the job. And that goes for both of you - there is no gene that gives expertise in nurturing and nappy changing; they’re skills you learn.
Talk. Share your beliefs and attitudes to how children are looked after and raised, and how you should respond to them. As you talk you may be able to pick out, together, the guidelines you were given and whether each one is helpful or a hinderance. Whether “Big Boys Don’t Cry” or “Leave a crying baby alone until it quietens” feels right, and whether being sung lullabies and read stories was comforting. If you start with different parenting styles accept there is often no right or wrong, but you’ll manage much better if you can discuss them and experiment to find the ones that work for all of you - and back each other up along the way.
Divvy it up. Even if one of you is staying home full time for a period you’ll soon understand you need to share. That’s because a paid job is 8 hours a day, but child care is 24/7. And when a child experiences both parents playing with them, feeding them, bathing and putting them to bed, they bond with both parents and are much happier and secure. It also means your relationship is stronger, with no resentment or feelings of alienation from each other.
Give each other strokes. A stroke is counselling-speak for something that shows love and care. It can be literal – a touch on the arm, a hug or kiss. It can be verbal – saying ‘thank you’ for what they’ve done especially if you put into words what it is you appreciate; “You made me a cuppa and let me put my feet up!” And thanks go both ways. If it’s just the stay-at-home thanking the outside worker for doing some chores it sounds as if you’re saying the jobs were your responsibility and they were just ‘helping’. Chores are a shared responsibility, but it shows love to say “Ta!”.
Bounty “Sex & Relationship” articles are written by expert Suzie Hayman. Suzie is agony aunt for Woman magazine, a Relate trained counsellor, and an accredited TripleP (Positive Parenting Programme) parenting educator. She makes frequent appearances on TV and radio and as well as writing 31 books, Suzie writes features on parenting, relationships, sex and couples counselling, for a wide range of national magazines and newspapers