Nothing tests the strength of a partnership like co-parenting. I felt like my husband and I were in total synch for the first couple of years of our kids’ lives. Then our babies turned into highly verbal, defiant preschoolers programmed to test limits and I realized my husband and I won't always share the same parenting philosophies. There are ways your partner subtly shames your parenting; ways that you don't automatically notice when you're trying to work through your differences and your kid is mid-tantrum and you lack the time (or energy) to find an immediate compromise. I first noticed when I was tasked with dealing with the a majority of our kids' tempter tantrums, as my initial reaction seemed to go against some intrinsic value my partner had that I wasn't necessarily aware of.
I don’t believe my husband means to hurt my feelings when he throws shade at me for some way I’ve decided to handled a situation with the kids. I think (and I know, because I feel the same way when he executes some disciplinary policy I don’t agree with in the moment) he is simply frustrated. He’s annoyed that he has to relinquish control or because I didn't consult him or because we’re having the same argument for the 18th time. All those feelings are swirling inside him at the exact moment he says something, or makes a face, or leaves the room with a certain flair that disrupts any flow of righteousness I might have been feeling about my current parenting move. He takes the wind out of my parenting sail, and it’s a bummer.
Though it stings in the moment, it’s by no means a tactic meant to undercut my authority as our children’s co-parent. I know that, because these are pretty isolated instances that don’t color the rest of our (fairly) harmonious time with our kids. But if you’re constantly being put down by your partner for your parenting efforts, it might be time to get some outside guidance. If you’re not feeling in step with your parenting co-pilot, you may recognize these as ways your partner is subtly shaming your parenting:
Eye Rolls When You Make A Certain Decision
My partner and I grew up in households that had different attitudes about “junk” food. Nothing was off-limits in his house, where sweets in mine were strictly policed. I developed a binge eating disorder as a result and he, of course, didn’t. I’m constantly trying to correct my issues for the sake of our kids, and look to create a healthy attitude towards food in general. I know that forbidding any food makes it that much more covetable because I lived that experience, and he simply can’t relate. So, when I permit my kids to have, what I think, is a sensible treat (not as a replacement to a nutritional item, because apples and cookies are not mutually exclusive), I can feel his disdain (and see his eyeballs rotating in their sockets), even if he’s not saying anything.
Phrasing Opinions As Passive-Aggressive Questions
I had returned from a 3-day work trip, and was about to resume the bedtime nursing session with my two-year-old son when my partner asked, “Don’t you think this is a good time to stop? He did fine without nursing when you were gone.” Ouch. I wasn’t prepared to be done with breastfeeding and while he had no way of knowing that, he could have framed the question in a much kinder, more understanding and less accusatory way. I know he was just being practical, but in the moment it did feel like he was harshly judging my choice for wanting to settle back in to the two-year routine I had established with my younger child.
Asking If You Truly Need This And That
I don’t think we have too much stuff, and I try to purge regularly to make sure we don't accumulate too much material stuff over time. I bag the kids’ outgrown toys for donation or pass them down to friends with kids, and I don’t save every piece of their artwork (please don’t tell them). However, I do hold on to school concert programs, kindergarten stepping-up “diplomas,” and a bunch of other stuff that gets placed in a keepsake box. I want to hold on to certain items that represent significant memories, even if I never pull them out to look at them. I imagine handing these boxes to my kids when they’re older, so they can have a record of their childhood in a way a thousand unprinted digital pictures could never capture.
So, it really does hurt my feelings when my partner asks me if we really "need" to keep stuff. It’s as if he was dismissing the emotional ties we have to things. I'm sure his inquiry doesn’t come from a rude place, it just makes it clear that he and I don’t think the same way about “stuff.” We don’t dwell on it. He sighs, I get moody for a little bit, and then I put the box away and it’s done (until the next year’s school work starts coming home).
Finding A ‘Con’ For Your Every ‘Pro’
Me: Karate goes through February and I know they secretly love doing those hardcore push-ups, even though they complain about it.
Him: But it’s like pulling teeth getting them to go.
Me: Instead of a birthday party, I think we should ask her to pick a friend to go with her to a show because it’s easier and costs about the same.
Him: That’s still too much money.
Me: Taco night.
Him: But nobody ever eats the actual taco shell.
All his points are valid, but sometimes, it's like we put more effort proving ourselves right than finding common ground.
Muttering About Switching Schools
There is no “perfect” solution to anything, and nothing makes that more undeniably clear that making decisions concerning your child's education. Our kids are in public school but we opted to send them to one outside our neighborhood, since they would have the opportunity to stay there through eighth grade. The school registration process is a beast where we live (New York City) so I would do anything to avoid having to go through it again, if I can. However, the distance presents problems. Most of their friends are too out of the way to easily hang out with. They have to get up at least half an hour earlier to catch the bus than if they went to the elementary school two blocks from us. And parent-teacher conferences are a shlep.
My husband is aware of how much work I put into researching, visiting, and applying to quality public schools, so he knows better than to criticize our decision to send them where they go, since they are thriving there, regardless of the obstacles. However, that doesn’t stop him from muttering some grievances under his breath when we hit a school snag. I hear him. I just pretend not to.
Asking Your Advice, But Never Taking It
Maybe this is dynamic unique to our partnership, but we have this really "fun" routine of him asking me my opinion (about which route to take, what our “eyes bigger than her stomach” daughter should order at a restaurant, how short to cut our son’s hair), and cheerfully finding fault with my response. It’s as if he already knows he will do whatever I don’t choose, and just wants to get my answer as a process of elimination. Annoying? Yes, but I know where he’s coming from. How many times have I asked for someone’s advice just to validate what I’ve already made up my mind about, especially when it comes to raising kids?
Dramatically Reacting To The Cost Of The Caregiver Options You Found
My husband and I were both raised by parents who worked their asses off and spent frugally. They did the best they could for us with what they had and I never felt like I lacked for anything (we frequented free museums and our babysitters were typically unpaid aunts and grandparents). So we definitely agree on sticking to a budget and looking for savings wherever possible.
However, as the kids get older and I get more exhausted, I do feel like it’s worth loosening the purse strings a bit. Sometimes I spend a bit more to save time (i.e. renting a car instead of using public transportation), because I feel time is money. My time is worth something.
I also pay for convenience. I work full-time so I don’t have the hours to comparison shop and run from store to store to always get the most savings. I usually get free shipping, but I may not always get the best price on a bottle of shampoo. That bristles my partner a bit, and so does the hourly rate of the babysitters I find. The task of identifying, vetting, and hiring caregivers has always been solely my responsibility. He never had an interest in that and, admittedly, I didn’t give him much opportunity to take that on. We divide and conquer, and caregiver selection was best left to me (because I don’t hate talking on the phone as much as he does). So it does bug me when his eyes seemingly pop out of his head when I tell him what our sitter’s rate is. “They’re our kids. She’s wonderful. How are we putting a price on this, if we can afford it since we both work?” is usually my automatic response. Neither of us is interested in pausing our careers, so he knows he just has to suck it up when it comes to this particular line item. I don’t want the ones with my children in their charge to feel unappreciated, and I know it's a privilege to be able to provide for them in that way.