As if parenting isn’t complicated enough, when you throw in the relationship dynamics between two sleep-deprived adults, the stakes can feel that much higher. My partner happens to be more rational than I am, so we balance each other out quite well. However, this doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a chance to come up with a few handy-dandy rules to make parenting easier. Not that I’m an expert, as I’ve only been doing this whole parenting thing for a couple years, but so far neither my partner nor I have voiced a particular hate or disdain for one another while we parent together, so I'd like to consider those couples years a win.
Of course, all relationships are different, and I can’t begin to assume that everyone else out there would benefit from every point on this particular list. Arguably one of the best parts about parenthood, and relationship in general, is that you get to make your own rules and create a dynamic that works best for you and everyone involved. I also can’t begin to assume that everyone else appreciates Michael Bolton’s '80s catalog as much as I do, or consider Zac Efron to be a serious actor, which just goes to show that you can know in your heart of hearts that something’s right for you, but it still might not work for everyone else.
All that said, perhaps these suggestions will serve my fellow partnered parents on their journey towards, I'm assuming, their ultimate goal: avoiding any serious damage to their child or their relationship. As Michael Bolton himself posits, "How can we be lovers if we can't be friends?"
You Shall Not Wake A Sleeping Parent
There are exceptions to most rules, of course, and in this case emergencies definitely qualify as an exception. However, if everything is OK and your partner just happens to doze off in the middle of the afternoon while your baby chills on their play mat? You let them sleep.
You Shall Share Diaper Duties
Or, you come up with some other satisfactory arrangement between the two of you (like, one handles feedings, the other handles diaper changes, or something similar) which acknowledges how much effort diapers can actually take. The key is that you feel like equal effort is being made.
You Shall Say “Are You Sure?” Even After The Other Parent Says They’ll Change A Diaper
Because 99 out of 100 times, they will say, "Yeah, I've got it," but like once in a blue moon, they'll go, "Actually, would you get it?" and then you get to be an awesome partner and the two of you are keeping lines of communication open and it's just the best for everyone involved, including the baby.
You Shall Occasionally Just Get Up And Do The Diaper Change Without Pausing To See If They Offer
I imagine that most parents are familiar with that lingering pause that hangs in the air when you've both been made aware of the need to change a diaper and you're both hoping the other will flinch first and offer to take the changing reigns. If you decide to abide by this rule, you will, on occasion, not even give the other person a chance. You will simply take on the diaper change because, as we know, not all heroes wear capes.
You Shall Not Comment On The Other Parent's Appearance, Unless They Are ABout To Go Somewhere Where They Will Be Potentially Embarrassed If You Don’t
Exception: your comments are unconditionally positive and designed to only make them feel good, and not to butter them up into taking the next diaper change.
You Shall Compliment Their Parenting Skills When They Deserve To Be Complimented
Speaking of compliments, it's likely that your fellow parent is working crazy hard to be an awesome mother or father, so if they're anything like me (ie, human), they will probably like a smidgen of recognition every now and then. Don't hold back.
You Shall Discuss Differences Of Opinions LIke Grown-Ass Adults
Especially if those differences in opinion center around whether or not your toddler should wear a polo shirt, overalls, or both for the fancy photographer who's coming over in twelve minutes.
You Shall Not Call Out Minor Mistakes
Unless, of course, those mistakes threaten the safety and well-being of your kid. In that case, call away.
You Shall Take Pictures Of Each Other Being Awesome Parents
Is it just me, or are the candid shots of you and your kid together among the greatest treasures on earth? In most cases, I have my partner to thank for the photographic evidence that, every so often, I can be a fairly decent mom.
You Shall Be Supportive Of Their Professional And Personal Endeavors
As great as you two might be as a parenting team, some of that awesomeness goes out the window if you can't be supportive of them outside of their parenting duties as well.
You Shall Decide Together Who Will Do What Extra Tasks
All talk of diapers aside, there is plenty more that needs to be done when a baby's around. Deciding together might mean you designate who does what, or you just agree to both pitch in, or you divide things up according to other responsibilities (like who works outside the house). Whatever works for you and your parenting partner is what you should be doing.
You Shall Make Time For One Another
Assuming your fellow parent is also your romantic partner, you're probably quite familiar with the scraps of together time you piece together while your child is sleeping. While five minutes here or ten minutes there doesn't always feel like enough, it's better than nothing, and it'll help you appreciate the longer chunks of time you'll get when your kid starts sleeping through the night.
You Shall Give Them Time For Themselves
And, you don't judge if that time looks a lot like vegging out in pajamas and staring at their phone for an hour. *cough*
You Shall Not Blame Them For Your Stress/Exhaustion
As tempting as it may be to stare at their face and be frustrated because you are tired and hungry and your kid is crying and why are they just standing there?
You Shall Share Your Food
Even if you don't have very much of it, you still share. If your partner has that look in their eye, or drool forming at the corners of their mouth, you offer. It's the law. OK, it's not actually the law, but it should be.
You Shall Check In And Ask If They Need Anything When You're Running Errands
Especially if you're out on your own, while they are at home with your child. In this case, you may want to consider some sort of surprise treat or sign of appreciation. It's the least you can do for being able to go through a check-out in silence.