From the moment I met Jason, I knew he would be a great father. He was nurturing and affectionate and genuinely cared about what I was thinking. He took an interest in everything I said or did. And since I met him later in my life and desperately wanted a family, I knew that he was the one. We talked kids before we ever talked marriage and so we went for it. After a failed pregnancy, IVF seemed to be our only option. We were fortunate that not only did our first round work but the 2 % chance of having twins, gave us just that: twin girls. We weren’t particularly planning on having more than one child, but life is full of surprises. Parenting is an exhilarating yet exhausting endeavor whether you have one kid or lots of kids. And while we may not have the same parenting styles, I’m lucky to have a hands-on husband.
I didn’t always feel so lucky. Not unlike many parents, our parenting struggles began the first week we brought our girls home. Jason and I had never talked before about our parenting styles or experience. We took two breast-feeding classes together, but there wasn’t a note taking class to compare who was more qualified to be a parent. To add to it, the sheer exhaustion of having two newborns in our life was a recipe, in itself, for disaster. So the disagreements began and continued, and sometimes still do. But here are some things I’ve learned about letting go that I hope may be helpful. Even in the moments when I want to take the reigns or criticize, I’ve come to appreciate the fact that I have a partner so involved in caring for our girls and is the ultimate partner.
The Struggle Over Control
Let’s be honest, most women like to be in control of their kids or at least think they should be. I had had years of experience rearing children as the oldest of four kids as well as being a nanny in New York City and Los Angeles. That, I thought, gave me all the credentials I needed to be in charge. From scheduling naps and feedings, I was relentless in my order. If Jason broke from the routines, I would go bonkers. But to be fair, he wasn’t just some bonbon eating dada. He was changing diapers, doing dishes, doing laundry, prepping meals, and helping any way he could. But even that was making me crazy because I wanted to control all those awesome things he was doing- from the way he swaddled the girls or how he washed a dish but missed a crumb or the way he cleaned the baby bottles with less soap.
My Way Isn’t The Only Way
I’ll admit; I can be a control freak. I even like the dishwasher loaded a certain way. As I tried to rationalize why I preferred the way I loaded the dishes, he described the reasons he preferred to load them his way. I like to clean as I cook, leaving a few dishes to do after a meal is prepared. The last thing I want after our girls go to bed is to spend 30 minutes cleaning the kitchen. Jason, on the other hand, likes to let the dishes pile high throughout the day and then do them all after the girls go to bed. When he dresses the girls for school, he likes to keep their hair down and wild. I like to put their hair back in a rubber band so that it stays out of their face and out of their food at lunchtime. I prefer our girls to have healthier snacks that may require more prep time, and Jason likes to make things easy by just giving them whatever is readily available. When I want nighttime to be a hard “lights out” time, he’d rather let them stay up longer in the hopes that they’ll sleep in longer. These things seem trivial, but we each had our reasoning’s behind our styles. A court of law would have a hard time deciding which one of us was right in our techniques. The question for me became, “Does it really matter that the whites and darks are washed together on cold as long as they’re being cleaned?” (Ok, some of you moms may still think this is a big no no!) At some point though, you have to pick your battles and some are just not worth the fight.
Establishing the Important Rules
If it were up to me, I’d have a home full of rules to create some sort of control. But in reality, I would be left feeling disappointed with the lack of follow-through. After all, I’m the uptight one, and Jason is the laid back one. So we had to figure out a way to establish what rules were important to both of us in rearing our girls. Some of these rules were easy, and others were more challenging to decipher. We could agree on how to discipline but to determine which behavior warranted discipline had kinks to iron out. Adhering to a particular bedtime routine, we agreed, was paramount. A good bath, brushing teeth, reading books, and light play are all essential things to establishing a good nighttime routine. We also firmly agreed that limiting the amount of TV our two-year-olds watch made good parenting sense. We have had to change some other rules, as the girls have gotten older. As parents, we are acutely aware that we will need to adjust rules as our girls grow continually, and we remain committed to handling those issues as they arise.
Learning to Let Go
I know it’s cliché, but I think letting go is probably the hardest thing to do. When I know I’m going out of town, my impulse is to try and prepare meals ahead of time or do the grocery shopping in an attempt to make sure the girls are eating healthier foods. But I know no matter how much prepping I do, Jason will end up taking them to dinner most nights. And yes, they will eat pizza and French fries mostly. They love going to restaurants, so why would I spoil that fun for them? I also know that while the nighttime routine will go on as planned, he will keep them up past their bedtime, and he’ll probably drop them off to school late in the morning. He’ll pack their lunches but probably not with the items I’d choose. He’ll remember to pack an extra set of clothes for school but not the ones I’d want. I try and limit their sugar intake, but he’ll certainly take them for ice cream and cupcakes. As we FaceTime goodnight, it’s tempting to ask what they’ve been eating or doing so that I can come back with a terse reply.
The truth is criticizing, a hands-on hubby, only backfires. Instead of praising a man who truly loves being involved in every aspect of his girls’ lives with nitpicking only makes him want to retreat or doubt himself as a father. That is the last thing I want for my girls or our family. It’s important to remember that husbands want to feel valued and supported too. They need the praise as much as moms do. If you can appreciate the imperfections, you will get even more out of your hands-on hubby. It may not be the perfectly folded laundry you dream of, but it’s perfectly awesome to have someone happy and willing to share the incredible journey of parenting, and that’s a win-win in my book!