At first, Lisa Butala Zabaldo expected her husband to be a carbon copy of herself in terms of raising their kids. Here’s why it was a bad idea.
Yes, I was one of those moms who started out believing that my husband should do and say and be just like me when it came to our children. When they were babies, I thought I held the premium on knowing how to care for them and I wasn’t shy about making sure he, and everyone else, knew just that.
My mother died in a car accident when I was six month pregnant, just three short months before I was set to welcome our first child and her first grandchild into this world. So not only was I a postpartum and sleep-deprived new mommy, but I was also a severely grief-stricken one that desperately needed to feel in control of something in my life. Taking care of my newborn baby girl was that something.
As a result, I was very controlling and overbearing in relation to how my husband dealt with her. I believed I reigned supreme on all baby duties from feeding, diapering, burping, rocking – you name it – I just knew better. From that skewed perspective, I expected my husband to take his cue from me or he was just going to be doing it all wrong.
It was a tough beginning to what was supposed to be a magical time. We got through it, and the rough times made way to healing and easier states of existence, enough so to want to have a second child. Yet surprisingly with the second, I still seemed to hang on to the idea that I was boss. Now we had a baby boy and a four-year-old girl, and a new sibling dynamic emerged that gave way to even more challenges to contend with. Good grief, it was almost worse the second time around!
Yet this time, I was not mourning the loss of my mother nor was I flying blind, now a seasoned veteran of motherhood (kinda). Blame it on the ever present lack of sleep or postpartum hormones run amok, but something in me still held strong to the idea that, since I was the one who gave up so much of the day-to-day reality of my previous life, and I was the one who stayed home ALL day, EVERY day with these children, then I deserved some sort of free pass to dictate what my husband should do in relation to them. After all, he was gone all day! I figured that acknowledging this truth would be obvious to him and perfectly reasonable since, of course, I knew best.
Great in theory, disaster in reality.
As you can imagine, he didn’t appreciate or agree much with my ideology. As a committed new dad, he wanted to do things his way, on his time, using his instincts and opinions, and he resented me trying to micromanage his parenting. Conversely, I felt his blatant disregard for my “expertise” and insight into the kids’ behavioral patterns and preferences was egotistical and irresponsible.
I tried to control everything to such a degree that I ended up getting the opposite of what I was seeking. Instead of heeding my advice and guidance, he firmly protested against it, and turned a deaf ear to most anything I had to say about the kids’ care. He approached dealing with them on his own terms with little regard for my opinion. Not the best way to nurture a “we’re in this together” team vibe as parents or to display a united front to the kids. It didn’t do wonders for our marriage either.
Today, over eight years into parenting, I have since conceded to the fact that my husband has his own unique gifts and attributes that he brings to the table that aren’t intrinsic in me – and that’s a good thing. I see how some of his strengths can benefit my children as much as certain strengths of mine can. I recognize how the things that don’t come naturally to me seem to be instinctual to him, and vice versa. He too has been able to see that there is method to my madness; and we have both come to accept that conceding to the other in certain situations is for the greater good.
You could say we are two halves of the perfect parent, if there is such a thing, which I know there is not. And even though we still butt heads at times about how to do things regarding our children, we try to be respectful of each other’s opinions and feelings even when we are on opposing sides of an issue.
Even so, I don’t conceive it ever to be completely smooth sailing for us; and I admit I envy those couples who are more compatible when it comes to their parenting ideologies. However, I now see that his freedom to experience parenting authentically for himself and to contribute his own thoughts and ideas to the mix is vital for our family’s harmony. I also know that not allowing him that freedom, but instead continuing to demand he behave like a carbon copy of me (a Mr. Mom of sorts), is not in anyone’s best interest, least of all the kids.
I feel there is greater benefit for them when we both are able to be who we are: and for us, it’s mom and DAD. And them discovering and accepting that not everyone thinks alike or agrees on everything… well that’s a lesson in life that is never too early to learn.
– This article originally appeared on H.a.p.p.y. Along The Bu
– Photo courtesy of Lisa Butala Zabaldo