10 Co-Parenting Mistakes That Actually Made My Partnership Stronger
I don't like admitting that I make mistakes. I mean, who does, right? However, motherhood has made what has always been difficult something that is also extremely necessary. I can't be the best mother to my son if I don't admit I screw up, then work on making sure I don't screw up again. I also can't be the best partner to my son's father, if I don't do the same. So, even though it sucks, the co-parenting mistakes that actually made my partnership stronger are mistakes I'm pretty thankful for. Ugh, that hurts to type.
As a reformed perfectionist, it's difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that I cannot get everything right on the first try. This (OK, obvious) realization hit me particularly hard after my son was born, and I was trying (and failing) at doing everything perfectly the first time around to prove to my son, everyone around me, and myself that I could be the mother he deserved. Healthy, right? Well, after a while I realized that making mistakes was actually making me a better mother, and if I stopped long enough to admit I had screwed up and then fixed that screw up while simultaneously learning from it, I was going to continue to be the mother my son needed and wanted and deserved.
Ugh, personal growth. So painful, right? Then again, that's honestly what motherhood is all about, and I have learned more about myself and my partnership with my father's son, than I'm convinced I've actually taught the human being I brought into the world. So, with that in mind, here are the co-parenting screw ups that have made my relationship what it is today: solid.
The Time We Spaced A Pediatrician Appointment
This only happened once, and I blame sleep deprivation for this one. It was pretty damn embarrassing (the kid was scheduled for a slew of necessary vaccinations, and since I didn't handle my kid crying through shots well the first time, I'm sure the pediatrician is convinced I did this on purpose).
Still, the fact that we both messed up reminded us that neither one of us are perfect. It really kept the "blame game" to a minimum, which is clutch when you're so damn tired and quick to lash out irrationally.
Plus, it was our first official "screw up" as parents, so it was nice to know we were in this mess together.
The Time(s) We Called Poison Control For No Reason
OK, by "we" I might mean "me," but whatever. I was a really scared and nervous new mom, what can I say?
We called poison control for damn near everything, you guys. My son accidentally peed in his mouth while we were changing his diaper? Yep, on the phone. My son put dirt in his mouth? On the phone in a second. My son didn't poop for a few days? Yeah, definitely on the phone. It wasn't healthy, but it helped my partner and I figure out what our new normal was. We were both figuring out this parenthood thing on the fly, so at least we were doing so in a way that made us both laugh, right?
The Time Our Son Fell Because I Wasn't Looking
This was all on me, as I was the only one home at the time. I had put my son on our (fairly short) counter, strapped to his mini-highchair so I could feed him at my level. I gave him a few more bites for him to pick up on his own and sat down to look over some work things on my computer. I looked away for only a few seconds and, well, I'm sure you can guess what happened next.
My son had grown significantly enough for his tiny feet to reach the counter. He pushed himself backwards and, before I knew it, he was on our kitchen floor. I panicked, called 911, and was in the back of an ambulance with my son before I could even get ahold of my partner. He was perfectly fine (not a scratch or a bruise) but I was emotionally terrorized and two seconds away from experiencing a fatal heart attack.
That day was one of the worst days of my life, but the kindness my partner showed me in the moments following (when he rushed to the emergency room at the nearby children's hospital) solidified our parenting relationship. He didn't blame me (when he rightfully could) and he didn't scold me (which probably would have been a valid response). Instead, he told me that everyone makes mistakes and our son was fine and that I was an amazing mother simply trying to do too much.
So while this wasn't a joint parenting mistake, it was one that reminded me that when one of us essentially "fails," the other will always be there.
The Time We Argued Over Who Was Getting Up At Night
There was just no reason for the argument to begin with, but when you're exhausted and overwhelmed and sleep-deprived, rationality gives way to fatigue.
I was exclusively breastfeeding, so it's not like my partner could borrow my breast for a few minutes and take on some of the feeding responsibilities. Plus, he was "getting up" (read: opening his eyes for two seconds and rubbing my back while he went back to sleep) when I was getting up to feed my son, too.
Still, this argument was a wake-up call for both of us. In me picking a fight, I was essentially asking him to just help out with other things he could physically do. Make dinner. Do the laundry. Take on a feeding after I pumped. You know, things that don't involve having milk-producing breasts. When the core reason of why this argument even existed was flushed out, we were a better, more efficient parenting team.
The Time We Both Couldn't Figure Out How To Swaddle
This was one of those #ParentingFails that still makes us laugh. We were both so cool and confident in the hospital, because we didn't have to swaddle our son at all. The talented nurses had that business handled. When we went home? Yeah, we were screwed.
It was one of those funny, lighthearted fails that made us feel connected in our inabilities. We were never going to be those "perfect parents," but we were going to be the parents our son needed.
The Time We Failed To Be On A Team
Not to humblebrag or whatever, but this doesn't happen all that often. However, to say that my partner and I are always on the same page when it comes to raising our son would be a horrific lie. We're just, you know, not. And in those moments (like when we argued about whether or not he should use a pacifier or we argued about whether or not a time-out chair was the way to go when it came to discipline) we were reminded how important constant communication is.
I guess it shouldn't take petty arguments or outright disagreements to remind us that we can't read one another's minds, but, well, sometimes it does. I can't really hate these moments either, because they remind me that our relationship (romantic or otherwise) is always a work-in-progress.
The Time We Discussed Parenting Decisions With Our Parents
Just, you know, don't. Trust me.
Of course, I understand that everyone has a different dynamic with their own parents, so maybe the people who raised you are the perfect people to bounce parenting ideas off of. That's not the case with neither my partner nor I, though, and we really should have just keep our choices to ourselves instead of opened ourselves up for constant, unsolicited advice. It's the freakin' worst, and could have potentially put a strain on my partner and I's relationship.
Thankfully, it kind of created an "us vs. them" situation, that really bonded us when it came to parenting. We are always going to back up one another, show one another that we supported one another, and remind our parents that when it came to raising our son we were the ones with the final say.
The Time We Went On A Road Trip With A 4 Month Old
Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb dumb. What in you-know-what were we even thinking?
Of course, this hilariously horrible decision did bring us closer together. I mean, misery loves company, right?
The Moments We Failed To Make Time For One Another...
It's really easy to lose yourself, and your relationship, in the middle of all that parenting, especially during those first few months postpartum. My partner and I messed up on more than one occasion when it came to carving time out for ourselves. Along the way we lost a certain connection, and it took a while to really get that back in a tangible, sufficient way.
Thankfully, becoming aware of how easy it was to feel disconnected was a forever reminder of how important it is for us to find time for, well, us. Just because we're parents doesn't mean our relationship no longer matters.
...And The Moments We Failed To Make Time For Ourselves
While my partner and I do like spending time with one another (I mean, we made a baby "spending time with one another") we also value our independence and know that when we can make time to fly solo, we will be all the more happy when we can spend time as a couple. Just because we're joined for life, thanks to our little one, doesn't mean that we can't also work on ourselves as individuals.
So, yeah. Co-parenting is hard. Like, really hard, and so many people assume that my partner and I are in danger of breaking up because we're not married (can someone please tell these specific people that divorce is a thing?). However, the difficulties and the mistakes we've made have only solidified our undeniable love for one another, and the realization that no matter what, we're willing to work through it all.