Monday, June 28, 2010

Raising children on a united front? Not really...

For the longest time I never wanted to have children, so much so, that it was one of (the many) the deciding factors in my first marriage ending in divorce. Having a baby was something I never envisioned myself doing. Being a mother was not something that I thought I could do. I had a mother who was detached and unavailable my entire young life. She could not be bothered with me. Have you heard the expression benign neglect . . . this would be a fitting description of her treatment of me. Because of her, I never wanted to have children. I never wanted to have children because I thought I would be like her. I had numerous friends and mentors tell me that it would not be the case. But still I was adamant that I would never have a child.

Until I met my husband . . .

I fell instantly and deeply in love with my husband and he with me. We had a whirlwind romance, engagement and marriage all happening in a two year span. We traveled, we laughed, we had loads of fun and through all of this, I did everything for him. Literally . . . everything. I made him
breakfast, I packed his lunch, I made gourmet dinner (almost every night), I washed and folded and put away all his clothes. I cleaned up after him and his messes. I packed for him on every business trip and he traveled a lot! He never had to worry about one single thing. If he needed something; I was at his beck and call.

I got pregnant shortly after we were married and our first child was born before we even celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I was 34 years old and my husband was 39. I had a horrible birth story and ended up having a C-Sect and a very slow recovery. My husband remained home the first week to help out and my best friend (from FL) came to help me out as well. My new husband was not used to me not at his 'beck and call' but at this new baby's beck and call. He was mad that I invited my best friend to help me instead of his 68-year-old mother. And I discovered that my husband didn't even know where anything was in our house. We had our first disagreement over our son during that first week home from the hospital. My best friend left after two days and I banished his mother from my house. She came over for 6 hours and wouldn't let me have my son when he was screaming his head off because she could not stop messing around with him (up, down, unwrapped, rewrapped, hat on, hat off, up, down and repeat). . . it was traumatic to watch.

After the one-week was up, my husband returned to work. The night prior as had happened every night since we were home, little baby boy screamed his bloody head off if I set him down. I was exhausted since this had been going on for one week already and hubbie had been sleeping
peacefully each of those evenings. I was never able to nap during the day with new baby because everyone kept calling and 'dropping' by (before MIL banishment). If I did happen to fall asleep, everyone thought it was perfectly fine to march right into my bedroom and wake me up. I was exhausted!

So baby boy was screaming, I was rocking him and my husband stands up and shouts at me to get the hell out of our bedroom because he had to work in the morning. Our second argument began that evening. I kicked him out the bedroom and said a few choice words to him in the process.

Thus began our new daily routine of me worshiping this new baby and my husband taking a back seat . . . a place where he was not used to sitting. He was resentful and jealous of the baby and I was mad at him for not trying to bond with our new baby. We quickly discovered that we did not have the same parenting ideas and notions mulling about in our heads.

The first year was tough for us, this self-discovery of parenting skills . . . I discovered I absolutely was nothing like my own mother and I couldn't get enough of my son. I discovered having a baby was the best decision I had ever made in my life. My husband struggles quite a bit the first year of parenthood. He had notions about the sleeping arrangements that didn't match mine. He had ideas about breastfeeding that didn't match mine. His notions and ideas came from his mother and mine came from reading books and my own instincts.

My mother-in-law told me that I was letting our son win every time I picked him up when he cried or didn't put him down at night in a crib and that I should never let him sleep in my arms throughout the night. I just agreed with her, as I learned was the best route for my sanity. But frankly, I didn't think I was in a competition with my newborn son. If he wanted me to hold him, I was going to. If he needed me to hold him, I was going to. If he
cried, I was going to pick him up. I didn't think my baby was winning anything if he cried to be picked up. He was crying for some reason and he stopped when I picked him up. He was happy and I was happy to do it!

By the time my son celebrated his first birthday my husband and I had sort of come to an agreement. He was swaying more towards my parenting ideas and less towards his mothers. I was pregnant again and we were settling into parenthood. My husband still struggled with being a father and a husband. It was difficult for him to distinguish himself as both and it was very difficult for him to share his wife with his son. I did my best to make him
feel as important as I used too, but it was not as easy for me. I stopped making him breakfast, I forgot to make lunches a lot, gourmet dinners were replaced with quick easy dinners and I had him help me pack for his numerous business trips.

When our second child was born, a daughter, I thought my husband would ease into this baby much better. He did not. Simply put, my husband is not comfortable with babies. We were still having issues with his very intrusive mother and he was caught in the middle. I felt bad for him but stood firm in my beliefs that we were the parents and not his mother. I loved having a new baby again and a small child at home with me. I was probably the happiest I had ever been in my life. I was with my children 24 hours a day. I never let them out of my sight. I never allowed anyone to babysit for my children and was happy to change each and every single diaper. My husband still struggled with being a parent to not just one baby, but a toddler and a baby. We discovered that he was a one-child parent and this broke my heart because I so wanted another baby.

My husband traveled so much with his job that he was only home about two weeks out of every month. The parenting decisions were really my decisions and since he was not ever home I really didn't consider any of his input, not that he really offered any parenting input anyway. We moved to China when our daughter was a year and a half and we saw even less of him. I was basically a single parent with two small children in a country where no one spoke any English and it was basically sink or swim for me. I dove headfirst into the expat community and found a niche for my small family. During this time, my husband grew estranged from our children. He was virtually a stranger to them and acted as such. It was a very sad thing to witness and I was constantly after him to do this or that with our son or our daughter, but he just simply didn't have the time and I thought he didn't care.

I became pregnant again while residing in China and we returned home, as I didn't want to have another baby in another country. I forced my husband to take another position within his company, one that did not have any travel. No traveling . . . none! The first year home was a wonderful year, we were happy to be home, I was over the moon to be pregnant again and the children loved having their father around. My husband really focused on being a good father to our children that year. He re-bonded and reconnected with our son and our daughter.

Our second daughter was born that summer and once again I had a slow recovery due to C-Sect number three. My husband really stepped up and helped out with this baby. He discovered new babies are not as hard as he thought they were. He discovered babies stop crying if you hold and snuggle them just right. He discovered a newfound love he didn't know he had for this new little baby, our third child.

Over the past couple of years, my husband no longer takes a back seat with parenting. The parent who now struggles is me . . . I had the sole responsibility of parenting our children and now sharing that responsibility is not easy for me. I am a marshmallow. My husband is not. He yells. I do not. He sets punishments that are too strict. I undo those punishments. When the children do something wrong he is off shouting and lecturing. I am holding my babies, trying to protect them from his rules that I think are entirely too strict. He is firm and I am silly. He expects his requests to be followed immediately and I will tell my children all day long to do one simple task and later end up doing it myself. He thinks I spoil our children and I
think you can't love a child enough. He thinks I am too soft and I think he is too hard.

If the children do something, I try to hide it from him. I know this is wrong, but I just can't listen to another lecture from my husband about what a wimp I am. I don't consider myself that in the least. I just choose to speak to my children in a tone that is completely different from his and my punishments are much different from his. We are at an impasse right now in regards to our parenting styles. I don't think we will ever meet in the middle. People are different. We are different. Parenting may be one of the toughest jobs in the world. My husband and I are not a united front in raising our children. I don't know if we ever will be.

Tiaras & Tantrums

16 comments:

SciFi Dad said...

From what you've shared, it sounds like both of you need to come to the middle. It is not unreasonable to expect a child to do what they are asked to do; and letting them not do it and then taking care of it yourself only models the behaviour that "if I leave it long enough, Mom will take care of it". That being said, yelling and lecturing all the time aren't any better.

Shayna @ Texas Monkey said...

Wow reading this post really makes me love and appreciate my husband even more than I already do. I'm very thankful for my husband. There are things we don't see eye to eye on but we do have a very healthy balance. We have just the one daughter, almost 2 years old. We both agree that rules need to be set and followed, children flourish under boundaries and we both work hard to enforce them but we also work hard at not setting too many strict and un-needed rules. We pick our battles and both try to laugh more than cry. Easier said than done yes, but worth the effort and work. Our child is not perfect but she knows what no and yes means and she's good to follow through with what has been set and told. She has plenty of room to explore, play, get into stuff but with the "fence" around her to help protect her. I agree with SciFi dad that you both need to meet in the middle, children as young as a baby can be expected to do what is asked of them and only do or get out of doing by what they are allowed.
My prayers and heart goes out to you as it sounds like it can be a roller coaster for you at times.

Tiaras said...

SciFi Dad - my husband is working on the shouting - he promised a few weeks back that he would not any longer - but I still have to remind him.

Shayna - my children do have rules, I don't let them run amok or anything like that, I just have a different approach than my husband and well, we don't mesh!

scorpiorising said...

Parenting, like marriage is a compromise. You are right, it is wrong of you to hide things from your husband. It sounds to me as though the two of you need to sit down and come up with some rules for your kids that you both can live with.

I understand what you're doing. You are going to the exact opposite extreme of where your mother went. I did the same thing and I regret it. Children need rules and they need to learn there are real consequences to not following the rules. It is our job as parents not only to love them but also to prepare them to live in the real world - a world with very real consequences.

Good luck!

kwr221 said...

My husband and I are on opposite fronts as well... that's not good... except that now our kids are 15 and 12 and no one is happy. We've started counseling, but we should have started long ago - DO NOT WAIT! I think my husband and I are responsible for my son's bad behavior and my husband thinks that's garbage. He blames me and my parenting style, claiming that I was the stay-at-home or working part-time parent, therefore it's my fault. @@

kwr221 said...

How old are your children?

Tiaras said...

scorpiorising: you are right - I am doing the exact opposite. I feel like I cant' tell my kids no - I do, but not very often. They DO have rules!! I swear.

kwr221: my children are 8, 6 & 4. They are GOOD kids, really we don't have issues, just my son lately with his sassy mouth. But other than that, they are GOOD kids. My husband just wants PERFECT children - and that is just - well, impossible!

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

OKay that sucked. I wrote this whole comment and then it didn't publish.

Okay I see red flags.

You are opening up a door for your children to work you guys against each other. They will always do it to get what they want. They are smart and know that you are going to coddle them and take their side when Dad puts a rule down.

That isn't really fair to your spouse. IF you don't like what he does then stop him and ask him to go into another room to discuss it to make a decision together and meet in the middle.

Because when they get older, and maybe they do it now, they will start to take advantage of you and will stop to not respect your decision either.

You are obviously a good parent, as well as, your husband. It will get better only if you guys as mom and dad work together so that the children have a consistent set of discipline AND love.

In the End, it will be you and your spouse because your children will move on as they get older. Keep that relationship one of priority along with your relationship with your children... don't let it take a back seat.

Thanks for writing this and opening yourself up for us.

robin said...

I am a new parent so I can't really offer much advice or even an opinion. Who am I to tell her how to be a parent?

But I do want to give Teresa kudos for raising three kids who are each only two years apart! (Wow!) And mostly on her own for the majority of the past 8 years.... the challenges of that alone are hard to imagine!

And also to recognize that she had no positive role model given her difficult upbringing with a parent who was not a mother to her whatsoever. Many people who come from stable, good families take for granted the way their childhood shapes their abilities to become parents. I think it's amazing that she has accomplished as much as she has.

It's pretty obvious that she has the nurturing and the smarts to navigate this tough situation. I wish her all the best.

heelsnstocking said...

I do the tough parenting, hubby only does the parenting is it annoys him personally. Im the one the daughter currently hates (only because i grounded her a whole week) although it was the husband i was chastising her on behalf of. He just didnt have the gaul to see it through... GROW SOME! i say, its tough bringing up kids but as I said to daughter if it means you are a better adult I will sacrifice your affection because I care enough.

Shelle-BlokThoughts said...

Robin--well said. I know that I wasn't saying she wasn't strong or wasn't a good parent.

In fact, I was saying the opposite.

I think she is an excellent parent. I only wish I felt half of what she apparently does as a nurturing and patient parent.

I tend to be very impatient.

I just think there needs to be a middle ground. He needs to definitely respect her feelings and she his. Parenting is tough... it's better if you have someone to share it with. The GOOD and the BAD. Tag teaming is something that can be for good and it is so so helpful.

I most definitely felt she did the right thing in kicking her MIL out... especially that first week... we are so vulnerable and whatever makes us comfortable--especially with how we want to parent--is our right and should never be ignored.

Love ya girl.

McMama said...

I fight with myself (and my inner demons) the way you fight with your husband. I love and adore my children but I also have certain expectations of how they should be, and how I should be, which sit in my subconscious, implanted by my mother, by society, by who knows what. But I yell. I holler. I HATE asking my 5-year-old to do something again and again and being ignored. I expect WAY more of him than is fair of a 5-year-old and I KNOW it. But then I don't feel allowed to back off my own threats because that's what my mom did and it was wimpy parenting and I walked all over her. So I don't know WHAT to do most days, and I feel trapped in this gig and even though I LOVE and ADORE my children and wouldn't trade them for the world, I find myself thinking I was NOT meant to be a mother, not cut out for this, that I don't have it in me and that they'd be better off with a different kind of mother (like you!).

I don't know if I should be thankful that my husband faces similar struggles between boundless love and senseless rage, or if I should wish he was the softie who could temper my craziness.

Thanks for sharing your struggles.

April said...

I know I'm a little late commenting on this, but I wanted to comment anyway...

You are so right when you wrote that Parenting may be one of the toughest jobs in the world.

When my son's father and I were together, I was just like you, the softy parent, while my ex was the enforcer. My son would often do things wrong and come to me and beg me not to tell daddy. Depending on the severity, I would say OK and keep it to ourselves. I found this to be really, really detrimental.

It is important for both parents to be on the same page when parenting. Discussing rules, punishments and boundaries are extremely important. Just as important as discussing schooling, religion, their health, etc. Children NEED boundaries. They NEED consequences for not doing what they're supposed to do. They need those things just as much as they need to be loved. In life, we as grown ups, have to take responsibility for our actions (or lack thereof). That's something that's taught to us as children.

I was around 2 children this past weekend who have parents that are similar to you and your husband, only vice versa. He is the softy and she's the enforcer. Their daughter is morbidly obese because the dad let's her eat whatever she wants. According to him, "She's a kid!" The girl asked for a brownie and the mom told her no, because she'd already had one. When the mom walked away, she went to get one anyway. I chimed in and said, "Maddy, your mom said no." Right then her dad walked in. She said, "Daddy, can I have a brownie?" He said yes, of course. I told him that her mom just told her no and that she went to get one anyway. He said, "Oh well. She's just a kid. Another brownie won't hurt." Because of this she has ZERO respect for her mother. And that's just ONE example of what went on in that house.

I'm sure you want to have a united front with your husband when it comes to raising your children. As someone else suggested, you guys should meet in the middle. I think that would be a great place to start!

Good luck to you and your family!

April said...

You are so right when you wrote that Parenting may be one of the toughest jobs in the world.

When my son's father and I were together, I was just like you, the softy parent, while my ex was the enforcer. My son would often do things wrong and come to me and beg me not to tell daddy. Depending on the severity, I would say OK and keep it to ourselves. I found this to be really, really detrimental.

It is important for both parents to be on the same page when parenting. Discussing rules, punishments and boundaries are extremely important. Just as important as discussing schooling, religion, their health, etc. Children NEED boundaries. They NEED consequences for not doing what they're supposed to do. They need those things just as much as they need to be loved. In life, we as grown ups, have to take responsibility for our actions (or lack thereof). That's something that's taught to us as children.

I was around 2 children this past weekend who have parents that are similar to you and your husband, only vice versa. He is the softy and she's the enforcer. Their daughter is morbidly obese because the dad let's her eat whatever she wants. According to him, "She's a kid!" The girl asked for a brownie and the mom told her no, because she'd already had one. When the mom walked away, she went to get one anyway. I chimed in and said, "Maddy, your mom said no." Right then her dad walked in. She said, "Daddy, can I have a brownie?" He said yes, of course. I told him that her mom just told her no and that she went to get one anyway. He said, "Oh well. She's just a kid. Another brownie won't hurt." Because of this she has ZERO respect for her mother. And that's just ONE example of what went on in that house.

I'm sure you want to have a united front with your husband when it comes to raising your children. As someone else suggested, you guys should meet in the middle. I think that would be a great place to start!

Good luck to you and your family!

April said...

I know I'm a little late commenting on this, but I wanted to comment anyway...

You are so right when you wrote that Parenting may be one of the toughest jobs in the world.

When my son's father and I were together, I was just like you, the softy parent, while my ex was the enforcer. My son would often do things wrong and come to me and beg me not to tell daddy. Depending on the severity, I would say OK and keep it to ourselves. I found this to be really, really detrimental.

It is important for both parents to be on the same page when parenting. Discussing rules, punishments and boundaries are extremely important. Just as important as discussing schooling, religion, their health, etc. Children NEED boundaries. They NEED consequences for not doing what they're supposed to do. They need those things just as much as they need to be loved. In life, we as grown ups, have to take responsibility for our actions (or lack thereof). That's something that's taught to us as children.

I was around 2 children this past weekend who have parents that are similar to you and your husband, only vice versa. He is the softy and she's the enforcer. Their daughter is morbidly obese because the dad let's her eat whatever she wants. According to him, "She's a kid!" The girl asked for a brownie and the mom told her no, because she'd already had one. When the mom walked away, she went to get one anyway. I chimed in and said, "Maddy, your mom said no." Right then her dad walked in. She said, "Daddy, can I have a brownie?" He said yes, of course. I told him that her mom just told her no and that she went to get one anyway. He said, "Oh well. She's just a kid. Another brownie won't hurt." Because of this she has ZERO respect for her mother. And that's just ONE example of what went on in that house.

I'm sure you want to have a united front with your husband when it comes to raising your children. As someone else suggested, you guys should meet in the middle. I think that would be a great place to start!

Good luck to you and your family!

April said...

You are so right when you wrote that Parenting may be one of the toughest jobs in the world.

When my son's father and I were together, I was just like you, the softy parent, while my ex was the enforcer. My son would often do things wrong and come to me and beg me not to tell daddy. Depending on the severity, I would say OK and keep it to ourselves. I found this to be really, really detrimental.

It is important for both parents to be on the same page when parenting. Discussing rules, punishments and boundaries are extremely important. Just as important as discussing schooling, religion, their health, etc. Children NEED boundaries. They NEED consequences for not doing what they're supposed to do. They need those things just as much as they need to be loved. In life, we as grown ups, have to take responsibility for our actions (or lack thereof). That's something that's taught to us as children.

I was around 2 children this past weekend who have parents that are similar to you and your husband, only vice versa. He is the softy and she's the enforcer. Their daughter asked for a brownie and the mom told her no, because she'd already had one. When the mom walked away, she went to get one anyway. I chimed in and said, "Maddy, your mom said no." Right then her dad walked in. She said, "Daddy, can I have a brownie?" He said yes, of course. I told him that her mom just told her no and that she went to get one anyway. He said, "Oh well. She's just a kid. Another brownie won't hurt." Because of this she has ZERO respect for her mother. And that's just ONE example of what went on in that house.

I'm sure you want to have a united front with your husband when it comes to raising your children. As someone else suggested, you guys should meet in the middle. I think that would be a great place to start! Good luck to you and your family!

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