My husband Jon and I have different parenting styles. I would say that we agree on most of the big stuff – for instance, neither of us are in favour of spanking our kids. But when it comes down to specific situations, and the day-to-day nitty gritty of dealing with two small children, we often have different approaches. Or maybe, sometimes, one of us just has more patience at the moment. Either way, our kids learned early on that you can’t expect Mom and Dad to react the same way most of the time.
Some experts suggest that our different approaches might be a problem. This wisdom states that the children will use our differences to drive a wedge between us and manipulate us, or that because our parenting lacks consistency our kids will be confused and insecure. And I suppose those things could happen, but honestly, I’m not all that worried. In spite of my best efforts I’m not even super-consistent with myself. I forget what I said yesterday, or I’m in a bad mood, or the circumstances are slightly different. If I can’t even maintain the same approach in all situations on my own, how can I expect two totally different people to do any better?
The reality of my life is that my husband and I do not have uniform views on most topics. I enjoy costume dramas, and he enjoys documentaries. I enjoy spicy food, and he enjoys peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I am a crunchy granola mom, and he will watch any sport on television, no matter how obscure. Sometimes I read blogs where people talk about the things that their family believes and does, and I wonder if their husband, like mine, finds the compost bucket vaguely distasteful and would rather eat fast food than lentils. Is their family really all on the same page?
I am not asking this question maliciously, I assure you. If you have found someone who shares your view on pretty much every topic, I think that’s fabulous. Having a shared vision and a strong sense of purpose can really help you to see where you’re going in life, and enable you to work together. I’m not discounting these things, and I would be lying if I said that Jon and I had nothing in common. But it would also feel like lying to me if I said that my family enjoys shopping in thrift stores, since no one but me particularly enjoys either shopping or thrift stores.
To bridge our parenting differences, Jon and I have had some discussions and agreed to an overall approach – a theory of parenting, if you will. But, sadly, parenting is really not very theoretical. I can understand the theory very well, but my kids do not. Moreover, they don’t even really care. Parenting happens on the fly, in the moment and often in front of other people. So while I have confidence that neither of us will do something that the other one finds truly horrifying or unforgivable, I accept that Jon will not necessarily do or say what I would, or what I think he should.
I’ve decided, for now, that the differences are actually good for my kids. Learning to deal with different people is a life skill, after all. You can’t talk to your grandmother, your boss or your friends in the same way. For this reason, I choose to believe that failing to be on the same page as parents all the time might just be good for our kids. Switching things up and keeping them on their toes is least we can do, really, to set them on a good path in life. And so I will not sweat the little differences, I will embrace them.
What about you? How do you bridge the parenting gaps? And do you worry if you and your partner aren’t always ont the same page?