Marriage is complicated, and kids are a lot of work, so when you are dealing with both concurrently, it’s natural for issues to arise, right? Right. There is an interesting dynamic going on in our household, bordering on dichotomy. I come from parents who divorced early and so my ideas about motherhood are rooted in single motherhood. Hell, my ideas about LIFE are rooted in the idea that I can do anything and everything without help! I am woman, I am independent, etc. Perhaps you can imagine how this creates a predicament in a home where there are two parents who are (mostly) happily married. Pregnancy prepared me somewhat – I had to admit that I couldn’t do everything by myself, or at least that it would be completely unreasonable to operate in that manner. I let down my guard, I opened up, and I let Joe take his share of responsibility. Incidentally, this brought us closer. It was pretty great! We were a team, and this carried us through birth swimmingly.
But when Jack was born, the household dynamic reverted back slightly to the way it was pre-baby. I think partly because in times of stress, I over-organize. Mostly that’s a good thing because it means that the household keeps functioning no matter what craziness ensues. But parenting is stressful, and it has not been an easy transition for a multitude of reasons. So here I am over-organizing and making sure I’m armed with piles of information for any situation, except that in parenthood there is often no instruction, no information, or no time to acquire it. Joe is most certainly NOT an information-collector, and his experience with children is limited. He did not read a single book while I was pregnant, and has not read a single parenting book since Jack has been born. He is the spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants kinda guy. I admire that, as it means he is more adaptable than I am, but it also scares me because disorder is so against my nature. And with nearly two years of sleep deprivation under my belt, and the balancing act of being a working mom who breastfeeds, I am off my game with the info-collecting. I am trying, but failing, and no one is picking up my slack. Not only that, but I’m not a great communicator in any manner other than through the written word, and it’s not just books that Joe doesn’t read.
I’m not getting to my point very elegantly (so much for communicating well in writing), but here it is: I tend to make most of the decisions regarding Jack and Joe carries them out because he is home with Jack more than I am. Except when he doesn’t carry them out.
The most simple example has to do with food, which happens to be quite the challenge in our home. Neither of us is very good at feeding ourselves or understanding nutrition. I’ve done my best to learn, and for a while I was doing just fine. That’s what’s so great about breastfeeding – you don’t have to think about amounts; the baby will eat what he needs to eat in most cases, and there is not the worry of overfeeding and obesity as there is with formula and bottle feeding. Jack took quite some time to catch onto solids, and daycare has been helpful in the transition, so we haven’t had to worry too much. But now Jack is really loving the solids and we are unprepared. I at least manage to get Jack to eat. Joe, on the other hand, hasn’t switched his mindset to focus on solids. This presents a problem when Jack refuses milk like he has been doing while at home with Joe over the last week. Monday and Thursday Jack drank about 2 ounces of milk and had maybe 200 calories of other foods. Then I get home, nurse him, feed him some dinner, and nurse him to sleep. Then he proceeds to nurse.all.night because he didn’t fill up during the day. And let’s just say that a cranky, sleep-deprived Ewokmama is not a mama you want to be around; neither is a cranky, sleep-deprived Jack, for that matter.
So the crux of the matter is this: Joe and I have very similar parenting philosophies, which is great, but we haven’t learned how to effectively work together to make sure we are both informed and sharing responsibility for Jack (in many areas other than nutrition) in order to make effective decisions. Because I’m the breastfeeder in the family, I’ve been making the decisions about food for most of Jack’s life. Obviously, that has to change but how, when I’m finding books to be lacking and Joe is doing no research at all? (How does one wing it with nutrition while also attempting to be healthy?) My tendency is to do all the research and call all the shots, but hey! I’m a sleep-deprived mama with SEVERE mommy brain – I simply can’t do it anymore. The information center in my brain is fried.
I’m seeking input. I want to know how other parents out there are doing it! How does your household make decisions? What happens when one person is not great at a particular aspect of parenting (or anything really)? Does that automatically mean the other person has to do that duty all the time, even when it becomes onerous? What happens when you are both failing at something? And how do you keep supporting your partner after a mistake, especially when you would have fired them if they were your employee?