Most of us are sharing the joys of parenting with someone we love. In rare cases, we’re partnered with our mirror image, but more likely than not, they’re our opposite in many ways.
Differences are normal
These differences can manifest in thousands of little ways from which way the towels are hung in the bathroom to whether or not we enjoy the newborn or toddler stage better.
Kirsty Levin, psychologist and co-founder of the Parents Village said these differences are 100 percent normal in most parenting relationships.
“We are unique individuals embarking on a totally new job together; it’s natural we come with our own approaches and perspective,” she says.
It’s little wonder that over the course of a lifetime together as parents, there will be times where one person is enjoying the ride much more than the other. And in the early years when we’re all sleep-deprived and adjusting to the changes in our life, these feelings can sometimes be more pronounced than other times.
And it’s not always the parent who is the primary carer who feels the burden.
“I felt I was slowly sinking in quicksand”
Olivia, 39, is the mother of two girls, aged seven and four. In her partnership, she was the parent who felt most unhappy.
“I had a hard time adjusting to parenting. The isolation, lack of sleep and breastfeeding – all of that hard stuff fell to me in the early stages. My partner seemed to love parenting while I felt I was slowly sinking in quicksand. I struggled with this and at some points have felt very unfulfilled – like I was the one making all the sacrifices, without any of the joy.”
So what can we do if these problems cross into the territory of resentment? How do we navigate differences like Olivia has raised, and do the best thing for ourselves and our families?
Kirsty Levin says it’s important to see these moments as opportunities to work together.
“They key is to respect and support each other and to work as teammates to cultivate togetherness and pleasure as a family.”
Kirsty says partners should focus on communication and negotiation to balance responsibility with joyful moments.
1. Ask each other what aspects (however small) they do find enjoyment in as an adult and parent
“The goal is to build those into your lives wherever possible. It might be bonding during bath time, early morning cuddles before the workday begins, or going to the park on weekends.”
2. Identify any areas you’d like to work on in life and make time for that
“Often a lack of enjoyment can come from feelings of fear or incompetence. Observe your partner in action and see where and how they respond to your child’s needs and interests. Each of you will have relative strengths and weaknesses in different situations.”
3. Be realistic – nobody can be good at everything!
“One parent might be great at imaginative play, while the other might be better at teaching practical skills, like holding a knife and fork or learning the alphabet. The key is to parent as a team – know that you don’t have to love or be great at everything.”