My partner and I have very different parenting techniques. He's the fun, outgoing one and I'm the strict, quiet one. He's the dawdler and I'm the one always on schedule. While he works long hours outside of the home, I'm here with the kids, working inside for the bulk of it. As a result, his reactionary time to squabbles is a bit shorter. It takes a little more to rattle me, because I've seen and heard it all. So while I don't mean to, I'm sure there are plenty of times I'm shaming my partner's parenting, arguably, in front of our kids at times. It's not because I don't respect him, but because I'm just so used to being the one in charge.
In the early days of our relationship, my partner and I hadn't intended on having a baby or getting married. I'd just come out of a lengthy relationship and we were two young kids, trying to find our paths. Then (because there's always a then), I got pregnant. Just like that, everything changed. We grew up quickly, figured out finances and responsibilities, then had our baby. A year later, we married — not because we had to but because we wanted to. Since then, we've had another baby, and although he's not perfect (neither am I), my partner is a fantastic father. Actually, I don't think I tell him enough.
Growing up with a father who didn't spend time playing with me (or really getting to know me at all), along with a biological father who'd not been allowed in my life, I sometimes lose sight of of my partner's greatness in simply being present. When he's invested with and in our children, I know there are times I undermine or un-do something he's said or done. This co-parenting thing only works if we respect one another's choices, right? With that, here are some ways you might be shaming your partner's parenting style. The best way to fix it is to first admit there's an issue. So, here I am. Admitting.
You Take Over When Your Partner Is Fully Capable
If you have your own way of doing things, as I do, it's hard to let go of that control when your partner takes over. He knows how to load the dishwasher, play with the kids, and fold the laundry, but I do it all the damn time. So when I intervene, it's patronizing and unfair, and even more so when I let him do these things only to re-do them when he's not looking. He's fully capable of getting sh*t done, just like me.
You "Correct" What Wasn't Done Your Way
With our kids, I tend to be the main enforcer of rules or the one directing everyone on their roles any particular day. I don't always realize I do this until afterwards and honestly, I'm working on it. Those times I insinuate myself between my partner and a kid in trouble, I'm only making things worse. Not only does it devalue my partner's attempt to parent but it's confusing to our children.
You Play The Comparison Game
Whether comparing your partner to their own parent (this isn't an attractive comparison, for the record) or a certain way he or she used to be — as in, before kids — it doesn't matter. In the end, none of it's OK.
I've been guilty of this and, immediately after, I aways wish I hadn't said anything ("you're just like your father when you do x"). It doesn't fix anything or make my partner feel good about himself. So basically, fail.
You Pick Fights Over Nothing
A lot of times, I push my feelings down until they're so pent up they don't have anywhere to go but directly at my partner. It's not his fault he's almost always in my path when it happens. When it does, it's usually the time I pull out all the minuscule things he's doing wrong with our kids or in our relationship, merely to make myself feel better in the moment. Once I'm finished, I always, always regret it. This isn't the way to a better, healthier, relationship and definitely not the way I want to model co-parenting.
You Patronize Your Partner's Feelings
Saying things like "get over it" or "toughen up" when your partner tries to be vulnerable or show emotions is only going to undermine any respectful co-parenting you're aiming for.
My partner is an only child, raised mostly by working parents and babysitters. He had a pretty stable, lovely childhood, from what I hear. Mine was filled with trauma and heartache so, more often than not, it's hard to understand why he can't always deal with things the same way I can. However, we're different people from different backgrounds. This should bring us two perspectives that work together, not pull us apart.
You Play The Mother Card
It's hard enough parenting my kids. I sure as hell don't want to do the same with my partner. Those days he's staring incessantly at his phone instead of listening to our son tell him about preschool, it takes everything in me not to rip the phone out of his hands and launch it. Then again, he's an adult who can decide on his own how to spend his time.
But seriously, put the phone down.
Your Body Language Is Shaming
The old eye roll, shoulder shrug, turn away when being kissed, or patronizing laugh when my partner makes a parenting decision? Yeah, I've done them all. If he'd done any of these to me? Nope. It's not cool to diss someone trying to raise children with you, in any way.
You Call Out Mistakes In Front Of The Children
Ugh. I've done this one, too. I often forget kids hear everything. That whole putting the phone down thing? When I've discussed it with my partner and the kids overheard, I'd later catch them calling their dad out using the same verbiage. Oops. Definitely not the kind of parenting I want reflected. We're supposed to be a team.
You're Quick To Emphasize Their Flaws
Why is it easier to point out all the ways your partner is parenting "wrong" without realizing (and accepting) what you're doing? I think I'm so insecure in my efforts at times, I don't realize I'm shaming my partner to lift myself up. It's so, so not OK and once I realize I've done it, I apologize and try to do better.
Look, parenting is really hard and when you're co-parenting with someone who has different views and background, it can get tricky. I'd never intentionally hurt my partner and I know he feels the same way but, honestly, the only way this thing is going to work is if we check ourselves before ever directing a thought, feeling, or action towards one another. In the end, we love each other and want to model appropriate behavior for our kids, not nitpicking or shaming.